The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Criterion Collection
Cast: Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, Fay Wray
Extras: Commentary by film historian Bruce Eder

’The Most Dangerous Game’ was filmed concurrently with the better known horror classic, ’King Kong, ’ and even used many of the same sets. Fay Wray, who played a lead role in both films, often pulled 20 hour days between the two productions. While the two films share many similarities, ’The Most Dangerous Game’ is a classic in its own right.

The film opens with world famous hunter Robert Rainsford sailing home from a recent jungle adventure. As the yacht closes in on a mysterious island, it runs afoul of the reefs and Rainsford washes ashore as the sole survivor of the wreck. Finding refuge at the forbidding fortress of Count Zaroff, he meets a brother and sister, Eve and Martin Trowbridge, who have survived a recent shipwreck of their own. As fate would have it, the Count is himself an avid hunter and is pleased to have Rainsford as his honored guest. As they discuss the art of hunting, Zarloff mentions that he has come to this isolated island to hunt a very cunning prey — a ’most dangerous game.’ Needless to say, the guests soon become the hunted and, after rejecting the Count’s offer to join him at his little game, Rainsford is sent into the jungle with Eve where they must survive until dawn to be set free.

The video on ’The Most Dangerous Game’ is surprisingly sharp, with no edge enhancement or shimmering evident. The brightness does tend to fluctuate at times and the film shows clear signs of wear and tear but for its age it looks very good.

The audio is a mono track that tends to be a little light on the dialogue and somewhat harsh during the sweeping score.

The only extra is an excellent, full-length audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder which explains in-depth the production of the movie, its relationship to ’King Kong,’ and the backgrounds and subsequent careers of the various actors.

As one of the final films to sneak through Hollywood before the Production Code went into effect, the movie has a degree of shocking horror and overt sexual dialogue that wouldn’t be seen on the silver screen again for decades. Don’t let the short runtime dissuade you, ’The Most Dangerous Game’ is a true classic that stands up very well when compared to more contemporary suspense cinema.