The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

most dangerous game poster 1932 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Short, sweet, and to the point

The themes of the story could be explored more

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Most Dangerous Game

Studio: Movie Studio

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

most dangerous game joel mccrea fay wray

So…your plan is to make little traps and then wait by them…over and over again.

Famed hunter and sportsman Bob Rainsford (Joel McCrea) finds himself stranded on an island after the yacht he is aboard crashes under strange circumstances.  The island is owned by a man named Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks) who has a host of servants helping maintain his palace-like home.  Bob meets Eve Trowbridge (Fay Wray) and her brother Martin (Robert Armstrong) who met a similar fate in their ship and learn that others like them have been on the island and disappeared under mysterious conditions.  Count Zaroff is a hunter, and Martin, Eve, and Bob are about to find out what the most dangerous game is.

Directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack, The Most Dangerous Game is an action-survival film.  The movie adapts the Richard Connell short story “The Most Dangerous Game” (sometimes called “The Hounds of Zaroff”) which was first published in Collier’s on January 19, 1924.  The film is in public domain and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version (Criterion #46).

most dangerous game fay wray severed head

Don’t lose your head, Fay

The idea of The Most Dangerous Game has been borrowed multiple times since Connell’s story was published, but in general, this version of the film is the most widely known.  The fact that the film is in public domain makes it easy to find, but also the film chooses to be rather brief and instead of turning a short story into a long epic, it keeps it as a short film.

The movie has a surprising amount of ground to cover in its runtime of just over an hour, and it succeeds.  The start of the film introduces Bob and the concept of hunting (and the hunted) and quickly moves him to the shore.  There you get more exploration of the idea of predator and prey before the game begins.  The scary thing about Zaroff is that he treats “man” just like any other prey…but with the cunning nature of man and man’s means of improvisation, it changes the game.  Of course, Zaroff is proven to be a cheater…which is another side of man.

The cast is good for what is expected of a movie at the time.  Joel McCrea has that classic Hollywood look and is teamed by the also classic Fay Wray who as a third wheel creates a means for Zaroff to control Bob.  Leslie Banks gets the maniacal look of Zaroff down, but I also like his mute assistant Ivan played by Noble Johnson “Smile, Ivan” is actually kind of funny and creepy in a movie that doesn’t have much levity.

most dangerous game count zaroff leslie banks

He has the eye of the tiger…the thrill of the fight!

If you are watching The Most Dangerous Game, you might feel a familiarty with Zaroff’s island.  The island is the same set used in 1933’s classic King Kong which also starred Fay Wray (as a blond in that one).  The log bridge and others sets play a part in this film and the film was shot during the nights with King Kong shooting during the days (Robert Armstrong and Noble Johnson also appeared in King Kong).

The Most Dangerous Game is a rather simple movie from a time that simple was more expected.  While I like the length, the themes could be explored more and more reflection by Bob on his pre-and-post hunt could be experienced.  It is pre-Code so there actually is some violence and darkness that doesn’t show up in movies slightly older than it.  With remakes of the stories and new versions of the story like 2020’s The Hunt, it is nice to revisit one of the original and better adaptations.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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