on July 8, 2001
The Most Dangerous Game is a superb early horror film. It is a really creepy, chilling film with great atmosphere. I always prefer this sort of moody horror to more modern films in the genre that depend on shocks and gore. The Most Dangerous Game can really get under your skin with its central theme of a manhunt. I had always thought, until watching the movie, that the `Game' of the title was referring to a game like Poker or Baseball, but really it is game in the sense of big game, lions and tigers and such. It is man who is `the most dangerous game.' For humans with their intellect are more of a threat to the hunter. This idea of a hunter matching his wits against a fellow human being is a deeply disturbing idea.
The film has a really fine cast. Leslie Banks plays the villain Zaroff and is suitably sinister without using histrionics. Joel McCrea shows why he would remain a leading man for the next thirty years and more. He had real star quality and a quiet acting ability similar to that of Gary Cooper. Fay Wray is delightful in a role which gives her more to do than just scream.
The Criterion DVD is very good indeed. The print is superb. There is some occasional damage, but it is hardly noticeable. The images are nearly always clear and sharp and show off the black and white photography very well. Best of all however is the sound quality. Many early talkies have terrible sound with indistinct dialogue and lots of background noise. This DVD has great sound and Criterion should really be congratulated. The DVD also has an audio commentary track by film historian Bruce Eder. His commentary is worth listening to as he is obviously enthusiastic and well informed about The Most Dangerous Game.
on July 28, 2000
There has been some debate by previous reviewers of 'The Most Dangerous Game' about the quality of the digital transfer on to DVD. My own view is that the picture quality is outstanding. You do occasionally catch sight of objects shimmering, but the effect is negliable. What really hits you is the incredible sharpness and clarity of the print. This isn't limited to the picture either - the sound quality is equally as impressive. For a movie 70 years old you simply could not hope for better. The only extra feature is a very good commentary by Bruce Eder, whose knowledge of 'The Most Dangerous Game' seems limitless. This guy really knows his stuff and what's more, he delivers it in a very relaxed and friendly manner. The film itself is an action packed 63 minutes that is enlivened by a luscious Fay Wray with great support from Leslie Banks and Joel McCrea. The relatively short running time actually helps maintain a high level of suspense and interest - it feels like an 80 minute movie but with all the boring stuff cut out! To label 'The Most Dangerous Game' as a classic is an exaggeration. It is still a well-made, exciting movie that has stood the test of time exceptionally well. The film itself deserves 4 stars, but the great picture quality, sound and commentary make this DVD worthy of a 5 star rating.
on January 9, 2006
I think probably one of the greatest terrors you could experience would be as the prey of a hunter out to get you as a "trophy" in an isolated region far from help. As actor Joel McCrea says during the lead up to the exciting climax in "The Most Dangerous Game", "now I know how the animals feel!". RKO's film version of the short story by Richard Connell explores that chilling idea to perfection where one human being indulges in the "ultimate sport", (for lack of a better term), of hunting down and killing a fellow human being. As foreign and distasteful as that idea may be to the majority of people it makes for a fascinating story here that succeeds beautifully in keeping you on the edge of your seat for almost the entire film's running time. Fay Wray always remembered as King Kong's love interest and for possessing the best scream of any person in Hollywood in the 30's, here takes on a different kind of role which she filmed concurrently with "King Kong",on the RKO lot. Long consigned to terrible public domain copies that were almost unwatchable, Criterion here have given this fascinating movie a deluxe restoration treatment that returns it to the pristine condition it deserves to be seen in.
As the action opens we see big game hunter Bob Rainsford (Jole McCrea), who is also an author of hunting books, travelling with his group on a ship towards his next worldwide port of call. The Captain approaches a strange set of lighted markers in the water which somehow seem in the wrong spaces and very soon the boat has crashed into a reef and sunk leaving Bob the only survivor after a vicious shark attack removes all the others that survived the sinking of the boat. Making his way to the nearest shoreline he finds himself on a strange island and before long stumbles across a large fortress-like Castle which he enters. There he makes the acquaintance of the castle's owner , the mysterious Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks), a Russian nobleman who lives along on the island except for a few Russian attendants. At first Zaroff seems the perfect host and Rainsford finds out that he is not along as Zaroff's reluctant houseguest when he is introduced to two other survivors of a ship wreck. Brother and sister Eve and Martin Trowbridge (Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong). All is soon appearing not well as Eve reveals to Bob that other members of her party have already "disappeared" , and very soon Bob begins to worry about the sanity of his host when their ideas on big game humting seem to vary greatly. Exploring the castle at night Bob and Eve discover the real purpose of thir host's hospitality when firstly Martin disappears and then they dicover Count Zaroff's sinister "trophy room", which is full of human heads preserved in bottles alongside torture instruments. The prey that Zaroff likes to hunt is now revealed and when they are discovered in the room Bob and Eve become the Count's latest "sport" when he reveals that by placing the false lighted markers in the water he lures unsuspecting travellers to the island for his "sport". The pair now become the hunted and are given a head start to try and evade the insane Count Zaroff until dawn of the following day. Being pursued on the island the pair endure the terror of being hunted animals as they try to outsmart their twisted host. Only after a final confrontation with the Count's savage hunting dogs does Bob work out a plan whereby he fakes his own death and later returns to the castle to rescue Eve. The finale sees a fight to the death between Bob and the Count which ends once and for all the barbaric "sport", being practiced on the island.
Film-makers Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper certainly had their work cut out for them in 1932 with their concurrent production schedules for "King Kong", and "The Most Dangerous Game". Indeed many of the sets served duty in both productions and cast members Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong worked on both films on the RKO lot at the same time. "The Most Dangerous Game", is memorable for its clear character definitions with upright and basically decent Joel McCrea drawn up to a fight to the death with the dastardly villian as seen in Leslie Bank's mysterious Count Zaroff character. Fay Wray at first glance may seem like the token love interest thrown in for good measure but she is allowed in this screenplay to show some resourcefulness when she and McCrea are being pursued through the jungle. She and McCrea team very well here but the really memorable character is of course Leslie Banks' bizzare Russian count who is seeking the ultimate 'thrill", of hunting down and killing a human being. Leslie Banks' real life injuries incurred during World War I which paralysed some of his facial muscles ironically help him in his sinister characterisation here and a huge makeup scar on his forehead also increases the sinister look of this deranged killer to great effect. Alot of the eerie feel of "The Most Dangerous Game", thus stems from his character and Banks makes the most of it. Some of his best scenes occur early in the film long before the chase sequences begin when we sense that something is very wrong on this island but are not yet totally sure of his real purpose in entertaining his "guests", on the island. Visually the film has that rich 1930's feel to it and of course because of the close relationship between the two productions, it does have a similiar look to alot of "King Kong". The set of Count Zaroff's Castle is also one of RKO's best from this time full of sinister stairways, huge rooms full of gothic furniture, with his "Trophy Room", being quite startlingly by even today's standards with severed heads preserved in jars and with horrific looking instruments of torture ready for use. The film's short (63 minute), running time also serves the story here well as character development is kept to a minimum and the action moves rapidly from such scenes as the original boat sinking, through to the introduction of Count Zaroff's character, and then on quickly to the extended chase sequence not letting up until the conclusion.
It is a pleasure to have this exciting film returned literally from the "dead" via Criterion's superb restoration for this new DVD release. For those that have only ever seen this film in fuzzy, badly copied versions on video, they would be well advised to experience this film's real qualities in this new version. It combines a first class thriller with its quite frightening theme of man's basic inhumanity towards man with fantastic visuals that belies this film's great age. Very little of the interesting work of Fay Wray and Joel McCrea is readily available for movie buffs to enjoy but "The Most Dangerous Game", is one of the best that both actors worked on and it certainly reveals Fay Wray as an actress who should be remembered for much more than simply screaming at King Kong's approach. For edge of the seat suspense set in exotic far away places "The Most Dangerous Game", makes unsurpassed entertainment that I recommend highly to you in this beautifully restored new version.
on January 7, 2001
Richard Connell's famous short story that dates back to 1924 about a deranged Russian nobleman who shipwrecks vessels passing by his remote island and hunts down the survivors is still anthologized today. Like many works of naturalistic fiction, Connell's tale is a disquisition on the thin line separating civilization and the state of nature. When the sportsman Sanger Rainsford--the latest victim to arrive at Zaroff's front door--realizes what the madman is up to, he reacts in horror, rejecting the General's invitation to join the latter in his favorite pastime, and the hunter soons finds himself the hunted. At the conclusion, however, Rainsford not only defeats Zaroff but takes his place in the latter's bed. In effect, the two men have exchanged not just places but roles--the struggle for survival has transformed Rainsford himself into another Zaroff. The 1932 screen adaptation, directed by Ernest Schoedsack and Irving Pichel, eliminates the bitterly ironic reversal of the original story and turns the grim fable into a straightforward survivalist sermon. In addition, the movie dubiously improves on Connell's mano a mano conflict between Rainsford and Zaroff by introducing a love interest, another shipwrecked refugee played by the all-purpose virginal heroine Fay Wray, who becomes the principal stake in the contest between the two men. There seems to be some uncertainty about the circumstances of the film's production. Professor Bruce Kawin, who wrote the notes accompanying the DVD, says that The Most Dangerous Game was made to induce RKO into shooting King Kong, while Carlos Clarens in An Illustrated History of Horror and Science fiction Films states that the two films were made simultaneously. Whatever the truth might be, there are such striking similarities between them that The Most Dangerous Game almost resembles an extended trailer for King Kong, especially in its use of a jungle setting like that of Skull Island for much of the action. But if The Most Dangerous Game anticipates King Kong it also seems to be making a nod in the direction of a horror hit from the previous year, Tod Browning's Dracula. In the Schoedsack production, Zaroff, who is always called "General" in the story becomes a count, and the main hall of his residence has interesting similarities to that of Dracula's castle, although it is opulent rather than derelict. As the sadistic Zaroff, the gifted British actor Leslie Banks makes a stylish villain although his enunciation of Russian sounds as convincing as W.C. Fields doing Vogul. In the role of Rainsford, however, Joel McCrae, who played a similar part in King Vidor's Bird of Paradise--also produced at RKO for David Selznick in the same year--is a classically handsome leading man and gives a far better performance saving the hapless Fay than the rather inert Bruce Cabot gives executing the same office for her in King Kong.
on January 15, 2000
Most film viewers are familar with the great horror movies of the early 1930's: Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy, King Kong, etc. This title belongs in this group! The Most Dangerous Game has a great cast (Joel McCrea as big game hunter Sanger Rainsford; Fay Wray as the beautiful Eve; and Leslie Banks as the sinister General Zaroff); compelling plot (General Zaroff hunts humans on his private island); energetic pacing (the movie runs approximately 62 minutes); high production values (many exterior scenes were filmed from same set as King Kong); and a memorable music score (Max Steiner). What is so amazing about this movie is that all of the above elements came together in a movie that was shot in about 30 days with a limited budget.
The Criterion print of The Most Dangerous Game is excellent - the best print I have ever seen of the movie. Most of the prints available previously on inexpensive videotapes are very poor. In addition, the critic commentary by film historian Bruce Kawin is an added bonus to the Criterion offering.
on December 14, 2004
Movie: ***** DVD Quality: ****1/2 DVD Extras: N/A
The year before they appeared together in the immortal "King Kong", Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong were cast as brother and sister in this suspenseful thriller produced by David O. Selznick for RKO Radio. Leading man Joel McCrea plays a big game hunter whose yacht is shipwrecked off an isolated island. After sharks make quick (and bloody) work of his fellow survivors, McCrea swims to shore and discovers the rehabilitated ruins of an ancient fortress where the urbane but menacing Leslie Banks (as Dr. Zaroff) is playing host to two castaways from an earlier wreck (Wray and Armstrong). Soon enough it becomes apparent that Banks is deliberately causing vessels to sink so that he may use the hapless survivors as human prey for his own hunting pleasures on this private island, and the plot boils down to a tense game of McCrea and Wray using their wits and wiles to try and stay one step ahead of the heavily armed and maniacally crafty Banks.
All this action is crammed into a very fast-paced and engrossing 63 minutes, leaving no time for the audience to get bored (or to examine the plot too closely). The film is genuinely well-produced with great special effects (including the shipwreck and the attack of the sharks); eye-popping art direction and set decorations (some of the jungle sets appear to have been used again in "Kong"); and lavish, sparkling black and white cinematography. The actors, too, give uniformly excellent performances all the way around. Banks offers a minor tour de force in his role, and McCrea and Wray make a startlingly beautiful couple.
Previous experiences with DVDs released by Alpha Video have led me to be somewhat wary about purchasing their products, but in the case of "The Most Dangerous Game", I can offer a hearty recommendation without any reservations whatsoever. The audio is crisp and clear and perfectly balanced; the video transfer is razor sharp with beautiful contrast throughout. The source print was also very clean, and was plagued with none of the cuts, jumps, or splices that are so typical of most public domain films. Here's a great transfer of a great film at a great price, one that you'll enjoy watching over and over again.
on October 7, 1999
"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 down Steiner: Son Of Kong (The) / The Most Dangerous Game.
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 this 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.
on November 25, 2008
The Most Dangerous Game is actually what my group of friends call our late-night, hardcore Scrabble sessions. Many have been injured, a few have even died. Heck, most of the time I even wear full football pads. But actually, the Most Dangerous Game is a sadistic big game hunt orchestrated by a borderline-vampire Russian count by the name of Zoroff on a desolate island--and he's hunting shipwrecked MEN. (It's never a good thing to be shipwrecked in Hollywood. You either become the prey of killer shrews and crazy Russians, or you end up with only Gilligan for company). You decide which is more entertaining!
In any event, this DVD by Legend Films is probably the best extant version of The Most Dangerous Game, in terms of both quality and features. Released in 1932, the film has subsequently become public domain, which has the effect of ensuring no entity had reason to update and preserve it, until now. Working again with legendary special effects guy Ray Harryhausen, Legend has fully re-mastered (in the George Lucas sense) the original black and white and imbued it with their trademark color, though they are always sure to include the original black and white on the same DVD has the color version.
And, unheard of for most `30s era releases, Legend has imbued this DVD with loads of extras and special features, including classic theatrical trailers and short subject films highlighting the importance of film scores, the career of legendary producer Merian Cooper and the work of composer Max Steiner. Though geared to the hardcore movie fan, these extras can provide an illuminating glimpse inside the industry for the rest of us schmucks.
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. ;-)
on March 30, 2006
"The Most Dangerous Game" based on the Richard Connell short story was amazingly produced a scant five years after the first "talkie" film.
The demented Russian Count Zaroff played by Leslie Banks is an avid hunter bored by stalking the usual wild animal prey. He inhabits a sparsely populated island where he lures ships there wrecking them on the dangerous reefs surrounding the island by purposely misplacing channel markers. Joel McCrea playing big game hunter Bob Rainsford is the sole survivor of a shipwreck and is washed ashore on Zaroff's island.
He makes his way to Zaroff's castle where aftering being treated hospitably is introduced to two guests Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong playing siblings Eve and Martin Trowbridge in a warm up to their roles in "King Kong". It soon becomes apparent to everyone that the insane Zaroff uses the shipwreck survivors as human prey to be hunted. His trophy room contains mounted heads of his victims.
After killing Armstrong he engages in a classic cat and mouse game with McCrea and Wray, promising them freedom if they can elude him until sunrise.
This brief film, while only 62 minutes long, serves as a warm up to the 1933 megaclassic "King Kong" using what seemed like the same set in the portrayal of Kong's home Skull Island. Banks whose creepy pop eyed crazed gaze and genteel mannerisms as Zaroff was superb in the role of the mad hunter.