Wednesday 27 December 2023

Movie Review: Rancho Notorious (1952)

Genre: Western
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer
Running Time: 89 minutes

Synopsis: After his fiancée Beth is murdered in a botched robbery, mild-mannered Wyoming rancher Vern Haskell (Arthur Kennedy) vows revenge and sets-off to track the killer. His pursuit to leads him to suave gunslinger Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer) and ex-saloon girl Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich), who now runs the secluded Chuck-a-Luck ranch for fugitives near the Mexican border. Vern falls in love with Altar and melds in with a group of bandits at the ranch, believing one of them is his target.

What Works Well: This western is elevated above routine by a packed agenda and quality delivery. Writer Daniel Taradash opens with a fervent kiss, then augments traditional themes of loss, revenge, and a love triangle with flashbacks and a challenging crime-as-a-woman-owned-business sub-story. In vivid Technicolor, director Fritz Lang adds nervous energy to Vern's descent into a life of crime, and stages several scenes with theatrical panache. Marlene Dietrich (a woman with too much luggage), Arthur Kennedy (the rancher on an unwanted quest), and Mel Ferrer (the fast gun desperate for one constant in his life) create an effective lead trio.

What Does Not Work As Well: The Legend of Chuck-A-Luck sung by Bill Lee over the credits is truly awful, and some of the painted sets are of the obvious cardboard variety. The long line-up of suspects adds spice to Vern's search, but the men remain insufficiently differentiated.

Conclusion: Thoughtfully explores pitfalls along the red mist journey.

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