Thursday, April 18, 2013
RUTHLESS (1948). Director: Edgar G. Ulmer.
"You're the only friend I have." -- Horace
"And I hate your insides." -- Vic
Horace Woodruff Vendig (Zachary Scott) makes an announcement of the formation of a sort of charitable trust and tries to convince a gathering of victims that he's changed his self-centered tune, but his "best friend" Vic (Louis Hayward) isn't convinced, as flashbacks show their history since boyhood. Raised by a fairly wealthy small-town family after saving the daughter from drowning, Horace is determined to gain riches and power at any cost, going so far as to drop even those who helped him when he no longer requires their assistance. Victims include said daughter (Diana Lynn), who is desperately in love with him and is even affianced to him for a time; second fiancee Susan (Martha Vickers); wife Christa (Lucille Bremer); her ex-husband Buck (Sydney Greenstreet); and worst of all Bruce McDonald (Charles Evans), who helped Horace get his start in a profitable stock business but is turned down when he goes to him for help. Other cast members include Edith Barrett as Lynn's mother, Raymond Burr as Horace's father, and Bob Anderson in a fine turn as Horace as a boy [Arthur Stone as the young Vic is also notable]. Ruthless could have used twenty or so minutes more of character development, but it's a very interesting picture, the entire cast is excellent, and Werner Janssen has contributed an evocative score.
Verdict: One of director Ulmer's best movies. ***.