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The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

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Posted 11th August 2010 at 05:12 PM by the blob

So here we are, on to the second review in my '30s/'40s retrospective and still no mention of Universal Studios!

Based on a short story by Richard Connell, which I'll freely confess to having never read, while on a boat trip through potentially dangerous waters, a group of friends including famous big game hunter Robert Rainsford (Joel McCrae) are busy discussing recent exploits when one of them asks the question, who is more savage, the 'savage' that hunts for food or the man that hunts for sport? Rainsford is pressed as to what he would feel like were he the target of the sport. Herein lies the premise for undeniably one of the finest films to come out of this era, 1932's The Most Dangerous Game. Little does Rainsford know he'll soon be finding out..

We'll quickly dispense with the trivia. When I first saw this gem I could have sworn I'd seen some of the jungle sets in King Kong and lo and behold, a number of them were re-used for the simultaneous filming of Kong, produced and directed by much of the same crew. Perhaps the most recognisable is the huge 'tree bridge' spanning the large cavern. The connection doesn't end there of course with Fay Wray playing the female lead before later being molested by the great giant goriilla, as well as some other Kong cast members. Of course, you also can't write about The Most Dangerous Game without mentioning the rumoured Zodiac Killer connection, where it's often believed the story was referenced in one of his cryptograms to the press. Some time after the letter had been sent, Arthur Leigh Allen, one of the suspects in the still unresolved case told the police that he had read the story and it had left a lasting impression on him. Frankly, why a suspect in such a notorious case would admit to such a thing is beyond me. Okay, on with the story...

The ship unexpectedly hits a reef in shark-infested waters. After the sharks have had their fill, Rainsford is the only survivor, swimming to safety on a nearby island, where he encounters the restored castle home of Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). Zaroff is a perfectly hospitable old chap, offering Rainsford a room, food and clothes until his boat is repaired and Rainsford can make his way back to civilization, along with the other guests, Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) and her bumbling drunken brother Martin, who have mysteriously suffered the same fate and are currently also enjoying Zaroff's hospitality. It turns out that Zaroff is a big admirer of Rainsford and an obsessive hunter himself. Zaroff explains how he has travelled the world looking to find a game that will truly satisfy his hunger and relieve his boredom and despair. He lives to hunt and his very existence is challenged by the lack of suitable game. Reluctant to actually unveil his secret, Zaroff reveals that he has discovered the most dangerous game right there on his island.
Lasting little more than an hour, The Most Dangerous Game is peppered with tense moments such as Zaroff's sinister invitation to Michael Trowbridge to see his trophy room, the revelation of the contents of said room and the final hunt itself. There are also overtly sexual overtones with the hapless Miss Trowbridge becoming the spoils for the victor to do with as he pleases. According to Zaroff, only after the violence and thrill of the kill can the true ecstacy of love and lust be satisfied. Banks completely steals the show, portraying Zaroff admirably with a perfect combination of casual wit, rather nonchalant sadism and a huge enthusiasm for his questionable hobby. He's disinterested in the value of human life and cannot understand why a hunter of Rainsford's stature isn't enthralled by his new prospect.
Apparently there was a longer preview version with even more gruesome scenes of the trophy room among other additions which was supposedly too much for audiences and sadly only the shorter version seems to survive. Even so, The Most Dangerous Game still stands out as a hugely effective, entertaining and timeless tale of human horror.
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  1. Old Comment
    pedromonkey's Avatar
    ive put this into my shopping basket so many times only to remove it, i will buy soon as ive wanted to see this so many time....
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 11th August 2010 at 05:24 PM by pedromonkey pedromonkey is offline
  2. Old Comment
    the blob's Avatar
    It might be worth spending the extra on the Criterion as it's Public Domain. It's about as good as it'll probably get but then again I haven't seen the UK ones so I've no idea what the print quality is like. Their definitely well priced for checking the film out.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 11th August 2010 at 05:30 PM by the blob the blob is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Make Them Die Slowly's Avatar
    Nice review Blob, one of my favourite films. Everyone should own this in their collection.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 12th August 2010 at 04:15 PM by Make Them Die Slowly Make Them Die Slowly is offline
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