Rancho Notorious ★★★★½

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 like a horse Lang throws in lynch mobs and corrupt elections with Truth and Justice campaigners wearing a uniform of armbands and throwing people in jail for arbitrary things.

This is Lang looking at the movie myth of America and saying quite clearly he doesn't buy it while showing you he can shoot it as well as anyone; on a small budget and knowingly fake sets.

The second half brings it back down to vengeance and broken lives and the cost of the crimes Dietrich and her men (and most movies) consider throwaway. There's also a bit of a look at gender politics of the western (movie, this all seems to be looking at the movies and the 50s not making any pretence it is talking about the 19th century) but this is Lang so whats being said about all this stuff is pragmatic and brutal rather than progressive.

There are a few bright sparks between Dietrich, Kennedy and Ferrer but this is largely a movie about what life can do to you without warning and with no time wasted on the idea of whether it was deserved or not. Just like all of Lang's other American movies.

It's very very good.

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