Frontiersman Vern Haskell wanders through the Wild West in search of the men responsible for the murder of his fiancee. Posing as an escaped prisoner, Haskell gains entry into Chuc-A-Luck, a horse ranch where a gang of criminals routinely hideout. Not knowing which man is responsible, Haskell befriends the gang, waiting for the perfect time to take his revenge. The film opens with Vern Haskell and his fiance in a loving embrace. Haskell is radiant and passionately in love, though this is the last time we will see him in that light. Rancho Notorious is a compelling story of a man whose life is empty after the loss of his fiancee. Filmed entirely on the studio backlot, the film feels unnatural at times, but Fritz Lang uses this to his advantage, creating a Western landscape that feels much more claustrophobic and tense than is typical for the genre. Thematically it's a film that is very similar to many Noirs - Revenge vs. Morality, and Arthur Kennedy plays the character of Vern quite well. Not as visually interesting as some of Lang's best films, Rancho Notorious does feature some classic Lang like camera movements and editorial decisions that really help put the viewer into the mind of vengeful Vern Haskell.
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