Plot: What’s it about?
The wide open plains of Montana might be settled now, but some folks harken back to the times when the land was rugged and uninhabited. The mystique of the cowboy seems to have gone now, but there are still modern strains of that character, some of which you can see in Rancho Deluxe. Jack McKee (Jeff Bridges) is one such man, who spends his days out in the open, just working the land and dreaming of what it might have been like many years ago. He often spends a lot of time with some of the other folks that wander the lands, such as Cecil Colson (Sam Waterston), Burt and Curt the cowhands (Richard Bright & Harry Dean Stanton), and Henry Beige (Slim Pickens). The newest arrivals in the area are newlyweds John and Cora Brown (James Clifton & Elizabeth Ashley), who became bored with their old lives and decided to take on new ones. With all these unique personas dwelling in the same area, some hijinks are bound to happen and I assure you, they do and often.
I saw this film a while back on cable television, but I couldn’t remember much about it, so I was curious when this disc arrived. The case describes Rancho Deluxe as a modern western and with a nice cast (headed by Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterson), it seems worth than worth another look. I like westerns on the whole, but the modern westerns seem more like fish out of water stories than real westerns to me. This isn’t always a bad thing, as some of them work well, but I like it when we see the real western aspects of a story. Rancho Deluxe is such a film, as we’re in Montana with a team of modern cowboys, who live a simple life. The landscape here is gorgeous, with some terrific scenic photography that really gives the film a nice backdrop. You can see why these folks love this land, which is vital to the film’s effectiveness. There is a lot of comedy within this movie and most it works well, but there is also some romance tossed in to keep things mixed up. It might not make you think too much, but Rancho Deluxe is fun to watch and is pretty unique in the end. The cast of characters is well chosen and there’s no shortage of laughs here, so why not give this disc a rental and see what you think?
This film sports a terrific ensemble cast, but the real star here is Jeff Bridges, who seems to have a knack for offbeat characters. Bridges is in fine form in Rancho Deluxe and handles the comedic aspects with ease, but also come through when he needs to deliver seriousness, though that isn’t often. You can tell there’s a lot to Bridges’ character and that adds depth to his actions, which is also crucial to the film. This role might not be as off-the-wall as some of his work, but the character does have some quirks, which Bridges nails without a problem in the least. I also recommend Bridges’ work in films such as The Big Lebowski, The Last Picture Show, Tron, Star Man, Fearless, Tucker: A Man And His Dream, Jagged Edge, and Arlington Road. The cast here also includes Clifton James (Lone Star, Eight Men Out), Charlene Dallas (Criminal Act), Richard Bright (Beautiful Girls, The Idolmaker), Elizabeth Ashley (Dragnet, Ship of Fools), Harry Dean Stanton (The Straight Story, Repo Man), Joe Spinell (The Godfather, Taxi Driver), Slim Pickens (Dr. Strangelove, Blazing Saddles), and Sam Waterston (Serial Mom, Heaven’s Gate).
Video: How does it look?
Rancho Deluxe is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition also included on the disc’s flip side. I knew this transfer wouldn’t look pristine, but this image is less than acceptable in all respects. There is a literal layer of heavy grain on the print at all times, which has a negative impact on all the other elements. It causes the colors to seem muted and black levels flat, which is not how DVD transfers should look. This film was made in 1974, so I expected some wear, but this is too much.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio is better than the video, but that isn’t saying much in the end. The included mono track handles the basics with ease, but doesn’t provide much range, but that doesn’t harm the experience much. The sound effects come off well enough, though the mono limits the range and clarity to a certain extent. The dialogue is the main attraction here though and it is in fine form also, no volume problems and the vocals are very crisp. It’s rather basic, but it gets the job done and that is what counts in the end. The disc also houses a French mono track, English captions, and French & Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.