A psychotic big game hunter deliberately strands a luxury yacht on a remote island, where he begins to hunt its passengers for sport.A psychotic big game hunter deliberately strands a luxury yacht on a remote island, where he begins to hunt its passengers for sport.A psychotic big game hunter deliberately strands a luxury yacht on a remote island, where he begins to hunt its passengers for sport.
Joel McRae is globetrotting big game hunter Bob Rainsford on a yacht bound for exotic adventure. Deliberately misplaced channel lights cause the vessel to hit rocks and founder. Only Rainsford survives to drag himself onto the shore of a nearby island. To his surprise the island is dominated by an eerie mansion owned by Count Zaroff, Leslie Banks. A Cossack attended by a retinue of his countrymen, Zaroff exudes silken hospitality and refined culture. Already there as guests are two people from a previous shipwreck, Eve Trowbridge, Fay Wray, and her perpetually drunken brother.
Zaroff is the film version of that familiar figure from Russian literature, the eternally bored aristocrat whose anomie can only be defeated by extreme diversions. In Zaroff's case it turns out that he, a skilled huntsman since boyhood, is only brought to vibrant life by stalking and killing the most dangerous prey - man.
Zaroff offers Rainsford a deal he literally can't refuse. Escape being slain by the count by outwitting him for a number of hours and he goes free. Eve elects to accompany the intrepid hunter on his journey through impenetrable backlot settings. Romance is in the humid air.
Zaroff is, of course, evil but he's also oddly sympathetic. What's a count to do when he can buy anything and only the most extraordinary hunting will bring him happiness? In that light his trophy room becomes understandable, his bloody diversion almost sympathetic. Banks is very effective in this role where he swings between culture and carnage.
Directors Irving Pickel and Ernest B. Schoedsack made "The Most Dangerous Game" on the same sets they'd employ a year later for the universally revered "King Kong." This film is only 63 minutes long indicating they intended it to be a second feature. What they got was a truly engrossing movie with Fay Wray and Joel McCrea turning in first-rate performances. Max Steiner's score is excellent (did he ever compose a bad one?).
Released on DVD by Alpha Video, it's both a bargain and a pleasure.
- Jul 12, 2004