Monsters & Memories 15: The Most Dangerous Game (1932) by Ed Davis

It was a battle of genres for me this time, Groovy Ghoulies. When I set out to do this column, I hoped to encompass all aspects of Horror and Sci-Fi. One movie that kept coming up on horror movie lists was The Most Dangerous Game.  I originally scratched my head. I read the story in high school, and I think we watched the movie too. I don’t remember it being horror. This couldn’t be. So, As I waded through 1932’s list of movies, I knew The Game and myself were going to play outdoor chess. Would I still agree that it’s not Horror or will I have changed my mind?

The Most Dangerous Game is based on the 1924 short story by Richard Connell. It was released by RKO Pictures in September 1932. And I think the most interesting fact about this film is it was filmed at the same time as RKO’s King Kong which would come out the following year. This movie would help offset the cost of making Kong. It was produced by same people, Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper. Two of Kong’s leads were featured: Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. And finally, many of the jungle sets were also used. It was fun being able to pick out what sets were used in this other film, and to see them used in a different light. I expected Kong to come along and roll the big log, like he does in his movie. Another interesting fact, The Most Dangerous Game ended being more profitable then King Kong.

The story centers on Bob Rainsford, played by Joel McCrea, who is a big game hunter and becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck where he meets Count Zarloff.  Zarloff was played with enthusiasm by Leslie Banks. McCrea would have success later with The Virginian. Banks would have a great career in movie and theater. We also meet a brother and sister also stranded on the island played by Armstrong and Ray. Armstrong plays a great drunk, and his scenes are two few. I would have loved to see more. Fay Wray is really starting to perfect the screaming damsel. This movie came out one month after Doctor X, and I think she grew as an actress on those two different sets. The following year we would get her most famous role in Kong.

It seems Zarloff has hunted around the world, and has become bored with the game that is out there. He has beaten all the so-called challenges, and now hunts what he called, the most dangerous game. After Eve’s (Fay Wray’s character) brother disappears into the Count’s trophy room and is not seen again, suspicions arise. Bob and Eve break into the trophy room to discover Zarloff is hunting men! Mummified heads adorn the walls like deer. Other heads float in some kind of liquid in jars. The trophy room is gruesome. We learn her brother Martin was hunted and killed. And now, it will be Bob’s turn. What follows is a great contest of wills as Bob and Eve try to outsmart Zarloff. They have until the next morning to stay alive and they will be free! I don’t want to give away the ending but oh man, what a way to go.

Like I said, I loved that the set pieces in the jungle are the same as in King Kong. It was a really good flick, and at 63 minute or so length, the action is pretty non-stop. I guess the million dollar question though is, was it a horror film? I’ve really gone back and forth on this. We have a slightly crazy Zarloff, holding people against his will for his own pleasure of hunting them. His trophy room is full of rotting and floating heads. Fay Wray screams. It has all the right ingredients but, I just cannot call it a horror film. I feel it’s more in the adventure genre. I don’t know. I want to compare to Indiana Jones but he’s always flirted on the edge of the genre, too. So, I’m not certain. I’d love to know what some of you think that have seen it, or plan to watch. For now, I’m going to say no.

I wanted to tie a good board game into this review, and I kept coming back to this one game. I had hoped to save for a witchcraft movie, but it screamed for me to talk about it. Milton Bradley (don’t you love them?) came out with “WhichWitch Is Which?” in 1970. This was a really fun board game. Your player had to be the first one out of the mansion. You had to worry about getting turned into a mouse or the dreaded Whammy Ball falling from the ceiling, moving your character back if hit. All four rooms on the board, were straight out of a witch’s dungeon great stuff, and I think you had to get up the stairs to get out. Great fun, and a big hit with all of us Monster Kids.

Well, It’s my turn to head into the trophy room. If I’m complaining of a sore neck the next time, you’ll all know why. Meanwhile, check out the great programming on The Fright Channel and drop us a line to say boo at starwarzed@hotmail.com and check out www.horrorhaven.com. Until we’re together again, remember to watch the skies!