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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Magnificent Classic Thriller

Author: Bensch
16 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Most Dangerous Game" of 1932 is a masterpiece the production of which largely included the same team as one of the most famous films in history, "King Kong" (1933), and while this film does not reach the same level of fame, it easily is an equally impressive milestone and maybe one of the most exciting films ever brought to screen. Adapted from Richard Connel's story of the same name and directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack (who also co-directed "King Kong"), "The Most Dangerous Game" simply is an overwhelming cinematic experience in all aspects: exceptionally filmed in fantastic settings, this film is an incredibly suspenseful thriller with a genuinely macabre premise, that is pioneering in its effects and action sequences and, probably most importantly, it introduces one of the most memorable villains ever in cinema, the demented hunter. This demented hunting enthusiast is Count Zaroff, and while the story has often be re-filmed, Leslie Banks' diabolical Count Zaroff in this film remains cinema's most memorable 'Mad Hunter' (and one of the all-time greatest villains) to this day.

After surviving a shipwreck, famed hunter and hunting-book author Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) strands on a remote island where the Russian Count Zaroff welcomes him into his eerie mansion. After Bob is introduced to fellow castaways, the beautiful Eve (Fay Wray) and her drunken brother, it turns out that Zaroff is a fellow hunting enthusiast. What Bob doesn't know, however, is that Zaroff prefers to hunt for a very particular kind of 'game'...

This film simply is amazing in all regards. As said above, Zaroff is one of the greatest villains in cinema history. Villains are usually more interesting than heroes, especially in classic 30s cinema. Yet this film also has an interesting hero, greatly portrayed by Western star Joel McCrea. Bob Rainsford is an early form of the action hero, so the film's character as a milestone even includes the hero. Leslie Banks still steals the show as Count Zaroff, though. Banks is brilliantly sinister in the role of the insane hunting enthusiast, whose macabre hobby is the hunting of humans. Zaroff is so dedicated to the hunting-sport that he cannot understand Rainsford's abhorrence for the idea of hunting human beings. The Count's dedication is manifested in unforgettably creepy speeches. At the same time, he is wonderfully cynical, sarcastically repeating what others have said. Fay Wray's female leading character may seem extremely defenseless and dependent on male help by today's standards; on must keep in mind that this was made in the 30s, however, and Miss Wray is lovable and very beautiful. The film is extremely fast-paced and exciting and does not include a single length. Maybe more than any other film from its time, "The Most Dangerous Game" offers non-stop thrills paired with some of the most remarkable action sequences of its time. The shark-sequence in the beginning and the breathtaking chase near the end are just two examples for this. Some of the settings were re-used for "King Kong" a year later, and they also form the perfect scenery for this brilliant film. In a nutshell: This film is as memorable as its villain. One of the most influential classics of the 30s and simultaneously one of the most exciting films ever made, "The Most Dangerous Game" is a sensational masterpiece that everyone even remotely interested in cinema MUST see! Is there a higher rating than 10 out of 10?

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Yes - a true Classic

Author: L. Denis Brown ( from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
18 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film of a 1924 short story by Richard Connell was created in 1932, not only on the same film set that was used for King Kong but also with the same Director and three of the same actors. It is set largely at night and I have seen reports that both films were in production simultaneously using separate day and night shifts, but the common Director and cast members makes this inherently improbable. IMDb users have quoted production dates from a year before King Kong to several months afterwards - the most detailed report refers to it being made during a break in the filming of KK necessitated by major changes to the mechanism used to animate him. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this but it is easy to identify scenery common to both films. Intended only to be a typical B movie thriller TMDG became very much more, thanks to both the excellence of Richard Connell's story and some very fine acting by the cast. The story has been widely used for literature classes in U.S. schools and can still be readily found on the web, often with guidance notes for students preparing essays about it. It features an island where a madman takes steps to cause passing ships to run ashore, and then hunts any surviving crew members through the island's forests. The film opens with Bob Rainsford, a shipwrecked big game hunter, experiencing for the first time the terror of himself being hunted when swimming ashore among shark that kill all his companions. Escaping, he is welcomed to an unexpected and palatial château by Count Zaroff, a host who is thrilled to find a companion that shares his passion for hunting. The story, much more than just a thriller although less than 8,000 words long, clearly depicts this mad host as a suave and cultured aristocrat fully prepared to make a powerful ideological defence of his beliefs and behaviour. This is calm and thought provoking writing which suddenly and quite rapidly, but with no sharp jarring break, evolves into heart stopping terror and horror when Rainsford rejects the friendship offered and recoils from his host, quickly leading to him becoming the next victim for the hunt. The film follows the story very closely and is far superior to almost all the numerous horror movies Hollywood has created since. Being based on a short story, it does not have to cut out numerous very important parts which are vital for understanding the author's aims and objectives. In fact, to achieve a feature length film the scriptwriters have had to introduce additional material, and to their credit this (e.g. the shark encountered whilst swimming ashore) has underlined aspects of the original story that could be easily missed during a cursory reading. The film also introduces two other "guests" - a brother and sister. The former becomes a victim of Zaroff's hunt, and mounted in Zaroff's secret trophy room - only to be discovered by his sister Eve and Rainsford, so revealing Zaroff's gruesome secrets. The denouement follows, and Eve chooses to accompany Bob Rainsford when he is hunted because Count Zaroff has made it clear he never kills a woman, but a successful hunt always excites his sexual desires. Leslie Banks as Zaroff and Joel McCrea as Rainsford both play their parts superbly, Banks was a fine actor who built a notable inter-war years career despite a disfiguring scar and paralysis of one side of his face following a war wound. In this role it helped him -seen in profile he is the courteous aristocratic host, but full face and fingering his scar he is perfect as the deranged Zaroff.. Fay Wray is more than adequate as Eve and proves herself a much better actress than in KK.

This film was believed to have been lost, but a copy in excellent condition was discovered in the 1970's. It excited great public interest and, as it was by then public domain material, numerous VHS tape versions were subsequently produced from it (Amazon lists 12 North American ones - half still available). More recently a slew of DVD's have also been released. It is a very short film so some releases pair it with other vintage films (e.g. Bird of Paradise) or make it part of a collection (e.g. The Joel McCrea collection), and purchasers still have the choice of many different disks. It has also been the subject of numerous imitations, some featuring a similar story - others less personal but equally tragic hunts condoned or even required by wartime conflicts. Many of these are excellent action films but they do not have the impact of TMDG. The role of a critic is to criticise and it is easy to find comments that Leslie Banks overacts, or that the first half of this film contains too much dialogue and the action starts too late. Such comments are legitimate but suggest that their author does not fully appreciate the message of this film. There are numerous non-stop action films but how many of them will still sell in multiple versions 75 years after they were made? TMDG has become a classic in a class of its own. Imitations have come and gone since it was first made, but this remains the version to watch and appreciate. In my opinion it will eventually even overtake King Kong in the esteem of film connoisseurs. KK is a great film which has also deservedly remained highly successful over an equal time period, but ultimately a fantasy about an imaginary creature cannot offer as much as this insightful psychological drama.

Rating By 1930 standards 10, by 2000 standards 8 - Averaging yields 9 stars.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Stills holds up as a classic adventure story

Author: lemon_magic from Wavy Wheat, Nebraska
29 March 2008

I remember our 8th grade teacher reading the original short story "The Most Dangerous Game" to us, and being stunned at how great it was... especially the ending. It's a powerful story, and has been told and retold in movie forms for decades...but I never had the chance to see the original movie adaptation - owing to its "lost" status and failure to be shown on cable or movie channels. But recently I saw a used DVD in a bookstore and it was only four bucks. And I was still curious - not only about the movie itself, but about Joel McCrea and Fay I picked it up.

My investment was rewarded. I got to see a nice, tight little thriller with some pretty sharp performances by the three main actors and a screenplay that stayed true to the spirit of the story. Leslie Banks (the Count) had just the right approach for the role - he could play suave and sinister, and he could also chew the scenery without embarrassment or restraint; somehow it added up to a memorable performance that I felt privileged to see.

Fay Wray was also a pleasant surprise - stuck within the familiar conventions of the time, she was still awfully good at the role - dramatic without being hammy or affected. Joel McCrea, on the other hand, was just a typical stalwart good guy, but he got the job done.

In a lesser directors' hands, this movie might have been terribly corny, but this guy knew what to emphasize and what to leave out. He added a credibility to the hysterics of the plot that helps the viewer buy into the proceedings. It's just a wonderful job of directing that frames the story just right without calling undue attention to itself. Having sat through a bunch of movies directed by people who usually make MTV music videos, I found this restraint quite admirable.

If you have have the chance to see the "original" somewhere, and you have any patience for the conventions of older movies, you'll enjoy this one.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

When you play the most dangerous game, you play to win!

Author: Koosh_King01 from North Carolina
1 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

American author and big game hunter Robert Rainsford is aboard the pleasure yacht of a friend en route to South America to hunt jaguars, having just returned from hunting tigers in India. One of the other passengers, a doctor, points out that animals who kill to survive are considered savage, whereas humans, who kill purely for sport, are considered civilized. To emphasize his point, he asks Rainsford whether he would trade places with the tiger he killed. A bemused Rainsford merely says, "There's two kinds of people in this world; the hunters and the hunted, and I'm a hunter." Suddenly the yacht hits some submerged rocks and sinks. Only Rainsford and the ship's captain survive, but soon a shark eats the captain. Rainsford swims desperately to a nearby island and heads inland, where he discovers a large mansion. The house turns out to belong to the mysterious Count Zaroff, who, having read Rainsford's books, eagerly welcomes his unexpected guest.

He introduces Rainsford to the other people staying with him, Eve Trowbridge and her alcoholic brother Martin. Hunting is Count Zaroff's one and only passion in life. But hunting animals has come to bore him, and he has found a new prey. Rainsford and Eve discover just what that prey is when Martin disappears and, searching for him, the two discover Zaroff's "trophy room" filled with human heads mounted on the wall or in jars! Zaroff, catching them, confirms he does indeed hunt humans, and when Rainsford refuses to see eye to eye with the Count, Zaroff vows that the American will be his next quarry. Now Rainsford will finally know what it is like to be the tiger! Based on Richard Connell's fantastic short story of the same name, The Most Dangerous Game is a wonderful adventure movie that more than holds up today thanks to wonderful acting, a great villain, and most importantly, the action sequences! There's a really great, lengthy foot chase through the jungles of the island towards the end, with Rainsford and Eve pursued by Zaroff's bloodthirsty hunting dogs, and, at the climax, Rainsford has a really good fistfight with some of Zaroff's men (watch for the part where he breaks a guy's back!).

The Eve Trowbridge character wasn't in Connell's short story, but her inclusion here isn't at all distracting, as Fay Wray makes her more than a shoehorned-in love interest. Other changes, including Rainsford's first name (it's "Sanger" in the story) and Zaroff's title (he's a general in the story) are minor and easily overlooked. The movie is faithful to, and expands on, Connell's story.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Excellent and suspenseful thriller

Author: Woodyanders ( from The Last New Jersey Drive-In on the Left
7 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Evil and depraved big game hunter Zaroff (deliciously played with lip-smacking wicked relish by Leslie Banks) hunts humans for sport on his remote island. Zaroff chooses fellow well known big game hunter Robert Rainsford (a solid and likable performance by Joel McCrea) to be his latest quarry. Directors Irving Pickel and Ernest B. Schoedsack, working from a compact script by James Ashmore, relate the absorbing story at a quick pace, milk the dark premise for all its worth (Zaroff's trophy room with the bodies of his previous victims is truly grotesque and startling), and deftly stage the major hunting set piece in which Zaroff and Rainsford match wits. It's the second half of this movie that really makes it hum: It's remarkably tense, gripping, and exciting as all hell, with loads of suspense, jolting moments of sudden ferocious violence, and a dandy conclusion. Moreover, Banks' sublimely slimy portrayal of Zaroff delivers a pleasing mix of suavely decadent menace and alarmingly twisted perversity. Fay Wray makes for a suitably fetching and appealing damsel in distress. Henry W. Gerrard's crisp black and white cinematography provides a fine moody look. Max Steiner's dynamic full-bore score hits the stirring spot. Only Robert Armstrong's irritating turn as annoying comic relief drunk Martin detracts a bit from the substance of this otherwise sterling movie. Worthy of its classic status.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The birth of survival horror sub-genre.

Author: HumanoidOfFlesh from Chyby, Poland
6 March 2010

"The Most Dangerous Game" is a classic of horror genre and the first survival flick ever made.In this gripping and suspenseful tale Russian nobleman Count Zaroff hunts for shipwrecked victims on his deserted tropical island.The guests soon find themselves sucked into the insane games of their host.Zaroff bored with stalking animals has decided to go hunting the Most Dangerous Game of all-man...The script of "The Most Dangerous Game" is loosely based on Robert Connell's short story,which I haven't read.The film was quite shocking for its time with several subtle sexual undercurrents.The scene where Eve and Ransford discover Zaroff's trophy room is unforgettable.I rarely review 30's and 40's horror,but "The Most Dangerous Game" deserves my comment.Often remade,never equaled it's a must-see for fans of "Deliverance","Turkey Shoot" or "Rovdyr".8 out of 10.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"First Kill....Then Love!"

Author: prichards12345 from United Kingdom
28 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Most Dangerous Game is a terrific old barn-stormer. A horror-thriller from the same talents that produced King Kong. Indeed, the movie re-used several of Kong's sets, and was conceived in order to get more value for money from Kong's colossal budget. It is, however, a thrilling adventure in its own right.

Kong Alumni Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Nobel Johnson turn up here (the film was shot almost simultaneously with Kong) but the British actor Leslie Banks steals the show as Count Zaroff, Russian game hunter who has grown bored with hunting animals, and now prefers to hunt "The most dangerous game of all". Banks is a hoot as Zaroff, perpetually stroking his scar and giving lustful gazes in the direction of Fay Wray. He's also splendidly wry in his exchanges with Robert Armstrong's drunken sot, and adopts a maniacal intensity during the hunt.

Zaroff, occupying a remote island, has adjusted the navigation lights of a treacherous stretch of water to ship-wreck passing vessels. Those who escape the shark-infested waters and make it to the island are given rest, food and are eventually invited to spend a few hours in Zaroff's trophy room. Believe me, it's a good incentive for what Zaroff plans! They are given a days' head start, and then Zaroff begins hunting...

Joel Mcrea makes an engaging hero as young hunter Bob Rainsford, who eventually out-thinks and outfights the nasty ol' Count. The later half of the movie, in which Mcrea and Wray are hunted through the jungle by the merciless Zaroff is brilliantly shot and edited. Max Steiner, the composer of Kong's classic score, here comes up with another memorable main theme. Zaroff even plays it at the piano. Irving Pichel, the goon from Murder By The Clock, co-directs with Kong director Shoedsack and delivers a rousing movie. I saw this as a DVD double bill with White Zombie, and had a splendid evening's entertainment!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
30 May 2009

Well-heeled hunter Joel McCrea (as Robert Rainsford) survives a yacht wreck and shark attacks, then finds himself washed up on a mysterious island. Stranded, Mr. McCrea finds refuge with the island's only inhabitant, creepy Russian Count Leslie Banks (as Zaroff). In Mr. Banks' fortress castle, McCrea meets survivors of a previous shipwreck, beautiful Fay Wray (as Eve Trowbridge) and her boozy brother Robert Armstrong (as Martin Trowbridge). McCrea is pleased to discover Mr. Banks shares his interest in big game hunting; Banks tells McCrea, "We are kindred spirits." But, Banks' choice of prey becomes a problem for his houseguests…

From many of the folks who were soon to unleash "King Kong" (1933) on an unsuspecting public, this well-paced early talkie is a classic due to associations with its RKO Radio Picture cousin (there are several similarities). The subject matter is intriguing. And, more importantly, "The Most Dangerous Game" features Banks' delightful scenery-chewing, ahead-of-its-time characterization of the articulate madman "Zaroff". Both Richard Connell's story, and Banks' take on the villainous character, would be much imitated.

******** The Most Dangerous Game (9/16/32) Ernest B. Schoedsack ~ Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A Game Of Outdoor Chess

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
3 March 2009

Research suggests that this is one of two old films that "inspired" the Zodiac, the real-life serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in 1969 and 1970.

The film's theme is that humans act as both hunter and hunted. The main character is Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea), a big-game hunter whose boat sinks. He swims to an island, on which is situated a surreal looking Gothic castle, lorded over by Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). The Count also is a hunter. "We are kindred spirits", says Zaroff to Rainsford. Well, not quite. Zaroff misreads Rainsford's motives. And this clash between the two men propels the plot forward.

The film's first half contains lots of talk, largely exposition, but still interesting. "It (hunting) is my one passion", says Zaroff. "God made some men poets, some he made kings, some beggars; me, he made a hunter". The Count's zeal is frightening. "Kill! Then love ... When you have known that, you have known ecstasy", he proclaims with great conviction.

The film's second half is mostly an adventure chase around the island, as Zaroff, the hunter, seeks his prey, in a game of outdoor chess.

Acting is largely melodramatic, yet interesting. The B&W cinematography is quite good, given that the film was made in 1932. There's lots of side lighting and shadows, creating a noir atmosphere. The outdoor chase occurs in a lush jungle, the same jungle used in "King Kong". Indeed, this film has a lot in common with "King Kong".

"The Most Dangerous Game" is one of the first films to use psychology as an element in the story, based on a clash between the sane and the insane. Also, one could construe the story as a slightly humorous put-down of the sport of big-game hunting.

The existing film had major editing cuts from the original screenplay. But in its current form, the film is quite entertaining, and thematically relevant even after all these years. Indeed, I probably would not have even known about it, had I not been researching the Zodiac killer.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Count Zaroff

Author: jayroth6 from United States
6 October 2008

Count Zaroff by Jay Rothermel

Count Zaroff has been with us for a very long time.

He first appeared in Richard Connell's story "The Most Dangerous Game" in 1924. Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack and Irving Pichel brought him to the movies in 1932, played by Leslie Banks. He was a black-hearted cad Russian aristocrat with the darkest of hearts. His life was spent on his own island, smoking long white cigarettes the way Erich Von Stroheim used to; glowering, coveting his collection of "hunting trophies," and waiting for more flies to be caught in his trap.

Said trap was the deadly series of reefs around the island. Shipwrecks sent him an unending series of house guests to… entertain. We only meet three; Rainsford, the great white hunter (Joel McCrae), Eve (Fay Wray), and Eve's alcoholic brother Martin (the great, too-long forgotten Robert Armstrong). All the other guests have had their heads mounted on the trophy room wall.

An untypical aristocrat of 1930s Hollywood (or Hollywood in any period), Count Zaroff has come to hunting humans only as a last resort. All the sportsman's other pleasures have come to bore him; he has hunted animal predators to the point to ennui. Like any artist, he has pushed ahead to the extremes of the medium. Like Damian Hirst, he rejects depiction of subject and simply mounts the subject on the wall.

But Zaroff is not one of these dilettantes for whom the struggle is everything, the goal nothing. Quite the contrary. After the hunt comes the rut, depicted in a large tapestry hung above the main staircase in the count's castle. It depicts the Satyr rampant. And Count Zaroff, when considering the beautiful Eve, seems barely in control of his own desired rampage. "After the hunt…" he tells Rainsford, eyes burning bright and lurid.

Of course, there is something wrong with the Count. This boredom with life and desire to hunt men only came to him after a head injury during a South American hunt. At his left temple, Zaroff bears the suggestively vaginal scar, a close cousin to the gash sported by Karloff's Frankenstein monster. The more excited Count Zaroff gets about the impending hunt, the more passionately he caresses the scar.

"The Most Dangerous Game" begins as an old dark house melodrama or a whodunit: travelers, house guests, ten little Indians confined to a not-so-stately home. The drunken brother, the head of house (Zaroff), and the young male and female leads (McCrae and Wray) tread around each others' emotions very gingerly – but instead of sitting down to dinner, Zaroff the father figure and lord of the manor, the mature ego, decides to hunt down and murder the men, then rape the woman.

Count Zaroff, as an aristocrat, realizes there is no limit to what he is permitted; as a Russian aristocrat, he seems to have an id lapping very close to the surface. The count is turned into food for his hounds at the end of the movie, but really he does not die. We see something of his hysteria and blood-lust in Basil Rathbone's Richard III in Tower of London (1939), and Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart in Theater of Blood (1973). Without Count Zaroff, we would not have Dr. Hannibal Lecter, either. The well-bred and well-off have this is common: they loathe us, and of our sufferings make their sport.


Jay Rothermel lives in Ohio.

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