This review is for the 75th Anniversary Edition of The Most Dangerous Game from Legend Films. This RKO film from 1932 was originally shot at around the same time as the original King Kong, & it was made by many of the same people - Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B.Schoedsack, & it also stars Fay Wray. Many of the same sets were also used in the production. The plot: An evil Russian game hunter traps unsuspecting shipwreck survivors on his remote island and hunts them like animals for sport.
This version has been colorized, but it also features a fully restored black & white version - I am typically NOT a big fan of colorization. However, to produce a color version the producers needed to work from the best source materials available, so the image quality on both is top notch. Ray Harryhaussen oversaw the colorization process & made suggestions. There are tons of extras included, interviews, featurettes, & trailers. Unless you are willing to shell out big bucks for Criterion's excellent release, then this is undoubtedly the best way to go. You've also got the option on how you would like to view the film, I enjoyed both versions.
What if hunting for sport was taken to its extreme?
That's the chilling premise of "The Most Dangerous Game," an adaptation of Richard Connell's story about a madman who hunts other men for sport. It's a taut, tightly-written movie with some wonderfully shocking moments, and a sense of suspense that doesn't let up until the final seconds.
A ship is wrecked on a reef, and her crew and passengers eaten by sharks. Only big-game hunter Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) makes it to the shore of a jungle island, where he is welcomed into the palatial home of the bizarre Count Zaroff, who has several guests waiting for a boat back to civilization. Except according to another "guest" Eve (Fay Wray), his guests have a nasty habit of vanishing.
Bob and Eve find out why, when they break into Zaroff's trophy room... and find other humans on display as trophies. Now that they've found out his secret, Zaroff decides to have Bob as his next prey, with Eve accompanying him. If Bob can get away by sunset, they'll both go free. If not...
Surprisingly, "The Most Dangerous Game" was only made because of another movie -- the original "King Kong." The monkey movie shot during the day, and then the sets and actors were used on "Most Dangerous Game" during the night. It certainly accounts for the lush jungle sets and island setting.
That's where the resemblance ends. "Most Dangerous Game" is a more psychological, suspenseful movie, taking a look at what happens when "killer fun" is extended to human beings. It's a bit on the short side -- just over an hour -- but it's stripped of all extra scenes or dialogue. This is raw filmmaking.
While the first half is about the suspense, the second half is what pays off -- a desperate chase through overgrown jungles and misty swamps, trying to outrun Zaroff. It's all the more frightening because they're on a tiny island. The chase climaxes with a shocking fight on a clifftop with a savage hunting dog, but directors Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack have a few tricks up their sleeves.
McCrea and Wray do very nice jobs as the clean-cut American stud, and the English rose who seems to be a lot smarter than he is (why is she the only one who notices that the whole setup is strange?). But Satanic-looking Leslie Banks is the scene stealer. The fact that he is barking mad is underscored by his reasonable, pleasant attitude -- Banks is nothing short of brilliant here.
Obviously if you want the best version, Criterion has it. But for those on a budget, the Alpha print is surprisingly serviceable -- clear sound, clear picture, no static or skips. It's gotten a little dark over time (well, it was filmed at night), but that can be fixed by adjusting the brightness of the screen.
This short, intense movie is a brilliant piece of work, and may be eve more relevant now than it was in 1932. Thrilling, dark and suspenseful.
A ship full of mysterious characters is interring a harbor that is either misscharted or mislight. We are introduced to them and in two minutes and they are old friends.
A conversation is struck up on the subject of hunting. Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) is asked if it is really fare hunt with superior file power and asked if he would change places with the tiger. He philosophically replies, "That is something I will never have to decide... This world is decided into two kinds of people. The hunter and the hunted. I am a hunter and nothing can ever change that."
I will not give you a detailed review of the movie as that is what you will buy it. However after watching once be sure to listen to the Criterion version voice over by xxx and then watch the movie again.
You can tell right off that this is a David O. Selznick picture as he has his name plastered over the credits.
Screen play by James Ashmore Creelman. From a story by Richard Connell.
I found it interesting that many of the actors and the sets will show up in the 1933 version of King Kong.
I also pretty much guesses the story ahead of time. Not because I saw it or read the book. But I saw most of the remakes and know the formula. Believe me this will not distract from this film.
on September 4, 2007
this is an old movie(1932).it's about an insane count who lives in a
castle on an island.every once in a while,a ship wreck occurs on the
island(not accidentally)and the count invites the survivors in,treating
them as guests at first.then,he drops the bombshell.he is the hunter
and they are the hunted.he hunts the people for sport,usually killing
them.i thought the movie dragged a bit in spots,but not enough to quit
watching.Leslie Banks plays the count,and he is definitely creepy,but
at times i think he over exaggerated the creepiness.Faye Wray is in the
movie as a female prisoner.she definitely knows how to scream,but i
also think she overdid it at times.after a while,i found it somewhat
annoying.the music is by Max Steiner and i thought it was very
effective.it elevated the tension,in my opinion.the movie is
co-directed by Ernest B.Schoedsack(who directed "King
Kong"(1933)).Merian C.Cooper("King Kong")is an associate producer on
the film and David O.Selznick(also from "King Kong")is the executive
producer.if you liked the 1933 version of "Kink Kong",you will probably
like this movie.many of the same sets are utilized in this movie.it has
the same look and feel to it.liked King Kong a bit better than this
movie,maybe because of the spectacle.you might also like "Surviving the
Game" and "Hard Target",both of which are contemporary versions(though
"Surviving the Game" is more similar)of"The Most Dangerous Game".for
me,"The Most dangerous Game"is a strong 3/5
on January 25, 2004
The Alpha DVD of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME gets 5 stars from this commentator. The price is nearly impossible to pass up, even with a merely acceptable transfer of the film. But what Alpha offers here is superb image and sound quality. The way this 70 year-old film looks on this disc is nothing short of astounding. The blacks are deep and rich, and the image has a silvery, film-like luster. Speckles and scratches are few and far between. This is the kind of quality we may expect from Criterion, who also has this title on DVD, with a comentary track. If you can live without the commentary, go with the Alpha. It's hard to imagine that Criterion, or anyone, could improve on this film transfer.
Other comments here can provide backgound on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. It's an amazingly exciting, beautifully shot and scored masterpiece of adventure. The acting is mostly pretty hammy, but that only adds to the enjoyment. Was Irving Pichel a great director? Who knew?
A great addition to any DVD collection.
on September 29, 2003
The Most Dangerous Game was a pet project of its producer,Merian C Cooper,and he did a bang up job of translating the Richard Connell short story to the screen.
The evil genius of the movie is demented Russian aristocrat ,Count Zaroff, who has his own private unchartered island .His passion is hunting and having become bored with the usual wild game hunts ,Zaroff has turned to the hunting of human beings for his kicks.
The objects of the hunt are a group of Americans headed by the resolute and stalwart Bob ,played strikingly well by the greatly under-rated Joel MacRae ,and including Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong.
The atmosphere is genuinely menacing from the sinister decor of Zaroffs home to the misty promordial swamp through which the relentless Zaroff and his baying hounds pursue the prey.The tone is grim and the pace unrelenting-here truly is a lean and economical movie that wastes not a single frame.
In some ways this can be viewed as a warm up for King Kong which re-used many of the personnel and ingredients from this movie --Fay Wray ,Robert Armstrong ,and a stirring brass heavy score from the great Max Steiner ,not to mention the producer/director team of Scoedsack and Cooper.It also used the same oppressive ,gloomy, miasmatic sets for the jungle and swamp scenes and these help give the movie its potency and power.
It lacks the one added dimension that helped transform King Kong into a genuine cultural phenomena-the mythic dimension -but is a gripping well made movie that still holds the attention over half a century from when it first saw the light.
on March 17, 2003
Still the best screen adaptation of one of the great short stories of all time. The theme of Richard Connell's masterpiece has been used countless times, from "Woman Hunt" to "Slavegirls from Beyond Infinity." The movie was made on the set of "King Kong," and Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Noble Johnson were in both. Total running time may be short, but it's still longer than it takes to read the story.
In the original, the only characters on the island are Zaroff, his servant, and the shipwrecked Rainsford. Naturally, though, Hollywood needed romance, so Fay Wray, no stranger to playing a damsel in distress, makes a fine heroine. Robert Armstrong, on the other hand, grossly overplays the part of the drunken American boor. But overall, it's a good, enjoyable picture.
By the way, the original story is politically incorrect from every angle and could not possibly be faithfully adapted to the screen today. (Zaroff expounds on how easy it is to hunt men of certain races.) And some otherwise intelligent people insist that "dangerous game" in the title refers to the game Zaroff plays of hunting humans. But it obviously means that, for the hunter, the most dangerous game to stalk is man.
The Most Dangerous Game is a pretty familiar story, and that foreknowledge somewhat blunts this movie's shock value and effectiveness to modern audiences. Be that as it may, the film still provides a decent amount of suspense and even some comedy. Bob (Joel McCrea) is a famous hunter en route to a new expedition when he finds himself shipwrecked. He alone of the crew survives and makes it to the shore of a nearby island. He counts himself fortunate to discover that the island is in fact inhabited, especially since Count Zaraff (Leslie Banks) is a seemingly genteel yet eccentric host. Not accidentally, the reef off of the island's coast has been the cause of several shipwrecks, and Bob joins two survivors of the most recent one-Eve (Fay Wray) and her increasingly intoxicated brother Martin; the more Martin drinks, the funnier he gets. The Count speaks passionately of his one true love, hunting, and tells his guests that he hunts the most dangerous game of all on his island. It doesn't take long before Bob finds out what he means and becomes the designated prey for the evening; taking Eve with him, they struggle to live through the night and thus "win" the game. You have to give the Count some credit for being a sportsman; he provides his target with a knife, supplies and a head start. The fact that Bob is a noted hunter himself makes this particular game especially thrilling for the Count.
I'm no hunter, but some of the traps Bob sets for the Count seem pretty lame and obvious. Beyond this the hunt itself doesn't seem to provide the type of suspense found in the original story by Richard Connell. Bob and Eve are likable enough characters, but neither of them seems to shine; this may perhaps be due in part to Banks' dominating performance as the mad Count Zaraff; he basically carries this movie with his forceful presence. Wray would of course go on to star in King Kong the following year, and I swear one log in this movie looks just like a log later seen in Kong's jungle. I think that anyone with no knowledge whatsoever of the plot would be fascinated and impressed by this early classic, but as man's inhumanity to man continues to increase from year to year, modern audiences will be somewhat inured to the underlying premise. One rather philosophical note from early in the film really stands out in my mind-namely, that an animal that kills just to sustain its own life is called savage, but a man who hunts merely for sport is called civilized.
This 1932 David O. Selznick production remains both timely and enjoyable today, presenting a fascinating if somewhat macabre study of human nature. At just over an hour in length, the movie is comparatively short and could have benefited from additional scenes of the actual hunt, but all told The Most Dangerous Game holds up very well, and the fortuitous casting of a pre-King Kong Fay Wray affords the viewer a special treat.
on January 19, 2003
Florid and exciting film of Richard Connell's famous short story stars Leslie Banks as the mad Count Zaroff, a Cossack big game hunter who has discovered a superior form of prey: humans. He resides in a castle on a remote island where he has arranged to alter the courses of ships passing nearby so that they inadvertantly wander into his domain. Inevitably, they crash and the survivors are treated to royal hospitality before they are hunted down on the island one by one by Zaroff. He then mounts their heads in his locked Trophy Room. Joel McCrea and Fay Wray are next on his agenda using a bizarre sex angle: the male of the species will be hunted down and killed and the female saved as the "prize" to be ravaged in bloodlust fury. A hideous prospect either way. Banks is magnificent as Zaroff, so demonically diabolic in his ultra civilized manner---not only is he the perfect host, he even plays classical piano. McCrea is blah in a handsome way and Wray the perfect damsel in very dire distress. Robert(R.G.)Armstrong is featured as Wray's soused braggart brother who winds up as human prey early on. He would team with Wray in "King Kong" also in production at the same time as "Game". In fact, this would be a perfect companion peice to "Kong". Criterion has "Game" restored in a beautiful print and sound. It's a must for collectors. Now when will someone get around to doing the same justice for "Kong"? We can only wait and hope.
on December 23, 2002
Bob, a big-game hunter shipwrecked off a remote island, encounters Zaroff (Leslie Banks). Typical of guys named "Bob," Bob (Joel McCrea) is handsome and rugged. Zaroff is wide-eyed and quite mad on the subject of hunting. Finding that animals are a lesser challenge, Zaroff moved on to hunting humans. Zaroff's houseguests, Eve (Fay Wray) and her drunken brother Martin (Robert Armstrong), were also shipwrecked. It seems that Zaroff keeps moving the buoys. Since Bob is a famous hunter, Zaroff finds particular pleasure in making him the prey. After Martin disappears, Bob and the delectable Eve get a head start. Zaroff releases the pack, and the grim fun begins. If nothing else, this old movie proves that it is possible to make a great action/suspense flick without fiery explosions, computer-generated FX, and stylized violence. Since some of the same people who made "King Kong" also made this flick, it has a familiar look, even for a first time viewer. For example, Bob and Eve race across the log bridge where Kong encountered the sailors, albeit from the opposite direction. Eve wears a tattered dress, much the same as the famous one in "Kong." Nobody looks better in revealing rags than Fay Wray. There aren't any giant monsters running through this murky jungle. Zaroff is monstrous enough. Finally, Zaroff gets the point of the real danger. The stone-faced Noble Johnson is around as one of Zaroff's menacing minions. The story races right along and doesn't waste time on subplots. Based on the often-anthologized story by Richard Connell, this little film is a good change of pace. ;-)