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Rancho Notorious (1952)

Approved | | Western | March 1952 (USA)
After the murder of his fiancée, a Wyoming ranch hand sets out to find her killer.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (original story)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Vern Haskell
...
...
Beth Forbes
...
Baldy Gunder
...
Maxine
John Raven ...
Chuck-a-Luck Dealer
...
Mort Geary
...
...
Preacher
...
Harbin
Dan Seymour ...
Comanche Paul
...
Jeff Factor
...
Rio (as Rodric Redwing)
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Storyline

A western based on the story "Gunsight Whitman" by Silvia Richards. Vern Haskell, a nice rancher, seeks out to avenge his fiancé's death when she is killed during a robbery. His revenge leads him to Chuck-a-luck, Altar Keane's ranch set up to hide criminals, and he finds more than he bargains for. Written by Andre'a M. Thompson <athompso@ziggy.st.hmc.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She runs the West's strangest hideout... a ranch where a guest can hide his crime... quench his thirst... betray a woman... and knife a man in the back... for a price! See more »

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

March 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Chuck-a-Luck  »

Box Office

Budget:

$900,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although Arthur Kennedy was playing a young man, he was actually three years older than Mel Ferrer. See more »

Goofs

When Altar and Frenchy argue about her going away, the close up shows them with shoulders in parallel. After the cut to medium, her left shoulder is instantly pressed against his chest. See more »

Quotes

Altar Keane: Go away and come back ten years ago.
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Connections

Referenced in Blaze of Glory: Mel Brooks' Wild, Wild West (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Legend of Chuck-A-Luck
Music and Lyrics by Ken Darby
Ballad Sung by Bill Lee (as William Lee)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Tricky beginning blooms into something quite unique.
10 March 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The third and last Western by Fritz Lang, Rancho Notorious is a weird, distinctive, film-noir infused Oater containing familiar Fritz Lang themes. Adapted by Daniel Taradash from an original story by Silvia Richards, the story follows Arthur Kennedy's frontiersman Vern Haskell as he trawls the West in search of the culprit responsible for the rape and murder of his fiancée. He winds up at a place known as Chuck-a-Luck, a ranch and front for a criminal hideout that is run by smouldering chanteuse Altar Keane {Marlene Dietrich}. Posing as a criminal himself, Haskell hooks up with gunslinger Frenchy Fairmont {Mel Ferrer} and infiltrates the unsavoury mob behind the scenes of the Chuck-a-Luck. But problems arise as both Haskell and Frenchy vie for the attentions of Altar and slowly but surely, as Haskell gets closer to his target, it's evident that he is so torn and twisted by revenge he's become as bad as the villains he now aims to bring down.

Reference Fritz Lang, love, betrayal and retribution, cloak them in a decidedly feminist sheen and what you get is Rancho Notorious. That the film is an oddity is something of an understatement, yet it works in a very unique sort of way. The film opens with one of the most god awful title songs used in Westerns, "Legend of Chuck-A-Luck" song by Bill Lee, from then the tune is used at points of reference in the narrative. It seems like a joke song, hell it sounds like a joke song, but within the first quarter of the film a pretty young lady is raped and murdered, Haskell is informed that she "wasn't spared anything," this is completely at odds with the tone that had been set at that time. The Technicolour photography provided by Hal Mohr has a garish sheen to it, this too gives the film a confused feel, most likely the intention there is to convey a sense of gloom as Haskell's bile starts to rise. And then the first sight of Dietrich, astride a man, riding him like a horse in some bizarre barroom contest. All of which points to Lang perhaps being over audacious with his intentions. But he wasn't, and to stay with the film brings many rewards as he revels in the tale of inner turmoil. This ultimately becomes a perfect companion piece to Lang's brilliant film noir the following year, The Big Heat. The similarities between the lead male protagonist and the femme fatale are impossible to cast aside as being mere coincidence. Rest assured Lang was at home with these themes, and cinema fans are the better for it.

It was a troubled production tho, one that belies the quality of the final product. Studio head Howard Hughes kept interfering {nothing new there of course}, even taking away control of the editing from the increasingly infuriated Lang. While the relationship between the fiery director and Dietrich broke down to such an extent they stopped talking to each other by the end of the film. Dietrich was troubled by her age at this time, often begging Mohr to work miracles with his photography to convey a more youthful look for the once "Babe of Berlin". Yet she need not of worried for her real life concerns dovetail with that of her character, which in turn gives the film a revelatory performance. With Dietrich backed up by the similarity excellent Kennedy, Rancho Notorious has much class to go with its odd and visionary touches. A different sort of Western to be sure, but most definitely a Fritz Lang baby, this deserves the classic status that is now afforded it. 8/10


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