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Rancho Notorious Blu-ray Review

“Rancho Notorious” is an unusual western. 

After his fiancee is found murdered, Vern sets out to find the bandit (Kinch) responsible and seek revenge against him. He learns that Kinch may be headed for a fabled place called Chuck-a-Luck (a horse ranch/safe haven hideaway for criminals on the run). As he tries to find the location, he hears stories about the woman who runs the place (Altar Keane). Eventually, he meets Altar’s lover (an imprisoned man named Frenchy) who leads him to Chuck-a-Luck. Upon arrival, he has to discover who the culprit is despite not knowing what he looks like.

Skillfully directed by legendary filmmaker Fritz Lang, 1952’s “Rancho Notorious” is a western of a different sort. The script by Daniel Taradash unfolds in a fashion one isn’t accustomed to seeing in a western with the implementation of flashbacks to Altar’s past used as both an ode to viral storytelling and as a plot device to provide characterization. Sure, the story eventually becomes linear after that, but that segment of the film felt very fresh from a storytelling perspective. Also appreciated here is the sort of road movie aspect with Vern attempting to find the murderer before eventually landing at his destination. This portion is aided by narrative songs sung by Bill Lee. Cheesy though they may be (and perhaps better left on the cutting room floor), it is another aspect that makes this western stand out from the rest. 

For those that are interested, “Rancho Notorious” is also one of the primary films that “Blazing Saddles” spoofed. This is especially evident with Marlene Dietrich’s character Altar (a former saloon singer turned horse ranch business woman) who was a major influence on the Madeline Kahn character Lili von Shtupp. The aforementioned narrative songs are also spoofed in ‘Saddles’ as well.

Speaking of Dietrich, she steals the show here. She gives a strong and sultry performance that is full of intrigue. Artur Kennedy is solid in the main role as Vern, but Kennedy isn’t exactly subtle with his character (see the very obvious suspicious stare downs). Mel Ferrer shines as Frenchy whose character arc proves to be rather vital. It’s also great to see so many character actors present like Jack Elam, George Reeves, and William Frawley pop up as well.

“Rancho Notorious” is available on the Warner Archive store on Amazon, Movie Zyng and other online retailers.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? Viewers can expect another incredible restoration from Warner Archive. The colors are pristine throughout especially when it comes to Dietrich’s vividly colorful wardrobe and the location shooting. 

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? A satisfactory Mono track that provides a clean audio experience.

No extras have been included.

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January 20, 2023 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , ,

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