Plot: What’s it about?
Aboard a luxury liner, a group of big game hunters discuss their recent journies and kills. One man talks a time when he was hunting an animal, and it had plenty of chances to get away, but it never even tried. It was as if the animal was hunting him too, he said. No hard feelings from either side, just the thrill of the hunt, mutual respect in fact. But the fact remains the same to these guys, there are two types of creatures on Earth, the hunter and the hunted. That is a role that never changes, or at least that’s what they thought. Somewhere along the open sea, their ships hits a group of rocks, and sinks. The men and women aboard are forced to save themselves, or perish in the cold waters.
One man, Bob Rainsford, (Joel McCrea) and one woman, Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray of King Kong fame) manage to survive the perilous water and find a way onto the shore. Upon exploring the jungles the island, named Ship Trap Island…hmmm…think the rocks have anything to do with that name, they discover a large mansion, owned by General Zaroff (Leslie Banks), a hunter much like Rainsford himself. After a civilzed beginning, Zaroff shows them his trophy room, with all types of trophies, including human beings! Yeow! Zaroff makes his plans known, the rocks wreck passing ships, and he hunts the survivors. What a nice guy, huh? Anyway, he intends to hunt and kill Rainsford, then return to his quarters and celebrate by having his way with Eve. Hey, the guy may be a psycho, but he has good taste in women. Will Zaroff succeed? Maybe you should play The Most Dangerous Game, and find out…
This movie was made by Ernest Shoedsack and Merian Cooper, two legendary Hollywood movie makers. The Most Dangerous Game was released in 1932, a damn long time ago, hell, this was before even the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, no blockbusters yet, not much of anything really. Silent documentaries and such. But these two had a vision, a vision of big movies with big crowds, and they succeeded, with the masterpiece King Kong in 1933. What made King Kong possible? That’s right, The Most Dangerous Game, whose revenues went mainly to funding the big ape’s picture.
The effects in this film are funny and cheesy by today’s standards, but remember, this was made over 65 years ago! These were some of the first special effects, and the boat scene in the beginning is still cool I think. Sure, we can tell it’s not a real boat, but it looks cool, and that’s what counts on film. The action scenes are very well done however, with fun fist fights and games of “cat and mouse”, which is perfect for this type of movie. Sure, you think just because a movie is over 65 years old it does not stand up against today’s films, right? Wrong as hell. This movie is awesome, and puts a great many modern films to shame, especially ones that tackle the same idea. Take for instance “Surviving The Game”, starring Gary Busey and Ice-T. Give me a break, the movie is terrible, and does not even have decent acting by half the damn cast. Humans hunting humans is an interesting topic to explore, and The Most Dangerous Game does a great job of bringing it to the screen.
The acting is excellent as well, with stand out performances from all members of this small cast. The movie focuses mainly on three lead characters, and they make sure they earn their billing. Joel McCrea is tremendous, playing Rainsford with a passionate, primal tone. You can really believe his fear and his facial expressions are very telling. When an actor can emit emotion and thought without saying a word, that’s talent, and McCrea does that very well in this picture. Fay Wray, who plays the blonde that King Kong scoops up in his big mitts, is also very good in this film. She brings an emotional side to the character that I really didn’t pick up on in the book, and that added depth to her role. Finally, Leslie Banks steals the whole show as General Zaroff, who is one of my favorite literary characters. I enjoyed the way Banks played Zaroff, and he is exactly as I pictured Zaroff from the book. One half of Banks’ face was paralyzed, and the filmmakers used this in the making of The Most Dangerous Game. When Zaroff was being calm and civil, the normal half was shown on camera, but when Zaroff would become angry or sinister, a full face or shot of his paralyzed half was used. I read that in the accompanying booklet, which is full of great info on the film.
All in all, this is a great edition of a great book. If you have not seen the movie, watch it. If you have not read the book, read it. Although the film is very old, it is not dated as much as you might think. The action segments are excellent, and most importantly, the story and acting are still great. If nothing else, you should rent or buy this just to see how the industry started up, and how it has evolved. All this movie had was a good story, great direction, and solid actors. Man, imagine making a movie with just that…
Video: How does it look?
This is part of the Criterion Collection, so expect nothing but the best. The movie is presented in full frame, which is the original aspect ratio, so chill out. The print is wonderful, very few artifacts or glaring problems. Some scenes are bad, other are perfect. But keep in mind, the damn movie is over 65 years old! Above and beyind the quality I expected.
Audio: How does it sound?
Again, Criterion makes sure we get our classic films in highest form. Great, solid audio, with the dialogue at a nice volume throughout. Not much in terms of effects or music, but when they are present, this mix gets the job done without a hitch.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Aside from the cleaned-up and remastered print of The Most Dangerous Game, you get a commentary by film historian Bruce Eder. It’s a nice addition, and gives some good insight here and there, but the guy’s a total bore.