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Directed by Fritz Lang

United States 1952 85 mins. In English

Fritz Lang’s finest Hollywood western, Rancho Notorious is an oddball Technicolor fever dream, a revenge story for the ages. Vern Haskell (a brutally angry Arthur Kennedy) sets out to kill the man who raped and murdered his fiancée (Gloria Henry), eventually crossing paths with the gunslinger Frenchy Fairmont (the perpetually squinting Mel Ferrer) and outlaw-ranch-runner Altar Keane (Marlene Dietrich in a characteristically gender-bending role). To get there, however, Vern must solve “the legend of chuck-a-luck” and how its mystery relates to his blood quest. Through judicious use of the flashback (a western rarity), Lang fashions a deeply pessimistic tale of aging and artifice—the film’s core trio crucially understanding the corrosion of time and the false promise of happiness in a starkly brutal world.

Genres: Western

Appears in: Essential Cinema