Taglines: Barbara Stone has just been kidnapped by K-Mart, and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) is a clothing manufacturer, who married his wife Barbara (Bette Midler), for the money that she was supposed to inherit from her dying father, but her father didn’t die for another fifteen years. He is now planning to kill her and he tells his girlfriend Carol Dodsworth (Anita Morris) what he is going to do.
He then on his way home to do just that but when he gets there, she’s not there. He then receives a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped Barbara and threatening to kill her if he informs the police, which he does hoping that they do. What Stone doesn’t know is that the kidnappers, Ken (Judge Reinhold) and Sandy (Helen Slater) Kessler are a couple whose idea for a garment he stole and made fortune off, are not that lethal, as a matter of fact Barbara’s more lethal. And what Stone doesn’t know is that Carol, has another boyfriend named Earl Mott (Bill Pullman), and they plan to blackmail Sam, by videotaping him disposing of Barbara’s body.
Ruthless People is a 1986 American black comedy film written by Dale Launer, directed by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, and starring Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Judge Reinhold, Anita Morris, and Helen Slater, with Bill Pullman in a supporting role in his film debut.
The film is the story of a couple who kidnap their ex-boss’s wife to get revenge and extort money from him. They soon realize he does not want her back and was planning to kill her himself. Meanwhile the boss’s mistress plans a blackmail attempt on him which also does not go as planned.
Although it has been perceived that Ruthless People was influenced by O. Henry’s story The Ransom of Red Chief, writer Dale Launer claims that it was inspired by the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst and that the similarities between the film and the earlier story were a coincidence.
Ruthless People (1986)
Directed by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker
Starring: Bette Midler, Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater, Anita Morris, Bill Pullman, William G. Schilling, Art Evans, Clarence Felder Jeannine Bisignano
Screenplay by: Dale Launer, O. Henry
Cinematography by: Jan de Bont
Film Editing by: Gib Jaffe, Arthur Schmidt
Costume Design by: Rosanna Norton
Set Decoration by: Anne D. McCulley
Art Direction by: Donald B. Woodruff
Music by: Michel Colombier
Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution
Release Date: June 27, 1986