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Average Rating: 3.3/5

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Sharkishly handsome Zachary Scott is right in his element in the Eagle-Lion melodrama Ruthless. Told in flashback, this is the story of the rise and fall of unscrupulous financier Horace Vendig (Scott). Hiding behind a veneer of respectability, Vendig steps on and rolls over anyone who stands in his way, including his lifelong friend Vic Lambdin (Louis Hayward), utilities executive Buck Mansfield (Sydney Greenstreet) and various and sundry women, among them Susan Duane (Martha Vickers) and Christine Mansfield (Lucille Bremer). Poor Diana Lynn is subjected to Vendig's cruelties twice, in the dual role of Martha Burnside and Mallory Flagg. It is a tribute to the acting skills of Zachary Scott that he makes his despicable character somehow likeable and, in the end, rather pathetic. Based on a novel by Dayton Stoddart, Ruthless, like many Eagle-Lion films of its period, was topheavy with loaned-out Warner Bros. contract players. It was also one of the few big-budgeted projects helmed by "cult" director Edgar G. Ulmer.

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Zachary Scott
as Horace Woodruff Vendig
Louis Hayward
as Vic Lambdin
Diana Lynn
as Martha Burnside / Mallory Flagg
Sydney Greenstreet
as Buck Mansfield
Martha Vickers
as Susan Dunne
Lucille Bremer
as Christa Mansfield
Edith Barrett
as Mrs. Burnside
Dennis Hoey
as Mr. Burnside
Raymond Burr
as Pete Vendig
Joyce Arling
as Kate Vendig
Charles Evans
as Bruce McDonald
Robert Anderson
as Horace as a Child
Arthur Stone
as Vic as a Child
Ann Carter
as Martha as a Child
Edna Holland
as Libby Sims
Frederic Worlock
as J. Norton Sims
John Good
as Bradford Duane
Robert J. Anderson
as Horace - as a child
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Critic Reviews for Ruthless

All Critics (4) | Top Critics (1)

Audience Reviews for Ruthless

The message at the center of "Ruthless" may seem dated and unoriginal given how much time has passed since its making, but it's still just as relevant. Films chronicling the rise and fall of men addicted to money and power are made often enough to make the whole concept seem tired and overdone, but despite this, "Ruthless" is still a solidly entertaining yet predictable drama. The biggest problem is Edward G. Ulmer, who has never been a director that I can trust to produce a good motion picture, and once again, his direction is almost entirely responsible for the slow pace that "Ruthless" moves at. Of course, there are times where the pace picks up and things get interesting, but it isn't long before Ulmer returns back to his stationary, monotonous routine. There are some performances that are effective, such as Zachary Scott's slimy Horace Vendig and Louis Hayward as the best friend, and then there are some that aren't, such as Sydney Greenstreet's Buck Mansfield, which is a performance that the actor seems like he's sleeping through half of the time. Overall, "Ruthless" is not an especially memorable or well-crafted motion picture, but it works because of its cleverly-structured screenplay, lead performances and important message.

Stephen Earnest
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

Ruthless (A.K.A The b-grade Citizen Kane) tells the melodramatic tale of a sweet little boy who grows up to become a heartless caricature of a businessman. Why? Because both his parents were also caricatures. His mother a cold-hearted hose beast and his father a gambling/womanizing fiend. What's the source of Horace's cutthroat attitude toward everyone in his life? Well, um, apparently he's possessed by the patron devil of capitalism, or something. Instead of constructing a slow and tragic descent into self-absorption, the way that Charles Foster Kane was portrayed, Ruthless takes the lazy route and simply wants us believe that Horace was a bad apple from the start. That as a child he made some kind of secret pact with the devil to destroy and leave behind all he holds dear as he climbs his way up the corporate ladder. Since Horace Vendig is essentially a wholly unsympathetic human being, who's story are we meant to relate to? Those he left behind? Martha, the love of his life? Nope, she's merely a side note in one of his many flashbacks. Vic? Mmm, nope. His character isn't developed enough for him to function as anything but a moral roadblock to Horace's ruthlessness. At the beginning of the film we're shown that Horace is throwing a soiree to announce his creation of a "peace foundation" in which he hopes to make right the many injustices he has perpetrated. To compensate in some small way for his life of greed, but this never develops. We never see a point of remorse, and we never get any indication that maybe this is yet another veiled play at humanity for his own personal success' sake. It's just an excuse to get everyone he screwed over into one room. No remorse, no moral, no redemption. Nothing. He gets strangled and drowns after he attempts to (yet again) steal Vic's girlfriend. There's a line in the film that says as much, but one gets the sense that Horace isn't so much a character as he is a disaster, a force of nature, a "way of life". This is a survival film in which the supporting cast attempts to outrun the soul-sucking black hole that is Horace "Woody" Vendig.

Brett Warren
Brett Warren

Super Reviewer


Few were better at being a suavely contemptible worm than Zachary Scott as he proves he yet again. Good old fashioned melodrama about an amoral man's climb to the top with the added bonus of the great Sydney Greenstreet and a wonderfully over the top finale.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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