Rancho Notorious (1952)

“Where anything goes … for a price!” An enjoyable, totally offbeat (and extremely low budget!) Western directed by Fritz Lang and shot in Technicolor, Rancho Notorious features a revenge plot, a good dose of sexual innuendo, a strange but catchy title song (“Listen to the song of the gambler’s wheel/A souvenir of a bygone year”) and an outlaw hideout/horse ranch near the Mexican border called “Chuck-A-Luck” run by former saloon dancer “Altar Keane” (Marlene Dietrich). Arthur Kennedy stars as Wyoming rancher “Vern Haskell,” who manages to infiltrate a gang of criminals in order to find out who brutally raped and murdered his fiancee “Beth Forbes” (Gloria Henry) during a holdup. Vern’s relentless quest for vengeance eventually takes him to the mysterious Chuck-A-Luck ranch where he vows to settle the score. The bandits include “Frenchy Fairmont” (Mel Ferrer), “Mort Geary” (Jack Elam), “Wilson” (George Reeves), “Preacher” (Frank Ferguson) and “Kinch” (Lloyd Gough). Believe it or not, the film was originally titled Chuck-A-Luck (RKO Pictures head Howard Hughes reportedly demanded the change). It was a box office dud but has developed a cult following over the years. Dietrich later remarked, “Fritz Lang was the director I detested most … In order to be able to work with Lang, I had to repress all the hatred and aversion he aroused in me.” Henry later portrayed “Alice Mitchell” on the Dennis the Menace TV show (1959-63).

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