A steamer heading across the ocean to home, the carefree passengers debating scruples and morality belowdecks even as the captain navigates through warning buoys on the narrow channel between Baranka Island and the mainland of South American, concerned that they are not where they should be. Striking the reef, the engine room is flooded and the boilers explode, sinking the vessel in moments; the few survivors picked off by sharks, only Bob Rainford makes it to shore.
Finding a settlement in a vast fortress, Rainford is welcomed by Count Zaroff who has other guests from a previous shipwreck, drunkard Martin Trowbridge and his beautiful sister Eve who tries to communicate to him that there is a danger on the island, their two companions already having vanished and then Martin disappearing in the night. Investigating, Bob and Eve find their host is preparing to play the most dangerous game, a hunt to the death to be concluded at dawn…
Filmed on the same sets as King Kong and featuring several of the same cast and crew, producers Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack and Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong who play Eve and Martin, The Most Dangerous Game was directed by Irving Pichel and Schoedsack, based on the 1924 short story of the same name by Richard Connell which has been adapted numerous times in various formats with Eureka’s new Blu-ray featuring three radio adaptations from the forties.
With Leslie Banks playing Count Zaroff with eye-rolling glee, constantly pawing the scar given him by a wild leopard, Joel McCrea is big game hunter Bob Rainsford, the perfect hero of the thirties, handsome, capable and never doubting himself, though while Wray’s Eve initially shows brains and nerve she later becomes the typically frustrating damsel in distress more in keeping with the period, on more than one occasion standing by while Bob wrestles an assailant rather than helping.
Running to just over an hour and change the pace is brisk once the premise is set up, particularly in the chase scenes which make up the latter part of the film, and the opening modelwork and jungle scenery are impressive as are the expansive sets and seamlessly incorporated matte shots, and Zaroff’s dungeon of trophies from previous hunts is surprisingly grim for a production of 1932, two years before the frowning Hays Code would prohibit such graphic displays.
Eureka’s edition presented from a 2K scan of a restored print, there is unfortunate damage and fading in some scenes though on the whole the image is pleasingly clear and sharp for a film celebrating its ninetieth birthday, The Most Dangerous Game supported by commentary from writer Stephen Jones and critic Kim Newman and separate interviews with Newman and film scholar Stephen Thrower.
The Most Dangerous Game will be available from Eureka from Monday 24th October