The Most Dangerous Game (film)
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|The Most Dangerous Game|
Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||Irving Pichel|
Ernest B. Schoedsack
|Produced by||Ernest B. Schoedsack|
Merian C. Cooper
David O. Selznick
|Screenplay by||James Ashmore Creelman|
|Based on||"The Most Dangerous Game"|
by Richard Connell
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Cinematography||Henry W. Gerrard|
|Edited by||Archie Marshek|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 pre-Code adaptation of the 1924 short story of the same name by Richard Connell, the first film version of that story. The plot concerns a big game hunter on an island who hunts humans for sport. The film stars Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and King Kong leads Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong; it was made by a team including Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, the co-directors of King Kong (1933). The film was shot at night on the King Kong jungle sets.
In 1932, a luxury yacht is sailing through a channel off the western coast of South America. The captain is worried about the channel lights not matching the charts, but is quickly dissuaded from changing course by the wealthy passengers for the sake of time, including famous big game hunter and author Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea). It is a calm evening, with the cheerful passengers relaxing over drinks and a game of cards. Bob and his companions are debating about whether hunting is at all sporting for the animal being hunted after a friend asks if he would exchange places with a tiger he had recently hunted in Africa. Bob replies that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who hunt and those who are hunted.
The ship suddenly runs aground, causing the ship to take on water and heave violently. Water floods the boiler room, causing the ship to explode and sink into the channel. Rainsford and two others manage to get away and cling to wreckage, but the other survivors are eaten by a shark. He swims to a small, lush island. Wandering through the jungle, he sees the channel lights off the shoreline change, and suspects the ship was deliberately led off course to its doom.
He stumbles across a luxury chateau where he becomes the guest of the expatriate Russian Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks), a fellow hunting enthusiast. Zaroff remarks that Rainsford's misfortune is not uncommon; in fact, four people from the previous sinking are still staying with him: Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray), her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong), and two sailors.
That night, Zaroff introduces Rainsford to the Trowbridges and reveals his obsession with hunting. During one of his hunts, a Cape buffalo inflicted a head wound on him. He eventually became bored with the sport, to his great consternation, until he discovered "the most dangerous game" on his island. Rainsford asks if he means tigers, but Zaroff denies it.
Later, Eve shares her suspicions of Zaroff's intentions with the newcomer. The count took each sailor to see his trophy room, on different days, and both have mysteriously disappeared. She believes their host is responsible, but Bob is unconvinced. Then Martin vanishes as well. In their search for him, Rainsford and Eve end up in Zaroff's trophy room, where they find a man's head mounted on the wall. Then, Zaroff and his men appear, carrying Martin's body. Zaroff expects Rainsford to view the matter as he does, and is gravely disappointed when Bob calls him a madman.
He decides that, as Bob refuses to be a fellow hunter, he must be the next prey. If Rainsford can stay alive until sunrise, Zaroff promises him and Eve their freedom. However, he has never lost the game of what he calls "outdoor chess". Eve decides to go with Rainsford. The two initially succeed in avoiding Zaroff and his dogs.
Eventually, they are trapped by a waterfall. When Rainsford is attacked by a hunting dog, Zaroff shoots and the young man falls into the water. Zaroff takes Eve back to his fortress to enjoy his prize. However, the dog was shot, not Rainsford.
Rainsford eventually shows up while Zaroff plays the piano for pleasure. Zaroff says Rainsford has beaten him and gives him the key to the boathouse, but Rainsford discovers him holding a gun behind his back. Rainsford first fights Zaroff, then his henchmen, killing the henchmen and mortally wounding Zaroff. As Rainsford and Eve speed away in a motor boat, the dying Zaroff tries to shoot them. Unsuccessful, he succumbs to his wounds. He falls out of a window into the pack of his frenzied hunting dogs.
- Joel McCrea as Robert "Bob" Rainsford
- Fay Wray as Eve Trowbridge
- Leslie Banks as Count Zaroff
- Robert Armstrong as Martin Trowbridge
- Noble Johnson as Ivan
- Steve Clemente as Tartar
- Dutch Hendrian as Servant
- William B. Davidson as Captain
- James Flavin as First Mate on Yacht (uncredited)
- Phil Tead as Passenger on Yacht (uncredited)
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The film made a profit of $70,000 during its first year of release.
The Most Dangerous Game received mostly positive reviews from critics upon its release. Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of four stars, calling it "[a] Vivid telling of Richard Connell's oft-filmed story". British magazine Time Out gave the film a positive review, praising the film's acting, and suspense, calling it "one of the best and most literate movies from the great days of horror".
Home video and colorization
The Most Dangerous Game lapsed into the public domain in 1960 and has since seen a plethora of budget releases. The first high-quality edition was via a 1995 LaserDisc from the ROAN Group. In 1999, Criterion released a restored DVD featuring an audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder. The film was initially colorized in 1992 and again, using improved technology, in 2008 by Legend Films, who subsequently released their version on DVD alongside the B&W version.
In 2012, Flicker Alley released the film on a region-free Blu-ray; this version was restored from the original 35mm studio fine grain master by film preservionist David Shepard. The Blu-ray also included Gow the Headhunter (1931) a.k.a. Cannibal Island, an audio commentary for each film and an audio interview with Merian C. Cooper, conducted by film historian Kevin Brownlow.
Adaptations and influence
The Richard Connell short story has been adapted for film a number of times, and its basic concept has been borrowed for numerous films and episodes of television series (Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, Get Smart, Fantasy Island, Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity and Predators, among others).
The 1932 film was referenced in the plot of the David Fincher movie Zodiac (2007). Jake Gyllenhaal's character recognizes quotes from the film in letters from the Zodiac Killer sent to the newspaper office where he works.
- Bloodlust!, a similar film
- List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator website
- Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p39
- Hall, Mordaunt (November 21, 1932). "The Most Dangerous Game (1932) Leslie Banks in a Fantastic Tale of a Mad Russian Hunter". The New York Times.
- "AFI-Catalog". catalog.afi.com.
- Leonard Maltin; Spencer Green; Rob Edelman (January 2010). Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide. Plume. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-452-29577-3.
- "The Most Dangerous Game, directed by Ernest B Schoedsack and Irving Pichel". Time Out.com. Time Out London. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
- "The Most Dangerous Game (1932) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Flixer. Retrieved 8 March 2018.
- "The Most Dangerous Game: Collector's Edition (1932)". LDDb.com. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- "The Most Dangerous Game: Legend Films' DVD". legendfilms.com. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
- "Full disclosure: I co-produced this BD and want to share info". Amazon.com. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
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