"Ruthless People" Is Released
The 1986 movie Ruthless People is a black comedy starring Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater.
It was directed by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, best known for the Airplane! and Naked Gun comedies. This film, by contrast, is a straight comedy bordering on farce, with very few of the innumerable sight gags and puns and jokes of the other movies.
It was loosely based on the O. Henry short story "The Ransom of Red Chief". A British comedy, Too Many Crooks had been made in 1959 and starred Terry-Thomas, George Cole and Sid James. It also tells of a woman who joins forces with her kidnappers against her unfaithful husband and may also have been an inspiration.
The last film to be co-directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, Ruthless People stars Bette Midler (capitalizing on her comeback performance in Down and Out in Beverly Hills) as Barbara, a spoiled rich woman who is kidnapped by the kindly Ken and Sandy Kessler (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater). Barbara's forceful husband Sam (Danny DeVito) has ripped off the Kesslers and they decide to hold Barbara for ransom. Sam, who hates his wife, refuses to pay. Eventually Barbara befriends the Kesslers and together they figure out how to exact revenge upon the obnoxious Sam. Bill Pullman makes his film debut here as a very dim, would-be criminal. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide