Ruthless

Film

Film noir

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Time Out says

Often described as Ulmer's Citizen Kane, this is, alongside The Black Cat, Bluebeard and Detour, one of the Poverty Row king's very finest films. Given a far better cast and a slightly larger budget than usual, he follows Welles in choosing to view the rise to power of Horace Woodruff Vendig (an admirably cast Scott) through flashbacks which both stress his destructive use of others and refuse to explain his ambitions through clear-cut motivations (although, as with Kane, lost love is hinted at as a subconscious driving force). Indeed, like so many of Ulmer's unsympathetic protagonists, Vendig seems to be a puppet of Fate, a motif perhaps reinforced by the harsh precision of the stark, even noir-like visuals. Whether the film is a subversive critique of the American Dream, or merely adheres to the populist sop that wealth necessarily entails loneliness and anxiety, is ambiguous; there is no doubting, however, the effectiveness of Ulmer's pulp poetry, especially in the final scenes when Vendig drowns, choked by Greenstreet's vengeful, ruined Southern tycoon.
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Release details

UK release:

1948

Duration:

104 mins

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3.8 / 5

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Es says

All in all surprisingly effective, with a nice sinister, pulpy undercurrent.