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With: Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson, Steve Clemente, Oscar 'Dutch' Hendrian, William B. Davidson
Written by: James Ashmore Creelman, based on a story by Richard Connell
Directed by: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Irving Pichel
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 63
Date: 09/16/1932

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Prey Date

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Ernest B. Schoedsack and producer Merian C. Cooper made this terrific adventure/horror film on a low budget while in pre-production on King Kong (1933), using many of the same sets, crew and actors. It's only 63 minutes long but shows no signs of cutting corners.

Joel McCrea stars as Bob Rainsford, a famous hunter who is shipwrecked on a mysterious island. There, he discovers more shipwreck victims, including the beautiful Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray), as well as his creepy host, Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks). The Count loves to boast about his hunting prowess and how mere wild animals have begun to bore him; he can barely keep from revealing the fact that he now likes to hunt humans (he deliberately causes ships to wreck to collect his victims). So Bob must stay ahead of the Count until sunrise, using the jungle as his cover -- and his weapon.

Schoedsack gets terrific use out of the spectacular sets as well as some exciting moving shots in the jungle; one chase scene is about as tense as anything ever filmed. It feels minor next to Kong, but it's a great deal of fun. Richard Connell's short story was published in Collier's Weekly in 1924 and has been filmed many times, in various forms, since.

The film is available on a very good Criterion DVD, but now Flicker Alley has released a definitive Blu-ray edition. The Most Dangerous Game comes with an optional commentary track by professor Rick Jewell. Then, the disc contains a remarkable second feature, Gow: The Headhunter, a.k.a. Cannibal Island. This began as a real documentary shot by Captain Edward A. Salisbury. (Schoedsack and Cooper were cameraman on the expedition). It was released legitimately in the silent era, and then re-edited (with added footage) for exploitation release in 1931; it was re-issued that way up until the 1950s. That version is presented here. Gow also features an optional commentary track by professor Matthew Spriggs. As an extra, the Blu-ray also features an audio interview with Mr. Cooper, conducted by Kevin Brownlow in 1971.

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