Inadvertent Classics – Rancho Deluxe

I’m gonna give you a rule of thumb. You foller it and you just might hold on to this ranch of yours. All large-scale crime is an inside job. Takin’ fingerprints and sendin’ trash off to the lab just don’t ger her done. If you’re dealin’ with people, you gotta be human. – Henry Beige

One of the great things about being part of a any subgenre of geekdom is all the arcane knowledge you gain regarding your chosen group.

I’m a parrothead.

What’s that?

I’m a Jimmy Buffett fan.

Not a casual one.

Not the kind that owns Songs You Know By Heart as the extent of his collection.

No, I’m the kind who converts people.  Just ask my wife.

What does any of this have to do with Rancho Deluxe?

I’m glad you asked.

Rancho Deluxe is a 1975 comedy western written by Thomas McGuane and starring Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston.

Bridges and Waterston play a pair of prototypical restless 70s youth who turn to cattle rustling out of boredom.  They take particular pleasure in rustling the cattle of local baron, John Brown.

The problem for our rustlers is that Brown is equally bored.  He’s acquired as much land as he can and seems genuinely bored with his good fortune.  This gives Brown the impetus to hunt down his rustlers himself.

Also bored is Brown’s wife, Cora, who misses her days running beauty parlors in Schnectady, New York.  She even goes so far as to proposition Brown’s two slow witted ranch hands, Burt and Curt, with no luck.

When Brown’s investigation fails, he brings in legendary “livestock detective,” Henry Beige, played by Slim Pickens.

With a cast that also includes Elizabeth Ashley, Harry Dean Stanton and Patti D’Arbanville, Rancho Deluxe is one of those movies that could only have been made in the 70s.  Its a comedy, but one that also takes a long look at the loss of freedoms in the modern American west.

Bridges’ Jack has come to Montana to escape his crazy ex-wife and stiff upper lipped parents.  Waterston’s Cecil, referred to throughout as “the Indian”, is just trying to make his way in the changing landscape around hm.

Bridges shows some early signs of The Dude here.  It will be equally interesting to see if any of Jack McKee is on exhibit in Bad Blake from Crazy Heart.

What does any of this have to do with Jimmy Buffett?

I’m getting there.

Screenwriter Thomas McGuane is Jimmy Buffett’s brother-in-law and Buffett provides the soundtrack to the film, even making a cameo appearance in a bar scene playing an early version of  Livingston Saturday Night.

Rancho Deluxe was one of those projects that was always mentioned as an early turning point for Buffett.  It was when he started finding his “gulf and western” voice.

I’d never been able to find the movie.  When I heard about it for the first time in the early 90s it and the soundtrack were out of print.  So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I stumbled across it on the Encore Westerns channel.  A couple of clicks of my remote later and it was heading for my DVR.

Rancho Deluxe is an interesting time capsule.  It probably is of most interest to fans of Bridges, Waterston or Buffett.  Otherwise, you’re likely to find yourself wondering why your watching.  Enjoy the gorgeous Montana scenery and let the movie unfold.  You’ll probably be glad you did.

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