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Ruthless (1948)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Film-Noir  |  4 November 1948 (UK)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 675 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 22 critic

Horace Vendig shows himself to the world as a rich philanthropist. In fact, the history of his rise from his unhappy broken home shows this to be far from the case. After being taken in by ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Zachary Scott ...
Martha Burnside / Mallory Flagg
Buck Mansfield
Lucille Bremer ...
Christa Mansfield
Susan Duane
Dennis Hoey ...
Mr. Burnside
Edith Barrett ...
Mrs. Burnside
Pete Vendig
Joyce Arling ...
Kate Vendig
Charles Evans ...
Bruce McDonald
Robert J. Anderson ...
Horace Vendig as Child (as Bob Anderson)
Arthur Stone ...
Ann Carter ...
Martha Burnside as Child
Edna Holland ...
Libby Sims


Horace Vendig shows himself to the world as a rich philanthropist. In fact, the history of his rise from his unhappy broken home shows this to be far from the case. After being taken in by richer neighbours he started to exhibit an obsessive and selfish urge to make more and more money, loving and leaving women at will to further this end. Written by Jeremy Perkins <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Lovely! (Diana Lynn) Reckless! (Lucille Bremer) Loyal! (Louis Hayward) Power-Mad! (Zachary Scott) Vicious! (Sydney Greenstreet) Innocent! (Martha Vickers) See more »


Drama | Film-Noir


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 November 1948 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Prelude to Night  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (re-issue)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Buck Mansfield quotes twice from the Bible. The first occasion is when he is being 'pursued by his creditors' and he reads from Proverbs 31:10 -12 and 21 (...Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies....). The second instance is when he speaks to the bartender at Vendig's function and the quote is from Obadiah 1: 2-4 (...Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down ...). See more »


Mrs. Burnside: [to unhappy young Horace] Be brave. Be a man.
Horace Vendig as Child: I don't want to be a man. Never! I wish there weren't any men in the whole world.
See more »


Referenced in Let's Go to the Movies (1949) See more »

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User Reviews

O.K. rise and fall drama.

RUTHLESS seems to be Edgar G. Ulmers attempt to film a story similar to CITIZEN KANE. Like CITIZEN KANE, RUTHLESS is the story of the rise and fall of man from a humble background who rises to the top, destroying several people along the way, only to end up having his past catch up with him at the end. RUTHLESS also has CITIZEN KANE's flashback structure and both characters come from quaint small towns. Unlike Charles Kane, Horace Wooddruff Vendig is a far more ruthless character and- unlike Charles Kane- evokes little sympathy. He destroys his first love, first by stealing her from his best friend, then dumping her for another woman when he meets another girl whose family can provide him with better connections to move the economic ladder. The women he uses, with the exception of his first love Martha, evoke little sympathy. In a way they are just as ruthless as Vendig. The women are solely attracted to him by his power and wealth, and when they are discarded, the viewer can't help feel they had it coming. Don't complain when you play with vipers and then get bitten would be my advice to these women.

RUTHLESS doesn't quite deserve the praise some viewers have recently heaped upon it. The pacing is sometimes off and the film is a bit overlong. The cast is good, with Sydney Greenstreet giving as usual (if at times over the top) attention grabbing performance. Director Ulmer handles the direction with confidence and style. Overall, RUTHLESS is a not bad imitation of a much better film, but when viewing it, the viewer can't help think something is lacking.

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