Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rancho Deluxe (1975)

This somewhat forgotten young-Jeff Bridges vehicle about renegade cattle rustlers was a surprisingly fun way to spend 90 minutes. The joy of the film for me was the beautiful scenery and the slew of wonderful performances by a cast comprised mostly of character actors. The film got off to a slightly slow start, I think perhaps because of my limited understanding of what these guys were up to. After about 20 minutes though, I was hooked by the performances, not only from Bridges and Waterston, but also from a couple young actresses that I'm was unfamiliar with, Patti D'Arbanville and Maggie Wellman as sisters.

The plot centers around two easy-going, fun-loving guys, Jack and Cecil (Bridge and Sam Waterston) who are up to no good, rustling (illegally killing/stealing cattle) the local livestock-tycoon, John Brown's (played by the wonderful Clifton James) product. Jack and Cecil continually (and anonymously) up the ante on Mr. Brown; stealing his prize bull, $50,000 of his money, and by plotting the massive theft of a truckload of cattle.

Mr. Brown and his wife initially rely on the help of Burt and Curt (Richard Bright and Harry Dean Stanton) to try to figure out who is ripping them off. As the plot unfolds, Curt figures out who the rustlers are and, in probably the most interesting sequence of the movie, confronts Jack about his illegal activity over a game Pong. The two forge an alliance and agree to work together to deceive Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown then enlists the help of Henry Beige (played by Slim Pickens), a former thief-turned-livestock-detective to solve the mystery. Beige brings along his daughter, Laura (Charlene Dallas), who quickly draws the attention of Curt. Curt's attraction to Laura proves to be his Achilles's Heal.

A couple other stray observations: In some ways, "Rancho Deluxe" reminded me of "Freebie and the Bean" because Sam Waterston plays a Native American, despite being really really caucasian, much in the same way Alan Arkin plays a Hispanic in "Freebie." Also, as in "Freebie," Jeff Bridges spends most of his time in "Rancho" make racist remarks toward Sam's just plain weird.

Waterston's father in the movie is played by the wonderful Joe Spinell. Also, the film is directed by Frank Perry, who also made "Ladybug,Ladybug," a little known film from the 1960's about the staff and students at a rural school who react to a broadcasted warning of an imminent nuclear attack, not knowing whether it is real or a mistake. I think that will one of my next viewings.


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