The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME | The Movie Waffler


The Most Dangerous Game review
A shipwreck survivor becomes the prey in a deadly hunt.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Starring: Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong

The Most Dangerous Game poster

A year before unleashing the eighth wonder of the world on cinemagoers, the producing and directing team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (co-directing with Irving Pichel) took audiences to another exotic island.

Based on Richard Connell's short story of the same name, The Most Dangerous Game sees Joel McCrea play famed hunter Robert Rainsford, the only survivor of a shipwreck in the Pacific. Washed up on a remote island, Rainsford is surprised to come across a lavish mansion, the home of exiled Russian Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). The Count is suspiciously joined by two other shipwreck survivors - Fay Wray's Eve Trowbridge and her alcoholic brother Martin (Robert Armstrong).

The Most Dangerous Game review

Eve tries to warn Robert that their host is not all he seems, but Zaroff is so sinister that I don't think such warnings are entirely necessary. Rainsford doesn't seem like the brightest spark though, and is won over by Zaroff's flattering knowledge of his hunting exploits. When Zaroff attempts to coerce Robert in joining him on a hunt for "The most dangerous game," (that's humans to you and I), Robert refuses and finds himself the prey, along with Eve.

The film's continued influence has been palpable, with elements of its story seen in everything from Predator to The Hunger Games, and numerous straight to VOD movies borrowing its premise every year. Made at the height of the Great Depression, audiences may have found the tale of a rich megalomaniac using others for his entertainment quite poignant, and the film's many imitators have increasingly focussed on a class dynamic that's absent here.

The Most Dangerous Game review

As the twisted count, Banks is superb, even if his accent is more Scottish than Russian. Why he didn't make more genre appearances is baffling, given this was the era of Frankenstein and Dracula. During WWI he suffered an injury which paralysed the left half of his face, a wound he exploits to add a sinister edge to the character. McCrea gives an early indication of the all-American star he would go on to become while Wray lays down the foundations of becoming cinema's first great scream queen. King Kong's leading man Armstrong delivers one of the all-time great drunk performances.

Has there ever been more impressive set design than the great horror movies of the 1930s? The attention to detail here is outstanding, a practice that's sadly been lost in these greenscreen times. Even the door knocker on Zaroff's island fortress is creepy, a miniature representation of a giant beast holding a woman in his monstrous hands that is replicated as a giant mural on Zaroff's staircase. Did the filmmakers have Kong in mind when designing this? Yes, the two movies were actually shot back to back. Were I a rich collector of movie memorabilia, this item would most definitely be mounted on my front door. Zaroff's island resembles the more famous Skull Island from Kong, all creeping vines and rubber bats flying in the background. This is no coincidence, as the same jungle sets were utilised for both pictures.

The Most Dangerous Game review

To get the most from such production design takes a skilled cameraman, and Henry W Gerrard does some thrilling work here. He began in silents so knew the importance of a strong image. Action sequences of this era are often quite clunky but Gerrard's roving camera adds to the excitement. There are some fantastic tracking shots through the jungle, the foliage brushing against the lens and really putting you in the scene. Sadly Gerrard passed away three years later on the cusp of greatness, having just lensed Of Human Bondage.

Running at a brisk 63 minutes, today's filmmakers could learn a lot from this movie's pacing. There's not an ounce of fat on this script and it still holds up as the definitive version of this oft-told and copied tale.


A new audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman; a new interview with Newman on the “hunted human” sub-genre; a new interview with film scholar Stephen Thrower; and a collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Craig Ian Mann, illustrated with archival imagery.

The Most Dangerous Game is on UK blu-ray from October 24th from Eureka Entertainment.