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Fritz Lang
Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer
Writing Credits:
Daniel Taradash

The wife of a publishing executive mistakenly believes that her husband's relationship with his attractive secretary is more than professional.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 1/24/2023

• None


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Rancho Notorious [Blu-Ray] (1952)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 15, 2023)

When I think of director Fritz Lang, I think of German expressionist classics like Metropolis and M. Lang’s name doesn’t conjure images of Westerns, but Lang nonetheless confronted that genre with 1952’s Rancho Notorious, the third of his three tales under that umbrella.

Set in the 1870s, Vern Haskell (Arthur Kennedy) intends to marry Beth Forbes (Gloria Henry). However, she dies during a robbery.

When Vern embarks on the pursuit of vengeance, he winds up at “Chuck-a-Luck”, a ranch Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich) operates as a haven for criminals. Vern impersonates an outlaw as he gets deep into his crusade.

That sounds like a solid premise for a Western. With that intriguing concept and the talent involved, I went into Rancho with moderately high expectations.

Unfortunately, the end result doesn’t live up to those hopes. While not a bad film, Rancho tends to meander too much for its own good.

The biggest issue stems from the amount of time Rancho requires to get to the point. On the positive side, it starts off with a bang, as it gets us into the main plot quickly and efficiently.

From there, though, matters stall. As Vern sets out to find those who killed Beth, he takes the long way around and it feels like the movie loses sight of this quest too often.

This means the movie loses track of Vern for somewhat long stretches as it digs into Altar’s history. These moments don’t really add to the narrative and feel more like excuses to pad Dietrich’s screen time.

A solid character actor, Kennedy seems a bit out of place as our lead, especially because the movie requires him to play a romantic character. Kennedy didn’t have the right look or charisma for a role like this, so he leaves a bit of a hole at the heart of the film.

Dietrich brings reasonable presence to Altar, but she also feels off here, mainly because she never makes the part seem as rough ‘n’ tumble as she should. Though Dietrich boasts star appeal, she doesn’t connect to her role in a meaningful manner.

My primary complaint here remains the unfocused nature of the narrative itself. Rancho offers too short a running time to go off-track as often as this one does.

Vern’s quest for revenge should stay at the center, but it gets semi-forgotten too much of the time. Rancho seems to enjoy its explorations of Altar and various outlaws more than its main plot, and this leads to a loose narrative without much visceral impact.

Despite these drawbacks, the talent involved here makes Rancho reasonably watchable. It just fails to hit the mark like it should.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus F

Rancho Notorious appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a nice presentation, especially given the film’s age.

In terms of sharpness, the movie usually demonstrated appealing delineation. A few shots seemed somewhat soft, but those issues occurred infrequently, so the majority of the flick looked concise and accurate.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and no edge haloes became apparent. Grain remained appropriate, and no specks, marks or other defects showed up at any time in this fresh presentation.

Colors were strong. Though it favored “Western brown”, the Technicolor production embraced a variety of tones, the hues tended to be vivid and full.

Blacks seemed deep and dense without too much heaviness. Shadow detail worked similarly well, as dimly-lit shots were appropriately clear and thick. I found little about which to complain here and thought the Blu-ray brought the movie to life in a positive manner.

The DTS-HD MA monaural audio of Rancho appeared fine for its era, and speech was more than adequate. The lines showed age-related thinness, but they were always perfectly intelligible and without edginess.

Effects resembled the dialogue. Those elements lacked much depth but they were without notable problems.

Music was acceptable for its age, as the score tended to be a bit tinny. There wasn’t much range to the music, but again, that stemmed from the limitations of the very old source. This became a perfectly acceptable mix for its vintage.

No extras appear on the disc.

A Western that boasts solid talent both in front of and behind the camera, Rancho Notorious feels like it should turn into a classic. Unfortunately, it offers only sporadic pleasures and fails to live up to its potential. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and adequate audio but it lacks bonus materials. This becomes a watchable but average Western.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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