The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 American pre-Code horror film, directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack, starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray and Leslie Banks. The movie is an adaptation of the 1924 short story of the same name by Richard Connell; it is the first film version of the story. The plot concerns a big game hunter who deliberately strands a group of luxury yacht passengers on a remote island where he can hunt them for sport. The producing team included Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, co-directors of King Kong (1933). The film was shot at night on the King Kong jungle sets.
|The Most Dangerous Game|
|Directed by||Irving Pichel|
Ernest B. Schoedsack
|Screenplay by||James Ashmore Creelman|
|Based on||"The Most Dangerous Game"|
by Richard Connell
|Produced by||Ernest B. Schoedsack|
Merian C. Cooper
David O. Selznick
|Cinematography||Henry W. Gerrard|
|Edited by||Archie Marshek|
|Music by||Max Steiner|
RKO Radio Pictures
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
In 1932, a luxury yacht is sailing through a channel off the western coast of South America. Among the passengers is big game hunter and author Robert "Bob" Rainsford. In discussing the sport with other passengers, Bob is asked if he would exchange places with the animals he hunts. After the yacht's owner disregards the captain's concerns about the channel lights not matching the charts, the ship runs aground, takes on water and explodes.
Ultimately, Bob is the lone survivor, able to swim ashore to a small island nearby. He notices the channel lights off the shoreline change, and suspects the ship was deliberately led off course to its doom. Bob stumbles across a chateau where he becomes the guest of the expatriate Russian Count Zaroff, a fellow hunting enthusiast, who is familiar with Bob and his writings. Zaroff says four other earlier shipwrecked survivors are also his guests: Eve Trowbridge, her alcoholic brother Martin, and two sailors.
Later, Zaroff introduces Bob to the Trowbridges, and tells them his obsession with hunting became boring until he discovered "the most dangerous game" on the island. Bob doesn't understand Zaroff, who fails to explain further. Eve is suspicious of Zaroff and tells Bob the two sailors that survived with them have not been seen since each visited Zaroff's trophy room. During the night, when Martin also vanishes, Eve and Bob go to the trophy room where they find the "trophies" are human heads. Zaroff appears with Martin's body. Now realizing what prey Zaroff hunts, Bob calls him a madman and is restrained. Bob refuses Zaroff's offer to join him in hunting humans, and Zaroff tells Bob he must be the next prey. Like those before him, Bob will be turned loose at dawn, given a hunting knife and some provisions and allowed the entire day to roam the island until midnight, when Zaroff will begin his hunt. If Bob survives until 4 a.m., then Bob "wins" the game and Zaroff will give him keys to his boathouse so he can leave the island. Zaroff then says he has never lost what he terms "outdoor chess."
Eve decides to go with Bob, and Zaroff tells Eve he will not hunt her since she is a woman; but, if Bob loses, she must return with him. The pair spend most of the day setting a trap for Zaroff. But, when the hunt begins, Zaroff discovers the trap and begins a cat and mouse pursuit of Bob. Eventually, Bob and Eve are trapped by a waterfall. When Bob is attacked by a hunting dog, Zaroff fires a shot with his rifle; both Bob and the dog fall off the cliff into the water below. Presuming Bob is dead, Zaroff takes Eve back to his fortress to enjoy his prize. However, to Zaroff's surprise, Bob returns to the chalet, explaining that the dog was shot, not he. Zaroff admits defeat and presents the key to the boathouse, but Bob discovers him holding a gun behind his back. Bob first fights Zaroff, then his henchmen, killing the henchmen and mortally wounding Zaroff. As Bob and Eve speed away in the motor boat, the dying Zaroff tries to shoot them from a window with his bow. Unsuccessful, he succumbs to his wounds and falls into the pack of his frenzied hunting dogs below, implying that he has now become their “prey”.
- 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 (uncredited)
- Hale Hamilton as Bill (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.
Decades later, 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"; and 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 media and colorizationEdit
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 preservationist 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.
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.
- Apocalypto, similar film, same jungle terrain, man hunted by men
- Bloodlust!, a similar film
- The Hunt, a similar film
- The Pest, a comedy with a similar plot
- Predator (film), a similar film, same jungle terrain, man as prey
- Surviving the Game, a similar film
- Hard Target, the rich hunt the poor for sport
- 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 March 8, 2018.
- "The Most Dangerous Game - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
- "The Most Dangerous Game: Collector's Edition (1932)". LDDb.com. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
- "The Most Dangerous Game: Legend Films' DVD". legendfilms.com. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
- "Full disclosure: I co-produced this BD and want to share info". Amazon.com. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
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