PAUSE IT: What do you see? A harrowing scene. Concerned faces huddle in the background as they look upon the shocking conclusion of a man’s life. The foregrounded figure, a down on his luck banker, has tragically met his end. The image is made all the more unsettling by the striking way it is composed. Making use of all three photographic planes–background, middleground, and foreground–director, Edward G. Ulmer’s Ruthless (1948) paints a chilling picture of the consequences of a life consumed by a lust for power and money. In the center of the frame, a  pool of light highlights the fallen man’s hat. The composition is a masterstroke in visual storytelling. Perfectly bisecting the frame, the hat visually occupies that liminal space between life and death, between the past and the present, and serves as a stark reminder that only a thin line separates the two.

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Cast:  Zachary Scott, Louis Hayward, Diana Lynn
Cinematography by: Bert Glennon
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