“Welcome to the jungle it gets worse here every day,
You learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play!”- Guns N’ Roses
We are spoiled. Humans (especially Americans), have the tendency to stir up stress when there is not a need. We push ourselves to the limits of trying to maintain self-imposed hectic schedules which are dance on the city limits of Heart Attackville. We lack patience primarily due to our addictive reliance to technology. We need everything now! When that little handheld Pandora’s Box of instant gratification ceases to meet our high expectations of right now, some people have a meltdown which is resonant of a two year olds temper tantrum. Yes my fellow Americans, we are spoiled. While we stress and wonder why a SimCity app is on the fritz and not loading correctly, citizens of impoverished nations try to survive their environments in search of clean water, food, and shelter. While we fight on social media over mindless topics deemed important by puppet masters for debate, other countries are fighting to survive the daily civil war going on around them. So yes, we are spoiled. We need to live simply anchored in patient wisdom, in order to appreciate how lucky we are truly are. As a majority, we are truly ungrateful or ignorant to that fact, which we are close to, if not at the top, of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model.
What we need is a good kick in the butt, go off the grid for a while, experience nature, and a guide to getting back to basics à la Thoreau. Today’s film is just that. It will strip you down to the core of what man’s existence before us and after us (in some places) is rooted in…basic survival. If you have the essentials of living comfortably day to day, you are already a rich man. Being rich in materialism, does not make one particularly wise by any means. So grab your $9.00 latte, let your puppy out your purse, and sit back by allowing me to be your classic cinema tour guide through this adventure thriller, The Most Dangerous Game (1932).
We meet big game hunter Rainsford, Joel McCrea of Ride the High Country (1962), as he travels with his testosterone team of braggarts and wealthy adventure seekers upon a luxury cabin cruiser. While drinking the finest liquor and sharing past glories from recent hunts, the Ego and its Egonauts crash into a reef. Some of the men drown, some become dinner for sharks, and our handsome hero Rainsford, awakens to find himself washed ashore on a mysterious remote island. Rainsford grabs himself up by his bootstraps and starts to explore his new surroundings. Rainsford finds himself at the foreboding front door to an island villa compound. The awkward centaur holding the bare breasted woman against her will door knocker should have alerted our experienced Rainsford that he did not just arrive for a night of carousing at the Playboy Mansion. Foreshadowing Rainsford! Foreshadowing!
Expatriate Russian aristocrat, Count Zaroff, Leslie Banks of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), welcomes Rainsford with the offerings of food, clothes, and a stiff drink before being escorted by the menacing looking mute servant Ivan, minus the Drago surname. Ivan’s look is a bit creepy mainly due to African-American actor Noble Johnson of She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), being painted white face for the role, so he looks a bit off to say the least. But, it does appear that Ivan certainly would break you if need be. Speaking of paint jobs, the hounds of Zaroff were considered too cute for production, so their white coats were temporarily dyed black to make them look ferocious. No Hounds of Hell here, just Great Danes.
After a shower and a shave, Rainsford is introduced to houseguests Eve, Fay Wray of King Kong (1933) and her sot of a brother, Martin, Robert Armstrong of The Son of Kong (1933). The siblings were also shipwrecked and ended up at Zaroff’s Bermuda Trianglesque resort of centaur, mutes, and other island oddities. After some drinks and a round of the old chit chat, it is revealed that there were other guests and they had recently gone missing before Rainsford’s arrival.
Zaroff’s hospitality goes only so far and his eccentric well-mannered demeanor fades away revealing his sinister hunger for blood. Zaroff’s big dilemma is that he too is an affluent hunter but has grown bored with with big game hunt. He has a new prey in mind, and after the lush Martin is found dead, it is apparently clear what Zaroff’s desires are. Count Zaroff’s new modus operandi is revealed; hunting humans is business…and business is good. Zaroff’s trap is set, as he releases Rainsfield and Eve into his jungle of horrors with the rule of game only being, if our heroes can survive till dawn in this horrifying game of cat and mouse, they can leave the island alive.
The Most Dangerous Game was directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack of King Kong, with a screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman also of King Kong fame. The Most Dangerous Game was adapted from the 1924 short story of the same name by author Richard Connell.
The Most Dangerous Game, if you haven’t already realized, relied heavily on the cast and crew associated with the King Kong production. The production team for Game even utilized sound effects, sets, and almost any other element they could borrow from the Kong production. This is very reminiscent of the budget filmmaking ideology of famed filmmaker/producer Roger Corman of The Raven (1963) during his long career of filming on the cheap of available resources from multiple sets while still turning a nice profit. Unfortunately, the Kong set was destroyed forever, when it was used as kindling for the Atlanta burning sequence in Gone with the Wind (1939). What a waste.
The Most Dangerous Game was deemed offensive by the industry conservatives of the day as they tried to enforce the newly developed Hays Code which was the precursor of the Motion Picture Production Code which addressed the dos & don’ts morality standards on the silver screen. Offensive, really? In 1932, Game’s heroes ran through the jungle half clothed being chased by a foreigner wanting to murder his guests with the subtle suggestions that Count Zaroff would rape Eve after he hunted and killed Rainsford. That was and is still taboo and is borderline serial killer or slasher psychology territory which warrants further analysis. Sex & violence has always been an issue, and a profit in Hollyweird. Game clocks in at a quick running time of 63 minutes, and was trimmed down by approximately 10 minutes deleting scenes of Zaroff’s trophy room of terror that shocked the suits and the initial test audience before its release. Also, the hitting of the bottle by Martin, was a lesson about the shameful actions associated with alcohol. Prohibition was still in effect, and teetotalers wanted to drive home the point that partaking in an adult cocktail, was forbidden and unacceptable in our “respectable” society…except behind closed doors away from your neighbor’s eyes. With all this being said, after Game’s release, it would not be seen for years due to the censorship codes being strict until the late 1950’s.
The Most Dangerous Game is a beautifully shot film with innovative camera angles, interesting eye appealing sets, and some memorable, campy dialogue that should tickle your funny bone. Game, the short story and this film, have gone on to influence many and referenced countless times in form of remakes, spoofs, or homages in A Game of Death (1945), Gilligan’s Island (1967), The Incredible Hulk (1979), Fantasy Island (1982), Octopussy (1983), Battle Royale 2000), Sin City (2005), The Simpsons (2005), and Zodiac (2007), just to name a few. Though this title has been adapted several times over the years, cinephiles agree that this version is the best.
All in all, you should watch this film if you are into interested into delving deep into dark depths of a deranged psyche. Bank’s portrayal of Count Zaroff alone, is worth the price of bagging a copy. He is campy, a mesmerizing villain, and an absolute loon. Fun for the whole family!
So, next time you have a hissy fit about how your life is not fair as you deal with your first world problems, take a break to gain some perspective on the reality of your situation. Most likely you have all the comforts you need. Be thankful you have water, food, clothing, shelter, loved ones, and your life. You are not bait in a big game of a sadistic blood sport, evading capture from a full cry of dogs on some aristocrat’s hunting ground. Stop playing the martyr and portraying yourself to the world as a mark or easy target. Life is good for a majority of us. Stop bellyaching and start living. It’s open season for you, it’s time to live like a man, and meander through the motions like an easily offended, easily defeated misanthrope. Don’t play a pawn in society’s game…that the most dangerous game indeed.
Check out The Most Dangerous Game Trailer
Check out these other predator versus prey titles
- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Rick is also president of The Winchester Clark County Film Society and can be found on https://www.facebook.com/WCCfilmsociety
- Twitter Rick Baldwin@rickbaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org