• Rancho Deluxe (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Fun City Editions
    Released on: April 22nd, 2021.
    Director: Frank Perry
    Cast: Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston, Elizabeth Ashley, Clifton James, Harry Dean Stanton, Jimmy Buffett
    Year: 1975
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    Rancho Deluxe – Movie Review:

    Jack McKee (Jeff Bridges) and Cecil Colson (Sam Waterston) are two cattle rustlers working on a ranch in Montana. They’re freewheeling hippie types not all together very concerned about the business side of things, their attempts to steal cattle never seeming to be particularly well planned or organized, and when they’re not working they just sort of hang out. They don’t have any money and early in the film can’t pay the rent, offering instead to give the landlady more than double what they owe her in grade A American beef instead of cash.

    Eventually they cross a wealthy rancher named John Brown (Clifton James) who seems obsessed with his prize-winning bull. Brown keeps a very close eye on his property, even going so far as to monitor his lands and his cattle by using a helicopter. John is married to his wife Cora (Elizabeth Ashley), and their marriage seems lacking. She seems bored, and that’s rarely a good thing.

    Jack and Cecil manage to steal Brown’s bull and hold it for a ransom that he agrees to pay. This doesn’t end the way it should and so Brown hires private detective Henry Beige (Slim Pickens) to get the two cow thieves away from his property and out of his hair for good.

    Rancho Deluxe is an odd, meandering film that can’t quite figure out if it wants to be a comedy or a drama. It’s all over the place in terms of tone and pacing and for every moment of effective buddy comedy, humor and warmth the film also throws at us strange and sometimes inappropriate moments of drama, sometimes darker than you’d expect too. Thomas McGuane notes in the extras that he wrote this fast, which would go some way towards explaining this, but director Frank Perry, who also gave us Mommy Dearest, doesn’t do much behind the camera to rein this in. You’d think all of this would make Rancho Deluxe an unwatchable mess, but it doesn’t. Despite the film’s many, and sometimes very obvious flaws, it has an oddly compelling sort of laid back vibe to it that’s kind of charming. It’s also beautiful to look at, with William A. Fraker’s cinematography doing an excellent job of capturing the gorgeous Montana scenery.

    And then, of course, there’s the cast. Bridges is eminently watchable in this picture, playing the part with all sorts of easy, natural charm and it’s pretty much impossible not to like him in this film. He and Waterson have really strong chemistry together, we have no problem buying them as friends in the picture. Clifton James might seem like an odd choice to play a rancher, and maybe he is, but he makes the part is own and is pretty fun in the role. Elizabeth Ashley isn’t given as much to do as the rest of the leads but she’s fine in her part. There are some great supporting parts here too – Harry Dean Stanton is really strong in the film (we get to see him play Pong with Bridges!) and Slim Pickens is pretty great here too, even if he’s basically playing himself. Throw in a bit part for Joe Spinnell and Jimmy Buffett of all people fronting the band in the bar scene (look for an uncredited Warren Oates on harmonica!) and it’s hard not to want to see this just based on the casting alone.

    Rancho Deluxe – Blu-ray Review:

    Rancho Deluxe comes to region A Blu-ray taken from a “new 2K restoration from its 35mm interpositive” framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc, with the feature taking up 27.6GBs of space. The transfer is excellent. It retains plenty of natural film grain but is otherwise damn near pristine, there isn’t much print damage here at all, just the odd white speck here and there. Colors look perfect and black levels are nice and deep. There’s impressive detail throughout pretty much the entire film, great depth and texture too. The picture always looks like film, never showing any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression related issues. All in all, this is a really impressive picture.

    The only audio option is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track. Optional subtitles are offered in English. No problems with the audio to note, the dialogue is easy to understand and follow, there’s a bit of depth to the score and effects and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. The levels are properly balanced and there’s no audible sibilance to complain about, it all sounds very good.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring film critic and historian Nick Pinkerton. He starts by giving some info on writer Thomas McGuane's work, the film's depiction of neo-cowboys and how they differ from their real life counterparts, similiarities to Thunderbolt And Lightfoot, the way that western and ranching life is portrayed in the film, details on pretty much every member of the cast and crew that worked on the picture with plenty of info about Bridges career up to this point, how the west is portrayed as a confidence game and how poor people are bamboozled into living beyond their means in order to buy into that. He also covers the history of the Pong arcade game shown in the film, the timeline of the film's production, how the film was received upon its release (one critic compared it to Blazing Saddles!), the use of music in the film and plenty more. Pinkerton has clearly done a ton of research here and it shows in this interesting commentary.

    Screenwriter Tom McGuane pops up in an interview titled Like Playing Jazz that runs for just under eleven minutes. In this interview he goes over how he came to write the screenplay for the movie after 92 In The Shade was optioned, writing Rancho Deluxe in fourteen days after telling the producher he had it ready to do, how he was never particularly enamoured with American literature in how it relates to the west and wanting to write something different, his own background working on a ranch in Wyoming as a teenager, the 'buddy movie' panter of the film, how Slim Pickens threw snoballs at his eight year old son and his friends during the making of the movie, getting along with Jimmy Buffet who he had a friendship with, thoughts on the cast and crew and lots more.

    A new video interview with Jeff Bridges entitled A Very Significant Movie that runs for twenty-one minutes in length. He talks about why the movie was important to him and to his career, meeting his wife during the making of the movie, how making the movie made him want to move to Montana (which he did), some of the locations that were used during the making of the movie, how he got along with the rest of the cast members including Harry Dean Stanton, taking his soon to be wife to look at ranches in the area while the movie was being made, his relationship with his brother, getting along with director Frank Perry and what he was like to work with, becoming great friends with Joe Spinnell, his appreciation of Jimmy Buffett's appearance in the movie and how he feels about the movie all these years later.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the feature, four scenes from the TV version of the movie, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Fun City Editions have also included with this Blu-ray a nice full color insert booklet with a new essay by Gavin Smith entitled ‘True West.’ The book also includes cast and crew info for the feature and some cool one sheet art on the back cover. There’s also some nice reversible cover sleeve art included with this release and, if you buy it direct from Vinegar Syndrome, a nice limited edition slipcover designed by ‘We Buy Your Kids’ that is limited to 2,000 pieces.

    Rancho Deluxe - The Final Word:

    Rancho Deluxe has some tonal and pacing issues but it’s a beautifully shot film that takes advantage of an excellent cast. Fun City Editions’ Blu-ray release offers up this cult oddity in a very nice presentation and with a really nice selection of extra features as well, making for a very fine release for a rather peculiar film.

    Click on the images below for full sized Rancho Deluxe Blu-ray screen caps!