The Most Dangerous Game

“He talks of wine and women as a prelude to the hunt. We barbarians know that it is after the chase, and then only, that man revels.”–Zaroff

The Most Dangerous Game isn’t a great movie, but it’s not a bad one either, and it’s a hoot for a variety of

Joel McRea and Fay Wray–Way over the legal limit on looking fabulous!

reasons.  Released in 1932, the movie is an adaptation of the Richard Connell short story about a Russian Aristocrat named Zaroff who has setup his own little island paradise for the express purpose of luring people there to hunt them as prey.  Zaroff, played by Leslie Banks, bites off a little bit more than he can chew when he snags big game hunter Bob Rainsford, played by Joel McCrea. Along for the ride is Eve, played by Fay Wray.  Her function in the film of course is to be rescued, and she needs rescuing too.  It’s pre-code, so they could get away with more, and she is straightforwardly identified as a sexual prize to be claimed by the victor.   

Joel McRea is kind of boring, and Fay Wray kind of irritating.   Mostly, his job is to stand tall and look heroic, while hers is to convey her anxiety via exaggerated, silent-era style facial expressions. Leslie Banks, however, is a riot as the mustachioed, goateed refined yet decadent aristocrat who, when he gets excited, strokes a long scar on his forehead

Leslie Banks as Zaroff

The film has the feel of a serial.  The pacing is quick (runtime is a mere 63 minutes) and the dialogue ham fisted.  “This world’s divided into two kinds of people,” says Rainsford, “the hunter and the hunted. Luckily I’m the hunter. Nothing can change that.” And then of course his ship promptly smashes into the rocks leaving him stranded on an island with a mad Russian intent on doing precisely that.  Buster Crabbe, amusingly enough, makes an uncredited appearance as a sailor killed off during the ship’s sinking.  And more interesting still, the special effects were done by Ray Harryhausen. Among the action scenes is a chase across the trunk of a giant felled tree suspended over a chasm, a scene reprised the next year in King Kong.   

The film doesn’t deserve the 100% critic rating it has on Rotten Tomatoes.  The 74% audience rating is closer to the mark, but it’s worth a watch for film buffs and/or anyone looking to make a drinking game out of Fay Wray’s facial exaggerations, especialy given it’s public domain and can be watched in its entirety for free on Youtube. 

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