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A cowboy infiltrates a bandit hideout in search of his girlfriend's killer.
A cowboy infiltrates a bandit hideout in search of his girlfriend's killer.
Arthur Kennedy's fiancé is raped and killed in a bank robbery and the trail leads to Dietrich's legendary hideaway for wanted men.
Lang spins all sorts of plates at once, throwing in montages that play with both the genre's stereotypes and Dietrich's iconic legend, a ballad that elevates the movie to high camp at the same time as the vicious composition of the early scenes make sexual assault obvious well before the dialogue confirms it. The first half of the movie has Kennedy piecing together the legend of Dietrich's character (only vaguely removed from the legend of Dietrich herself) as told in the form of long cherished memories of dozens of men. Alongside the site of Dietrich riding a man…
The best metaphor I can think of for the gender politics in this movie is a scene in which Marlene Dietrich's character slyly wins some money off of a rigged roulette wheel. By all appearances to the bystanders, she's a tough, willful, risk-taking dame. What they can't see is that a man has his foot on a pedal that controls the (literal) wheel of fortune. She's at his mercy.
In Typical Lang fashion, a common man, here played by Arthur Kennedy, is driven to murderous rage, exposing the bestial desires at the heart of all mankind. Even a small town election takes on a sinister air of mob violence through his lens (the participants being arm-band wearing warriors of "virtue"…
Imperfect in the same exhilarating way that The Searchers is, as filmmakers struggle to explore themes that their chosen art form (studio film), genre (western), and its social context (1950s America) heavily limited the depiction of. Still, it can be tempting to give this thing a lot less credit than I think it deserves - it's a pretty dark and unforgiving look at two people twisted by their surroundings into monsters (in other words, a Fritz Lang movie), and a subversive take on sexual politics (this is up for debate, but I don't really buy that we're meant to accept Vern's mission as a righteous one - this is Lang we're talking about, remember).
It's about as far as you…
Marlene Dietrich sings a song in this that literally proclaims that when a woman says "no" she really means "yes." While the general plot of revenge for an implied rape and unimplied murder was already not winning me over, about the time she sang that, I gave up. That the film put the ostensibly strong female character of Dietrich's Altar (what an unfortunate name, too) as the crux of a romantic struggle, thereby reducing her to an object of desire, really drove home the overall sexist attitude of the film.
There are Westerns from before 1960 that, even if they don't feature strong female characters, even if they aren't feminist, even if they don't manage to have any female characters…
Here's a picture of Marlene Dietrich riding a man like a horse. If that doesn't convince you that this movie is awesome, nothing will.
The phrase "Technicolor Lang" may feel like an oxymoronic statement and to a certain extent, it is: his use of color in Rancho Notorious is never as visually expressive as his monochromatic work (nor as impressive as his contemporaries, ie: Ray) and its best scenes are those which are engulfed in darkness or low light. As is often the case in Lang's work, its greatest strength is in its cynicism - perfectly encapsulated in Arthur Kennedy's ever-snarling face - and in his ability to construct dense cages for his characters to reside in (often times, I found myself ignoring characters entirely for the sake of admiring the complex environments they find themselves in).
Fun/goofy revenge western with Arthur Kennedy hunting the man who killed his fiancee. He meets up with Marlene Dietrich and many others in fab, colourful scenes that often descend into high-falutin' camp. Worth a spin.
Entertaining Western with a charismatic Marlene Dietrich as the leader of a criminal gang.
So so close to being a five star film. My biggest problem being that it was not shooting on location (come on it's a western for pete's sake) not only that but some of the sets look really cheap, even by the days standards. But getting past that it's a great story with incredibly choreographed and filmed violence, and some real moments of great acting.
This has a lot of the trappings of a noir set in the West, I think parallels between this and the film Lang would release in 1953 (The Big Heat) abound. They're both great films I do feel that this one deals with slightly more moral ambiguity than the other one. Seeking revenge when you're…
Arthur Kennedy is a vengeful psycho channeling Glenn Ford from Lang's earlier The Big Heat (and isn't this really a noir, anyway?), Mel Ferrer looks like James Woods, and Marlene Dietrich is charismatic as ever, yet now with the weight of decades and WWII upon her (according to Billy Wilder she spent more time on the front lines than Eisenhower) she has begun to seem beaten down. Lang's vision of the west as constantly on the verge of descending into total chaos, where even good people eventually resign themselves to evil, is halfway to Aldrich's brutal Vera Cruz and not too far away from Leone and Corbucci, either.
P.S. Here's something those revisionist westerns can't hold a candle to: title songs! And this has one of the best; it keeps coming back throughout the whole goddamn movie, too! My mom hated it, but I thought it was awesome.
I loved how this movie pauses, to sum up, the story through song.
The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck by William Lee.
"The old, old story of hate, murder, and revenge"
The violence is beautiful and ridiculous.
Fritz Lang ringing all the bells of an American Western.
I've noticed a lot of Marlene Dietrich movies feature an elaborate flashback structure when introducing her character. It somewhat adds to the mystique of her persona and given character though it is funny how the same trope gets used over and over again. Rancho Notorious is another one of these proto-revisionist Westerns. Fritz Lang lends the film a film noir edge but the film doesn't really do anything with Dietrich's mysterious former lounge singer/outlaw. There's some interesting feminist commentary that would later be explored to greater effect in Johnny Guitar that, again, doesn't get developed because the film is so intent on Arthur Kennedy's revenge story. The film is fine overall but doesn't rise above its genre conventions to craft something truly memorable or with intriguing subtext.
An obsessive noir man-hunt, a tale of revenge, a romantic triangle, and the artifice of a back-lot western with a bold narrative country western ballad running through that must be either embraced or loathed. Rancho Notorious plunges into a mythologized American West learned, it seems, entirely from western cinema and filtered through Lang's dark cynicism. The closest thing we have to heroes in the tale are Arthur Kennedy as Vern Haskell and Marlene Dietrich as Altar Keane; both tired, worn, and world-weary and often seeming like they'd just as soon someone put them out of their misery so they don't have to continue surviving.
The movie has its flaws and failures but it's also rather compelling, in part because those ambitious flaws make it stand out .
Mel Ferrer was so fine in this movie I was shook. Marlene slays my life.
This is some sort of western noir with abrupt moments where the story is told through background song. It's such a weird mix of genres and feels really off until about the halfway mark, when it picks up a little. I feel like it thought it had more to say than it actually did, and so it ultimately felt pretty hollow. Plus, that's a terrible title.
How it entered my Flickchart:
Rancho Notorious < They Made Me a Fugitive
Rancho Notorious > Maggie's Plan
Rancho Notorious < Birdman of Alcatraz
Rancho Notorious > A Man Called Peter
Rancho Notorious < What Lies Beneath
Rancho Notorious > Dr. No
Rancho Notorious > Cellular
Rancho Notorious < Give My Regards to Broad Street
Rancho Notorious > Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
Rancho Notorious > Stardust Memories
Final spot: #1809 out of 2737.