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The Night of the Hunter
lugonian21 February 2005
THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (RKO Radio, 1932), directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel, from the short story by Richard Connell, is a highly suspenseful drama with a neat twist in theme. But for the benefit for those who have never read Connell's original story nor seen the movie, this is something to really consider, especially for action and adventure fans. Categorized as a horror film, the only horror is the thought of a hunter being the hunted, especially by a crazed individual.

The story begins with an explosion and the sinking of a yacht with Robert Rainsford (Joel McCrea) becoming the sole survivor of the perished crew. He swims to safety on a remote island and soon encounters an ancient mansion where lives the Russian Count Zoroff (Leslie Banks), and his muted servant, Ivan (Noble Johnson) and Tatur (Steve Clemento). After getting into some dry clothes, Rainsford is introduced to Zoroff's other guests, Eve (Fay Wray) and her brother, Martin Trowbridge (Robert Armstrong), also shipwreck survivors. Gathering in the living room, Zoroff discusses his interest in game hunting, but instead of hunting animals, which now bores him, he hunts his new interest - a most dangerous game. Later that night, Zoroff has made the drunken Martin his latest prey, and after returning from his all night hunt, Zoroff shows Eve and Rainsford his trophy room, consisting of human heads and corpses, with Martin's body being among them. Because Rainsford is a noted author and hunter, Zoroff wants him to go game hunting with him, the hunting of man. Refusing to take part in his mad scheme, Rainsford, in turn, becomes Zoroff's next prey. Zoroff promises that if Rainsford eludes him until sunrise, he and Eve are set free, and if he doesn't, gets to recapture Eve alive, since he doesn't hunt the "female animal." Being given a 12 hour head start for preparation, Rainsford, with Eve's help, works against time using his brains instead of his feet to try and outsmart the hunter, but after midnight, the hunt begins, with Zoroff's tracking them down with weapons ranging from bow and arrow, rifle, and, as the last resort, the release of his vicious dogs, climaxed by surprises for both hunter and the hunted.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME ranks one of the very best stories ever transferred on screen. In spite of alterations to Connell's original story, such as adding a female to accompany Rainsford, this adaptation is a fast-pace 65 minutes that never lets up for a minute. The first half hour devotes itself to character study, with Robert Armstrong's drunken performance somewhat slowing down the pace instead of providing humor. However, second half of the movie is tight on suspense, with the camera capturing every move and reaction from the three central characters, with Max Steiner's underscoring setting the mood and pace. Of course there's plenty of close calls and near misses to add to the excitement, making this a well staged and truly memorable experience after it is all over. What makes THE MOST DANGEROUSGAME worthy is the uncanny performance of British actor Leslie Banks, in his Hollywood debut, hamming it up to perfection, making his insane hunter come to life as intended by the author. Closeups of his eyes during the hunt is truly effective. If the jungle settings look familiar, it's the same set used for the much more famous adventure, KING KONG (RKO, 1933), that also features Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.

While Joel McCrea has been on screen since the silent era, starting from small roles to the elevation of leads, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME showcases him to best advantage, but cannot take away from the performance of Leslie Banks. While never a high rank leading man, McCrea did become a Hollywood survivor, better known for westerns, retiring from his successful career by 1962.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME was remade as A GAME OF DEATH (RKO, 1945) with John Loder and Edgar Barrier; RUN FOR THE SUN (United Artists, 1956) with Richard Widmark, and recycled numerous times, but none have captured the greatness to the 1932 original. It's also interesting to note that the theme was used as the basis in one of the better episodes to the comedy series, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, titled "The Hunter" with Rory Calhoun guest starring as the title character who hunts people, namely Gilligan (Bob Denver).

Once regarded a "lost" movie, a print of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME was discovered in the 1970s, and introduced to the small screen for the first time on public television in 1976. Prints shown in its initial premiere were crystal clear, but sadly, by the early 1980s, in the wake of home video, transfers circulated by distributors had that third to fourth generation look. A public domain title, it's unfortunate that a movie as good as this couldn't be available with better better picture quality. Aside from TV showings on various cable channels such as Nostalgia Television, and currently on some public TV stations after the midnight hours, THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME had yet to be shown on any commercial free classic movie channels until Turner Classic Movies aired it on June 28, 2007, but because of its reputation, continues to circulate in the VHS and DVD markets to a very favorable audience. An instant classic not to be missed. (***)
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Working Up to "King Kong" With Style
Ralph Michael Stein12 July 2004
Films from the 1930s often featured imaginary and exotic worlds brought to life on sound stages. For us today the sets are unreal, creations of both limited imagination and limited budgets. Most of those movies are justifiably in the "B" range. A few aren't and among those is the relatively little seen "The Most Dangerous Game."

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.

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A Solid Little Thriller
Snow Leopard28 September 2004
A solid little thriller with several things going for it, "The Most Dangerous Game" easily holds your attention all the way through, even at the more predictable points. It takes good advantage of an often-used plot idea, without trying to squeeze too much out of it. Joel McCrea makes a likable and confident hero, and he fits in well with Leslie Banks and with "King Kong" stars Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. Banks's performance is a little on the eccentric side, but he has enough energy to make the character and the plot work most of the time.

The opening sequence is a little slow, but it does set up some of the themes of the rest of the movie. The first half of the movie is generally predictable, yet even so it builds up a good amount of tension. In the last half, the suspense is sustained quite well for an extended time, and though the last few scenes may lack plausibility, they work well dramatically because they were set up carefully. Overall, it is an effective and rather efficiently-made thriller.
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The Mad Count Zaroff
bkoganbing28 May 2007
The Most Dangerous Game is a film totally dominated by Leslie Banks's florid portrayal of the mad Russian Count Zaroff who has built is own little world on a Pacific island where he hunts for sport and pleasure what he considers The Most Dangerous Game.

Though I'm sure he must have had a lot of offers from American studios after this film, Leslie Banks went back to the United Kingdom where he was a stalwart presence in a variety of roles for British cinema. Still Banks never got a part as good as Count Zaroff in which he could chew enough scenery for a three course meal and not be noticed.

Joel McCrea plays an American big game hunter who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck who is washed up on Banks's island. In the palatial home he's built out of an old Portugese fort, McCrea encounters brother and sister Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray. Armstrong, in an unusual part for him, plays a wastrel playboy who is consuming the liquor at the home at a prodigious rate. He's taken to the 'trophy' room and not seen again.

The next night McCrea and Wray discover that The Most Dangerous Game is man himself. Banks sends his guests out into the woods and stalks them like wild animals. Supposedly if they can elude him for 24 hours they earn their freedom, but no one ever has.

The Most Dangerous Game is one of those films where you have no doubt who the hero and villain are. No moral ambiguities in this one. For all of Banks's talk about man being the most challenging animal to hunt, the only other man besides McCrea we see him hunt is drunk and pathetic Robert Armstrong. In McCrea because he's a hunter Banks finally meets an opponent who's a challenge. If Armstrong is a sample of what he hunted before, Banks ranks as one of the most malevolent villains ever portrayed on screen.

If the sets look familiar to you remember the team of Meriam C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack is bringing you this film. A year later these same sets were utilized by RKO for the classic King Kong. Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong got to know that back lot jungle very well.

Banks meets a most fitting end for one as evil as he which I can't reveal, but viewers will find it poetic indeed. After 75 years, The Most Dangerous Game is still one exciting, heart pounding, entertaining film.
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What Is The Most Dangerous Big Game Of All?
Ron Oliver21 January 2000
Imagine this: a remote jungle island set in a lonely sea. A solitary chateau outfitted with every luxury & inhabited by a charming lunatic. A lovely young woman & her drunken, boorish brother. And a celebrated big game hunter who suddenly finds himself to be the prey.

This is an excellent adventure movie, imitated many times but never equaled. Once the hunt begins, the suspense doesn't let up. It keeps on pounding until the last bark of the savage hounds used to track down the helpless quarry.

The film was shot, largely at night, on the same jungle sets being used by day for KING KONG; four cast members appeared in both films. Joel McCrea & Fay Wray make a fine romantic couple, with Robert Armstrong suitably annoying in the small role of the intoxicated brother.

But it is Leslie Banks as the mad Russian, Count Zaroff, who remains in the mind the longest. Like a sophisticated & urbane serpent, he coils himself around his florid role of the master huntsman who has discovered a new sensation - that of stocking his island & hunting through its jungles the most dangerous big game of them all...
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Magnificent Classic Thriller
Witchfinder General 66616 December 2009
Warning: 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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The Grandfather of them all!
Joseph P. Ulibas4 November 2003
The second most used plot device (boy meets girl is the first) happens to be one of my favorites, Man Vs. Man. The Most Dangerous Game (based upon a short story) is about an eccentric hunter who has hunted every single animal there is to hunt except one. Man. On his tropical island surrounded by dangerous coral reefs he seeks out prey so he can add them to his trophy case. That is until the day he happens to meet the world's most famous big game hunter. This excellent film was shot by the same crew that was shooting King Kong (both films nearly have the same cast) Between takes they would shoot this one. If you want to see where it all started, then this is it!!

Highly recommended.

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Yes - a true Classic
L. Denis Brown18 October 2007
Warning: 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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One of the most exciting films ever made
zetes11 February 2002
Cooper and Schoedsack are, of course, the same directors who made King Kong. They actually made it right after they made this film on some of the same sets, and you'll recognize that, if you're a Kong aficionado. The Most Dangerous Game probably would be as well known as King Kong if it were a half-hour longer. As it stands, it's only 63 minutes. Half of that is exposition, and the other half the chase. That first half does drag a little. Some people will say the same thing about the exposition of King Kong, though I'd disagree. The comical drunk in The Most Dangerous Game is quite annoying, I must say. No matter. Once the hunt begins, I dare you to try to take a breath. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat that entire half-hour. Bravo, good sirs. Once again, you have proved yourselves to be entirely undervalued filmmakers. Make sure, if you like this and/or King Kong, to see their early documentaries Grass and Chang, which are two near masterpieces themselves. 8/10.
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From The Folks Who Gave You King Kong
bsmith555225 February 2003
"The Most Dangerous Game" is a surprisingly good little thriller that runs just over an hour. It was made the year before "King Kong" by many of the same people that were involved that classic. In fact many of the "run through the jungle" scenes are very similar to those in the later film.

The film opens with a realistic staged ship wreck (achieved mostly with convincing miniatures) from which only Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) survives. He crawls ashore on a mysterious island and finds his way to a creepy castle inhabited by a Russian Count named Zaroff (Leslie Banks). There he meets the lovely Eve (Fay Wray) and her drunken brother Martin (Robert Armstrong), who were also ship wrecked.

It turns out that the "Game" of the title is the mad Count hunting down and killing human prey. Naturally, McCrea and Wray ultimately wind up as the hunted.

A very young McCrea is excellent as the hero and Wray, fetching as the heroine. Banks, however, and Armstrong for that matter, are way over the top in their roles. Banks in that early talkie style, enunciates every syllable and bugs out his eyes at every opportunity.

Still and all, "The Most Dangerous Game" is exciting and well made and worth a look.
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One of my fave (really old) movies
Shawn Watson7 June 2000
"Until you've hunted men, you haven't hunted" -Jesse Ventura, April 2001.

The story of a hunter having the tables turned on him is overly familiar to today's audiences. The basic premise of Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game" has also been reinvented as a Game of Death, Run for the Sun, Hard Target, Surviving the Game, The Running Man, and even Predator (starring the Governor Ventura himself). But the irony and purity of the story are exercised best in this 1932 quickie, made by the King Kong team, using the same cast members and sets. It's legacy has been somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of Kong, but don't let it slip away, The Most Dangerous Game is a game worth playing.

Robert Rainsford (Joel McCrea) is a big game hunter who is shipwrecked somewhere off the east coast of South America. He washes up on a beach of a lonely island and makes his way through the jungle where he is greeted by the eccentric Count Zaroff who has settled in a restored Portuguese fortress. The Count escaped Russia before the revolution and travelled the world hunting animals. But having killed all of the most savage he has grown bored and needs an animal with wits, cunning, and intelligence. Man; the most dangerous game of all.

Finding his match with Rainsford, the Count releases him into the jungle, along with the screaming Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray), and promises him freedom if he can survive the next 24 hours. The sets, the Gothic atmosphere, and even the loneliness creates a wonderful atmosphere. As one of the first "talkies" the film is backed-up by a score (in a time when music really had to carry wordless motion pictures) that really stands out to me for several reasons. It's certainly the earliest film I have seen with a recognizable melody and even goes as far as having the Count play the theme on his grand piano; a nice little in-joke. I never thought I'd recommend a score from a 1932 movie for being mysterious and action-packed but, if you excuse the pun, I suggest you hunt it down.

At 63 minutes the film doesn't outstay his welcome, but James Ashmore Creelman's screenplay was written as a film lasting no less than 85 minutes, so I'm curious to know what RKO Pictures cut out to keep the budget down.

Criterion did a good job with the DVD, but the film desperately needs a full HD restoration. I suppose the original camera negative is gone, but a 4k master from a complete 35mm print is what this film needs. No nicks, no scratches, no missing frames. If The Most Dangerous Game doesn't get this an overlooked classic may be lost forever.
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Stills holds up as a classic adventure story
lemon_magic29 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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The Hounds of Zaroff
drjmmen7 December 2004
I must have been about 5 years old when I saw this film just before the WAR, in a flea-ridden "picture-house" in Dublin, Ireland, where I was born and brought up. It made such an impression on me that I remembered it all my life, but never remembered the name or any of the cast. I tried without success, and as time passed I began to believe that the Island owner was, perhaps, Conrad Veidt, this was the sort of persona he portrayed to me. I remembered that there were people on a luxury yacht, suddenly wrecked, and that a man and woman were washed up on an island, and after having been given hospitality by a recluse in a large house, were set loose to be hunted. The young man was a famous big game hunter, and he had only a knife with which he devised traps to catch their pursuer who hunted them with a bow and arrows. One trap, I remember was an old log which was triggered somhow to fall and kill whoever who set it off. This film always stayed in the forefront of my mind, and, when, at age about 70, I met a compatriot, a little older, I began to tell him about this film, asking him if he'd ever seen it or knew anything about it. He interrupted me to tell me that it was a story, and gave me the name of the writer, Richard Connell. How did he know this immediately, having barely heard the beginning of my story?? He was a retired English teacher who admired this story so much that,year after year, he always set it for his classes. So then I was able to look it up on the internet and not at all to my surprise found the close connection of the cast and scenery to KING KONG. You see, KING KONG has been my all-time favourite film. I think I've seen it at least 25-30 times and have several video copies of it.
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When you play the most dangerous game, you play to win!
Koosh_King011 July 2012
Warning: 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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The birth of survival horror sub-genre.
HumanoidOfFlesh6 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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"First Kill....Then Love!"
Prichards1234528 February 2010
Warning: 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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The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game
wes-connors30 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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"After spending time in my Trophy Room, they always play The Game."
LeonLouisRicci8 November 2013
Modern Audiences surely must recognize the Story. The Richard Connell Novel has been the Inspiration of many a Movie and TV Productions. This one was the First and is a Grand Guignol Treat. The Movie is Atmospheric and Creepy, Frightening and Action Packed.

It is Compact in its barely One Hour Running Time and things don't let up for a Minute. It is a Legendary Film, because of its King Kong (1933) Auteurs. In Addition there is the Incredible, Maniacal Performance from the less well known Leslie Banks as Count Zaroff playing alongside Joel McCrea and Faye Wray.

For a Finishing Touch of Grandeur there is the Max Steiner Score. In 1932 it was Virtually Unheard of to Write a Complete Movie Score and it adds another Welcome Dimension to this already Rich and Rewarding Film.

There are a Number of Quotable Lines. When McCrea Returns to the Castle and Surprises Zaroff the Count says..."Well Mr. Rainsford you have beaten Me." He answers..."Not yet." It is also a Sexually Charged Script with much Pre-Code Emphasis that also included some Horrific Visuals and Violence.
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A beautiful mix of adventure and horror
MissSimonetta20 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A sort of prelude to King Kong (1933), The Most Dangerous Game (1932) is one of the most exciting and memorable adventures of 1930s cinema. It contains everything people love about pre-code Hollywood with its no holds barred action and sexually charged atmosphere, and it looks forward to Kong with its exotic adventure.

Joel McCrea and Fay Wray are absolutely gorgeous and admirable as the leads and Noble Johnson also does good with the small role of Ivan, Zaroff's mute henchman, but it is Leslie Banks as the disturbed Count Zaroff who remains with you after the credits roll. He excellently portrays the character's insanity and psychological/sexual obsessions. He's one of my favorite movie villains ever.

Modern audiences will likely mock the jungle sets, but honestly that adds to the demented nightmarish feel of the movie. The whole thing is drenched with dread and violence, giving the film the feel of a horror movie. The chase scenes in the jungle are like something out of a bad dream; the frantic Max Steiner score and cinematography really amp up the tension.

All in all, an excellent underrated film. A must see for lovers of 1930s Hollywood.
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Excellent and suspenseful thriller
Woodyanders7 September 2013
Warning: 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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A Game Of Outdoor Chess
Lechuguilla3 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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Count Zaroff
jayroth66 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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Almost Faithful to the Original Story!
Syl7 November 2007
Richard Connell had no female characters in the story but I can see why the director brought in the legendary Fay Wray as the female women's lead in this role. She was also working in King Kong which made her a household name. In this film, she is one of the stars along with Leslie Banks as Zaroff. Richard Connell would have been satisfied with this film version. IT captures the story brilliantly and makes you wonder if Connell thought that he wished that he added a female lead to draw a duel between Zaroff and Sanger Rainsford. The actor who plays Rainsford does a wonderful job in the role but I can't remember his name at this moment. It's still worth viewing even 75 years later.
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"This world's divided into two kinds of people: the hunter and the hunted."
ackstasis11 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
When a VHS cover proclaims a film to have come from the makers of the 1933 masterpiece 'King Kong,' it's difficult to pass it without showing any interest. A year before they brought Carl Denham, Jack Driscoll and Ann Darrow to the magnificence and horror of Skull Island, director Ernest B. Schoedsack and associate producer Merian C. Cooper exercised their skills with another gripping island adventure film, an adaptation of Richard Connell's well-known 1924 short story, 'The Most Dangerous Game.' Directed by Schoedsack and Irving Pichel, and working from a screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman, the film is extremely short, concise and suspenseful. No time is wasted on cumbersome sub-plots that would only drag down the excitement, and, though the result doesn't exactly present itself as being intelligent, the film certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat, and that's all I would ever have asked of it.

Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) is a world-famous American game-hunter, who has spent his life travelling the world and having adventures. He is the typical cinematic hero – young, handsome and just a bit cocky – and his love of hunting sits above all else. He has a great respect for the animals he shoots, confidently asserting that this feeling is mutual between himself and his prey. Had he been in the place of the leopard, for example, Rainsford would feel absolutely no different… or, at least, that's what he likes to tell himself. After a disastrous shipwreck off the coast of an isolated island (via the accomplished use of scaled models, lifted from the test footage for Willis H. O'Brien's abandoned 1931 film, 'Creation'), Rainsford finds himself the only survivor. He is surprised to discover the luxurious fortress of Count Zaroff (a freaky Leslie Banks), as well as two recently-acquired guests, Eve Trowbridge (a radiant Fay Wray, before Ann Darrow gave her legendary status) and her drunken brother Martin (Robert Armstrong, who, of course, went on to play Carl Denham).

The film, at a quaint running time of just 63 minutes, never fails to hold our attention. Though the first half seems to be simply going through the motions, working towards the thrilling climax, it does this adequately enough. The dialogue is a bit stagnant and predictable, and the characters seems a lot stupider than they should be (how many mounted human heads do you need to see before you realise which species is "the most dangerous game?"), but that is almost irrelevant once you come to the nail-gripping chase through the perilous jungle. Banks, of course, steals the show, making good use of scary facial expressions to translate his character's derangement onto the screen. McCrea plays a noble hero with great charisma and bravado, whilst Armstrong is downright annoying (in a good way!) as the drunken brother. Though it was 'King Kong' that brought her unending recognition, I really thought Fay Wray was better in this film. Unlike Ann Darrow (who, to be honest, had little to do but scream at the top of her lungs), Eve Trowbridge has a quiet sense of pride and courage about her, and you really get to recognise what a beautiful woman she was.

The film's final half an hour is nothing short of brilliant, and no small thanks to composer Max Steiner, whose thrilling score alone is enough to double your pulse-rate. The very final shot of 'The Most Dangerous Game' shows the directors' keen eye for a good shot; Bob and Eve are escaping in the small boat, just as, in the foreground, a fatally-wounded Count Zaroff tumbles from the window to be devoured by his loyal pack of hunting dogs. If you didn't think that early thrillers could still be thrilling, you haven't seen this one.
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Leslie Banks Grand Performance...
BaronBl00d26 August 1999
Richard Connell wrote a little story titled "The Most Dangerous Game" and it serves as the basis for this film. The story is the famous tale of one crazed hunter deciding to hunt and kill men on his hidden island fortress, and his eventual downfall to a man his equal in the skills of hunting. The crazed killer named Zaroff and the moral hunter Rainsford match wits in a game of life. This film is a masterpiece of sorts. Made in 1932, the films is still exciting, thought-provoking, and witty. The action in the film is fast and furious. The set for the island and many of the cast are from the crowd that brought us another masterpiece...KING KONG. But above all this is the performance of a career for Leslie Banks as the cunning, sadistic Zaroff. Banks is evil perfection of character with his flamboyant accent, opulent gestures, and campy reserve. He looks like a demon clothed for the hunt...a man dedicated to his own pleasures and pursuits. McCrea is adequate as his foe. Fay Wray is just unnecessary scenery(considering her character was not even in the story!). Often remade and yet never reproduced, this film is an exercise in wit, suspense, and the moral barrier that exists between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour of mankind in relation to itself.
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