Mae Doyle comes back to her hometown a cynical woman. Her brother Joe fears that his love, fish cannery worker Peggy, may wind up like Mae. Mae marries Jerry and has a baby; she is happy but restless, drawn to Jerry's friend Earl.
British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
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 <email@example.com>
The ballad "The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck" is heard during the opening credits and throughout the film, using the lyrics as narration. According to the American Film Institute, this is the first American film to use a song in this manner. See more »
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 »
[the sheriff has three crooked politicians locked in one cell and Mel Ferrar locked in another cell. Arthur Kennedy is asked which cell he wants to be in. He chooses the cell with Mel Ferrar]
Sure, give me an outlaw to these thieves anytime. At least he takes his chances in the open.
See more »
The worst thing about this movie is the grating narrative theme music
Chuck-a-Luck is a hole in the wall type ranch where men with prices on
their heads hide out and are given protection by Altar Keane (Marlene
Dietrich) and her lover Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer) for ten percent
of the loot brought in my the outlaws. Chuck-a-Luck is called Rancho
Notorious in the film's title, which does sound somewhat better.
Unfortunately a terrible narrative theme, "The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck"
used throughout the movie becomes very grating to the ears. The ballad
singer William Lee (who is he anyway?) doesn't help the situation.
Fortunately the songs chosen for the talented Marlene Dietrich to
perform are much better (actually one "Gypsy Davey" is an old British
ballad that Woody Guthrie turned into a cowboy song). Her renditions
are not quite on the level of her "See What The Boys In The Backroom
Will Have" from the western classic "Destry Rides Again" but are still
captivating. (Interesting that she played a saloon girl named Frenchy
in "Destry" whereas this time her lover is named Frenchy.)
This is one of few so-called adult westerns from the 1950's that
actually lives up to that label. The flashback barroom scene where the
soiled angels are riding their customers in a drunken mock horse race
as jockeys would ride horses shows how fun and games in Old West
saloons really took place. The whores are not prima donnas as oft times
shown in Hollywood films. Pay particular attention to the gross fat
showgirl trying to ride a much smaller client. It is funny and
repulsive at the same time. Fritz Lang takes away all window dressing.
Even Marlene Dietrich looks much more slutty and rough around the edges
than she did in "Destry." Being over a decade older gives even more
authenticity to Dietrich's character. She looks like a much older Lola
Lola from "Blue Angel."
Mel Ferrer is an actor with a somewhat limited range. In the right role
he could shine. His best acting was done in a movie that came out just
before this one, "The Brave Bulls." But his second best role is as
Frenchy in "Rancho Notorious." He fits his part much better than Arthur
Kennedy fits his. Kennedy as a gunslinging rancher is fine but Kennedy
the lover takes a suspension of belief, especially as Marlene
Dietrich's lover. One can just imagine how he would look in the morning
after one night with Altar Keane.
Fritz Lang's direction is spectacular. He captures all the nuances of
the characters. His flashback technique at the first of the movie to
define Altar Keane's persona is reminiscent of Orson Welles' milestone
direction of "Citizen Kane." Then he progresses to an almost film noir
western in color. The cinematography is much better in some parts of
the film. It is not as effective when Frenchy and Vern (Arthur Kennedy)
are together in the hills (the background sometimes looks phony) than
when interior sets are used. Perhaps this relates to a money problem
producing the show.
Another enjoyable facet of the feature is the gallery of colorful
character actors who all do superlative jobs. George Reeves (tv's
Superman) is lovingly menacing as a womanizing gun toting ambusher.
Jack Elam is fine as a distrustful negative thinking thief. Frank
Ferguson plays the outlaw called Preacher who prays and reads from the
Bible for special guidance in robbing and killing. William Frawley
(better known as Fred Mertz) shows a mean side playing a double dealing
saloon gambler who fires Altar. Fuzzy Knight is an honest barber who
tries to help Vern out of a mess. This time he doesn't stutter. Several
other notables such as Tom London, Kermit Maynard, and Harry Woods have
interesting bit parts.
If Lang could have borrowed Tex Ritter from High Noon to do an
appropriate theme, "Rancho Notorious" would have been a winner all the
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