For Reel

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
June 27, 2012, 7:10 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director(s): Ernest B. Schoedsack & Irving Pichel

At just over an hour in length, The Most Dangerous Game is a lively thriller made by many of the same minds behind the following year’s special effects landmark, King Kong. Adapted from Richard Connell’s short story, the picture concerns a big game hunter who dwells on a small island and longs for a challenge. When several men and women wash up on his shore, he tells them that should they successfully evade his lethal pursuit for a day, he will aid them in their escape. Years later, when the Production Code began to strictly inhibit what could be seen in Hollywood, the revealing outfits worn by Joel McCrea and Fay Wray would make revival screenings nigh impossible. Narratively, the picture goes just about where one would expect it to in the most blunt manner imaginable – early on, McCrea chides, “This world’s divided into two kinds of people: the hunter and the hunted. Luckily I’m the hunter and nothing can change that.” – but its joys can be found in the tight, suspenseful editing and the impressive sets. Cinematographer Henry W. Gerrard, who passed away at the age of 35 in 1934, perhaps sought to mimic the aesthetic of Universal’s popular monster pictures, with dense fog and dark shadows establishing a gothic mood that makes tangible the dread of the victims. The final shot – in which the devious Leslie Banks falls to his fitting end as the heroes depart the island – is a masterful display of economical storytelling.

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