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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first read Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game
quite some time ago when I was a child. It being one of the first
stories of stalking and murder I had read, it scared me to no end and
gave me nightmares (keep in mind that I was only 10 or 11 years old at
the time). But the story stuck with me over the years, and now, thirty
years later, I've come across two different film versions of it to
reawaken my childhood terror (the other was Ralph Brooke's Bloodlust!,
which was not a very good movie, but I digress).
This film version of the story has some changes that I don't remember in the written tale-such as the addition of a female companion for Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) in the character of Eve Trowbridge, played by the beautiful and delightful Fay Wray. I can never complain when a film decides to add Fay Wray to the line up. There are other differences between the film and the story (at least-the story as I remember it but it has been thirty years since I've read it), but the film seems to do quite well even with them.
This is a wonderful adventure thriller with horror elements that gave me a knot in my stomach while watching it. It has a suspense filled atmosphere with a fast enough pace and enough action that no one could be bored watching it. Originally filmed in black and white, and I think this is the best way to watch this particular movie, the DVD version I have (the 75th anniversary edition by Legend Films) also has a colorized version for those who want something a bit brighter.
The acting also adds to the charm of this film. Joel McCrea is excellent as the hero and big game hunter turned prey. He shows his character's hunting and survival skills, as well as his gallantry towards Fay Wray. And I can never say enough in praise of Fay Wray, whose presence on the screen is always a delight. And Leslie Banks is a charming but very menacing and cool villain in the role as Count Zaroff.
Altogether a great cast, great script, good sets and good timing make this a fast paced thriller.
The sole survivor of a shipwreck, big game hunter Bob Rainsford (Joel
McCrea), washes ashore on an island. He soon finds himself a guest at
the isolated castle of a creepy Russian aristocrat named Count Zaroff
(Leslie Banks). While there, Bob meets siblings Eve and Martin
Trowbridge (Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong), the survivors of another
shipwreck. Bob is suspicious of Zaroff and soon discovers the truth
about his mysterious host: Zaroff orchestrates shipwrecks so that he
can use the survivors as prey to hunt.
Best version of a story (man hunting other men for sport) that has been done dozens, if not hundreds, of times since in both television and movies. It's still being done to this day. It's a fun, exciting adventure thriller. Once the hunt begins, the pace never lets up. Leslie Banks gives what would surely be labeled a campy performance today but it works wonderfully. This is his most famous role and it's certainly a memorable one. Joel McCrea is years from working under Sturges or Hitchcock, but here proves how great a leading man he could be. The often underrated (and lovely) Fay Wray does an admirable job in a physically demanding role. The following year, producers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Schoedsack would reunite with stars Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong for King Kong, along with Max Steiner who scored both films. Two film classics in the span of a year for this group. This is definitely on my list of movies you have to see before you die.
Sure, The Most Dangerous Game comes with one helluva pedigree: from the
producers David O (Gone with the Wind and other things) Selznick, and
Merian C (King Kong) Cooper (also co-directed by the co-director of
Kong), and featuring famous scream-queen Fay Wray in one of the leading
roles, comes a story of terror and suspense. Unfortunately- and this
should go without saying having not read the original short story the
film is based off of- it's not as great as it's touted to be. Going in
to it I wondered if it might be as superlative as 'Kong' was, holding
up over time and being an entertaining and exciting adventure picture
with an original twist. In this case it's about a man who washes up
on-shore of a madman's island who sets his 'prey', humans, out into the
jungle and hunts them for sport, and how Joel McCrea's Bob is just the
right target as he's a famous hunter himself.
It should be hard not to see what is classic about the movie, however. There's some amazing cinematography and atmosphere on this island "no bigger than a deer park". There's some fabulous over-the-top acting from Count Zaroff, who has his door-knocker giving a wink-wink at what's really going on and, if that doesn't catch on, his trophy room (or, for that matter, his damn crazy face, with bug-eyes and a bastardly chin- beard, Banks attempting to top Lugosi's Dracula performance). And there's even some decent action and chasing in the jungle... that is until it sets in how a lot of this- i.e. a lot of the acting and how the plot moves forward with the characters- is silly and kind of stupid. It makes little sense that Fay Wray's character would go along with McCrea, or that he would let her, since a) she'd slow him down, and b) keep on chit-chatting about this and that.
To be sure there are reasons for her to be there, not least of which that she's Fay Wray and that she's a honey and something to look at during those, you know, "action" moments. But the lack of logic is frustrating, when it should be so much more intelligent with just the two men mano-a-mano. It also has an unsatisfying ending, not because of what happens per-say but because of the lack of denouement. And yet, despite (or because) of its flaws, I can still see why it's so highly regarded today. Many films wouldn't have the sort of blueprint Cooper and company created, about someone hunting someone else for sport or game (indeed Predator, Hard Target, and Predators from just this year owe a great debt to the film - and, actually, are better at doing what this film tries to set out to do at the least). Its influence is noted, and it is entertaining when it wants to be, despite (or because) of its hammy acting and the deliberate choices in its mood and tempo. But the results are frustratingly uneven for a modern audience.
Most Dangerous Game, The (1932)
**** (out of 4)
A famous hunter (Joel McCrea) survives a boat crash and ends up on what appears to be a deserted island. Soon the man finds a house with shelter where he meets the strange owner (Leslie Banks) as well as a sister and brother (Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong). Soon all three guests are going to wish they were somewhere else because the owner, who considers himself a hunter, wants to stalk the most dangerous game, which to him is humans.
It's well known that a lot of the people here were also working on KING KONG, which is a film everyone knows and loves but for my money this one here is the better of the two films and this here might stand as the greatest "B" movie ever made. This sadistic and suspenseful film just keeps getting better and better with each new viewing and a lot of this is due to the wonderful cast with the standout being Banks who really turns his character into one of the greatest villains in film history.
The story is very simple yet so brilliantly told that one can't help but feel the creepiness of the characters, the island and the actual game being played. This story has been told dozens of times in film and television but nothing has ever come close to capturing the power that is this film. McCrae makes for a great hero and Wray is her typical charming self. I think the one weak link here is Armstrong who is a bit too far over the top.
The film runs an incredibly short 62-minutes but there isn't a single second that doesn't capture the viewers attention and that includes the early stuff on the boat before it sinks. The final hunt is incredibly tense and rich with wonderful atmosphere. The final shot of the film is incredibly well done and one that you won't forget. A true masterpiece of the genre and one of the best of the decade.
An early horror/action movie. It may be over 70 years old, but there's not a better sinister, suspenseful, action movie better made and more enjoyed than this one, and all said and done in 63 minutes. If you can find this movie to rent grab your kid, pop some corn, turn lights out in the TV/Video room and hold on for the ride. Better yet buy the DVD, I'm going to.
Big game hunter Robert Rainsford (Joel McCrea) is shipwrecked on a
remote island. He finds Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks) lives there in a
castle and finds two other shipwreck survivors--Martin Trowbridge
(Robert Armstrong) and his sister Eve (Fay Wray). He soon realizes that
Zaroff is also a big game hunter--and completely mad. Soon him and Eve
are running for their lives around the island with Zaroff in pursuit.
Like seemingly everybody else I also read the short story this was based on in high school. I loved it and love the movie too--although in the story it's just Rainsford alone being hunted, there's no Eve. This movie is visually beautiful (love the castle) and moves like lightning. Some of the people involved with this one helped make "King Kong" which came out a year later. The jungle and swamp used here are the exact same ones "Kong" used. The hunting sequence in this film is easily one of the most exciting sequences ever put on film.
The acting varies--Armstrong plays the role of a comedic drunk--naturally he's not even remotely funny; Wray and McCrea are both very attractive but pretty bland in the leads--but Wray does let loose a few of her infamous screams. Banks however is just great. He overplays Zaroff to the point where it's just amusing to watch his facial expressions. His overdone performance keeps the movie going and prevents you from taking it seriously.
A fast, quick-paced adventure film.
This film has tested the sands of time and even more, it inspired Michael
Landon to do his excellent variation for the Bonanza TV series made in 1972,
and later aired on January 16, 1973, entitled "The Hunter", starring Michael
Landon and Tom Skerritt. Neat, errie, and with little dialogue. The best and
only remake of The Most Dangerous Game ever feated, and with total and sheer
genius, as the original 1932 feature film. The differences are The Hunter is
in living color and is remade 40 years later in 1972. I would say the 1932
to 1972 gap of 40 years is purely coincidence. The carry-over to TV is
motion-picture quality in Panavision at Arizona, which provides a beautiful
and equally haunting landscape. Landon as the prey and Skerritt as "the
hunter" is enough to make anyone's hair stand up and become entangled in the
46 min presentation. It's more nightmarish and so realistic, and given the
short runningtime of 46 minutes, a masterpiece. Originally recreated by
Landon himself. I would imagine he was highly impressed when he saw this
1932 film on TV in the 1960's.
Made by the same production team that brought us the original King Kong
(while the giant ape was in pre-production, and using some of the same
sets), this is excitement of the old, grand order. There are no special
effects to speak of; the only special effect is the excitement generated by
a very simple yet original story. The drama is in the characters, and the
fact that you grow to care for them in a remarkably short period of time.
The movie is propelled by the characters, not the characters by the
This is a remarkably short film. At just over an hour long, it might seem too short to some viewers, but you more than get your money's worth.
Many movies have imitated this film over the years. But make no mistake, this is the original, and still the best of the bunch.
First time I saw this was on UK BBC2 on Saturday night July 21st 1973
as the UK print "The Hounds of Zaroff", at least 11 times since as "The
Most Dangerous Game". I'm sure it was a bad print because I was
derisive back then but since my second viewing, always impressed. It's
hokey, contrived and too melodramatic, but also incredibly atmospheric,
splendidly stagey and an effective b&w creaky horror film in the olde
style. There always seems something I'd previously missed somewhere in
it to hold my attention to the cliff - or window-hanging end. The most
dangerous game I hunt down is old crap on ebay, even so I can still get
a buzz but without guns, cigarettes or sex afterwards. I can't get any
kind of buzz from the knowledge that 21st century Brits on horses with
dogs hunt down and kill foxes for fun though, or will do again when the
temporary ban is lifted.
It was a good short story, short and to the very laboured point, but I prefer the film. Personally, Fay Wray could have been in every film Hollywood made in the early '30's, dressed diaphanously and screaming loudly! If Zaroff carried out his plan and had his evil way she certainly acted as though she didn't care. How come she didn't scream at seeing the disembodied floating head in the vat of formaldehyde?
Joel McCrae was a clever (at the start the Captain says "he's young, but has judgement" - or should that be "Judgement" because he didn't save the ship from going down horribly) and handsome sweaty tough guy here, with hardly any hammy lapses (apart from in the Trophy Room). He doesn't say he's going to give up hunting afterwards however. It's Leslie Banks who makes this film however with an OTT performance to rival Tod Slaughter, his mad eyes roving madly around the original cinema audience for someone to hunt and kill. A great movie, imho much better than Kong.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the first film adaptation on the famous story by Richard Connell. It's about Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) an avid hunter who one day is shipwrecked and finds himself on an island inhabited by another avid hunter a Russian nobleman named Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). Zaroff seems like a nice guy, but it is soon revealed that he hunts human beings who land on his island. He does this to keep his interest in hunting which had bored him long ago. Bob and a girl held hostage named Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) escape into the jungle to escape Zaroff. It's a classic cat and mouse story. The first part of the movie is of Bob first meeting Zaroff and having dinner in his house. The second part is when the movie goes from good to great. This is where the exciting hunt scene comes in. I say go see this one. You will be glad that you did.
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