Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME


THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932). Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel.

Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) is the only survivor of a shipwreck near a small island owned by the sinister Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). Safe on land in the count's gothic castle, he learns that Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) and her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong) are also ship-wrecked "guests" waiting patiently for the count's launch to be repaired -- only Eve tells Bob that she's heard the launch going out at night. It turns out that the sociopathic Zaroff deliberately causes shipwrecks and then hunts down "the most dangerous game" -- human beings -- from the survivors. The first half of the film is suspenseful enough, but the second half is non-stop excitement as Bob and Eve try desperately to outwit the count, his men, and his killer dogs and survive until dawn. Thrilling right up until the very last shot. Made concurrently with King Kong (as the FX of that film were being completed) this utilizes some of the same, very recognizable sets. Robert Armstrong gives a more flavorful, less wooden performance than usual and is very good as the ill-fated brother. The shipwreck sequence is very well-done, the effects work is excellent, and the castle settings are atmospheric and intriguing. Although he has been criticized as being "campy," Leslie Banks actually offers a very effective and comparatively low-key portrait of the psychopathic count and never gnoshes on the scenery. His versatility is shown with his much more benign character in The Tunnel. The Most Dangerous Game is highly entertaining although it could probably have used a few more minutes of character development. Suitably rousing score by Max Steiner.

Verdict: A classic! ***1/2.

No comments: