"Rancho Notorious" is a beautifully atmospheric and suspenseful film. Best known for his expressionist black & white suspense thrillers, director Fritz Lang brings the same qualities to this Technicolor western.
Although she must have been in her fifties when the film was made, Dietrich looks absolutely gorgeous. She also seems to be having lots of fun with the part, in a sense reprising her character from "Destry Rides Again." It's never explained how this woman with the strange German accent ended up in the Wild West, and we don't really care. By the way, Dietrich's performance in these two films was the basis for Madeline Kahn's great parody in "Blazing Saddles."
The one thing that really stands out in my mind about this film is how effectively the suspense builds. The tension leading up to Vern's discovery of the killer's identity is almost unbearable, and Lang makes us wait until the film's last five minutes for the inevitable score-settling gunfight.
In a period of film history when westerns were a dime a dozen, this one really stands out as a true classic.
This is a great party movie. My friends and I have watched it together at least four times since we were teenagers. There are so many laughable moments that I could list, but here are just a few favorites:
Casey Casem is a main character (a doctor), but also provides the voice of every news announcement heard on radios in the film! (Did they think we wouldn't notice?)
Bruce Dern saying "Johnny, this is an axe. It is used for chopping wood, and NOTHING ELSE."
Dern again, upon completing an autopsy of a lab monkey: "You know, if this little guy had been healthy, he'd still be alive!"
The totally gratuitous "lady getting out of the bathtub" scene.
The soundtrack is consistently inappropriate for the action on screen. I particularly love the opening titles -- a drippy love song comes directly after a maniac's menacing laughter.
Stilted acting, poorly written dialog, cheesy 70's clothes, a ridiculous premise, and totally unconvincing makeup effects make this one of the best scoff-able titles out there (even beating "Gymkata")! Recommended for your next scoff-fest!