With hunting now becoming one of those taboo activities to do in this current day and age, it was not always as such with many doing so to provide food for their family and some few, then as now, doing so for trophies to prove their masculinity as they have no other outlet to do so. Whatever the reason, and it is doubtful that it was in protest to the killing of animals or any such thing and merely wanting to tell a good yarn, in the year 1924, Richard Connell wrote a story about the most dangerous game to ever inhabit this planet – mankind. In 1932 it would be adapted to the big screen for the first time by directors Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack from a script by James Ashmore Creelman and it would not be the last film to be inspired from that short story, though the only one to take its name.
Starring Joel McCrea as the hero of the piece, the only survivor of a shipwreck upon a small island, he would soon come into contact with its inhabitants, one Count Zaroff and a few other unfortunate souls to have also crash-landed upon its shores. Things start off normal enough or at least as normal as they could be in such a situation, but it soon spirals into the absurd as Zaroff seems to be a little off his rocker. It is soon discovered that the people who land upon Zaroff’s island are not soon for this world as the man is an avid hunter and the only game worth pursuing is that which can think and fight back. So it is that McCrea’s character Bob and a young woman named Eve as played by Fay Wray are on the run for their lives, literally.
Made on the same set as King Kong and featuring some of the same actors including Wray and Robert Armstrong, the film might have been made on the cheap and may have been overshadowed by that aforementioned picture, but it nevertheless remains a very entertaining affair. A couple of the performances might be a tad on the hokey side, Leslie Banks immediately coming to mind as the villainous Zaroff, but it adds to the fright that the man personifies. Zaroff is a madman and it is quite apparent as only one who is insane would ever think to hunt people. He has conquered the beasts of the wild and looks for something to challenge him, to best him at what he does and what is there more challenging than those that can actually fight back and perhaps beat him at his own game? McCrea is a solid performer and does well with the material, but Wray does nothing to move the plot forward in the slightest, adding nothing other than being a damsel in distress for McCrea to worry over. In the end though, it is Banks that steals the show out from everybody.
Max Steiner provides a fun score, one that actually suits the movie and builds suspense as it goes along and Henry W. Gerrard elevates the film with some great photography, taking full advantage of the set to make it as mysterious and as moody as possible. Combining adventure and horror together would make for a thrilling picture, one that is not so long as to overstay its welcome and co-directors Pichel and Schoedsack would tie it all up into one fantastic little package.
As it is, men have always been hunted throughout history, whether those that are lost or missing, those that have committed a crime, those on the run from an unhealthy situation or whatever the case might be and those hunters come in all forms from criminals to cops. The Most Dangerous Game just presents it in a way that will engage the viewer, that will shock the audience because man is not meant to be prey, but whether they realise it or not, man has always been as such and will always continue to be in one form or another, this film just puts it front and center.
4.5 out of 5