Friday, October 03, 2014

The Most Dangerous Game

This 1932 thriller is based on the award-winning short story of the same name by Richard Connell, and has been remade dozens of times in film and television. People are marooned on an island where an eccentric lives. He is a big game hunter and has always wanted to hunt the most dangerous game of all - man. Yes, it's an old story, but this is the first time it was done.

An RKO film produced by Merian C. Cooper, The Most Dangerous Game was shot concurrently with King Kong, easy to do as both settings are jungle islands. This flick even stars Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and also features an original score by Max Steiner. The cast also includes Joel McCrea, Noble Johnson, Leslie Banks as the villainous Count Zaroff, and Buster Crabbe in an uncredited role.

While there's no big gorilla in this one, it's full of atmospheric thrills and horror. The castle's door knocker alone is enough to give one nightmares, and Zaroff's Cossack manservant Ivan (Johnson) is pretty fearsome as well. The use of shadow reminds me of later Val Lewton work, perhaps inspired by the German silents.

Fay Wray's character here is a bit more sophisticated than Kong's Ann Darrow, and Robert Armstrong is the comic relief as a drunken delight. I always liked him best in this kind of role. McCrea and Banks are quite suited to the black and white hero and villain. And it's fun watching them tromp through the same sets from Kong.

I love the old horrors from the 1930s from RKO and Universal, and King Kong is one of my favorite films, so this is a great companion piece to that. Recommended.

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