During the pioneer days in Ohio, a widowed farmer marries an indentured servant in order to have a woman around the house and a mother for his young son but these conveniences eventually turn into real love.
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.
An altruistic department-store owner hires ex-convicts in order to give them a second chance at life. Unfortunately, one of the convicts he hires recruits two of his fellow ex-convicts in a plan to rob the store.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director Fritz Lang had originally planned to call this film "Chuck-a-Luck". However, the studio insisted that its name be changed to "Rancho Notorious" and when Lang asked why, he was told that it was because Americans wouldn't understand what "Chuck-a-Luck" (a gambling game commonly played in saloons in the Southwest) meant. Lang replied, "Well, it's a good thing that they all know what 'Rancho Notorious' [which has nothing to do with anything in the film] means!" 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 »
Fritz Lang's superlative western teeters dangerously on the edge of campness, (it's that infernal 'Legend of Chuck-a-Luck' ballad pounding away on the soundtrack, continually reminding us that this is a tale of 'hate ... murder and revenge'). Then, of course, there is that great gay icon Marlene Dietrich, looking extraordinary at fifty one as Altar Keane, boss of the outlaw hideout Chuck-a-Luck where Arthur Kennedy comes seeking the man who killed his girl in a robbery. In many respects the film is a perfect companion to Nicholas Ray's not dissimilar "Johnny Guitar", made around the same time and both featuring dominant women and weaker men and both dealing explicitly with 'hate, murder and revenge'.
This is a very tight piece of work, thematically dense and psychologically astute and directed by Lang in a truly classical style. It affords all the pleasures that a really good western should while still falling perfectly within a milieu recognizable from many of Lang's American works. "Johnny Guitar's" veiled lesbianism together with Nicholas Ray's growing reputation may have given it the edge but this, too, is a remarkable film, an essential work by one of the cinema's greatest directors.
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