The Most Dangerous Game (1932) – Blu-Ray Review

The Most Dangerous Game is a rock-solid early horror/thriller from Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack. If the name of Schoedsack rings a bell, that’s because he was one of the co-directors of King Kong with Merian C. Cooper, who also served as a associate producer on this film. It may not have been as influential as King Kong, but it spawned its own genre of the “hunted human” movie—you can draw a clear line from The Most Dangerous Game to Predator to the more recent The Hunt.

Appearing in one of his earliest roles, Joel McCrea plays Bob Rainsford, a big game hunter/author who ends up stranded on a small island somewhere off South America. The only other people around are Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) and her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong), plus the Russian Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). Soon enough Zaroff releases them into the jungle so he can hunt them for his own perverse pleasure.

The film was made as a quickie concurrently with King Kong, which took another year to finish due to the pioneering special effects required. The two films shared the jungle sets and even some of the same rear projection, so you could claim they inhabit the same cinematic universe. The performances are all relatively solid for the time, and you definitely see hints of the actor that McCrea would become. Banks, however, is the highlight as a delightfully unhinged villain who almost looks like a stereotypical beatnik with his goatee (although this was 20 years before the beatnik era)!

The Most Dangerous Game is probably best remembered today due to its connection to the Zodiac killer. Arguably still the prime suspect, Arthur Leigh Allen was a fan of the film and the original short story by Richard Connell, and did reference it when he was questioned by the police. Did the Zodiac adopt a name inspired by Zaroff? You decide!

Schoedsack and Cooper probably don’t get enough credit as pioneers of genre cinema. They even launched the cynical godawful sequel trend to capitalise on a previous film’s success, with Son of KongThe Most Dangerous Game is an absolute blast, and it runs at just a hour so there’s really no excuse to check it out.

The Blu-Ray includes a commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman, plus there are interviews with Stephen Thrower and Kim Newman, who returns on video to give a overview of the “hunted human” sub-genre. The booklet includes a new essay from writer Craig Ian Mann.


Ian Schultz

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