The Joel McCrea Blogathon: The Most Dangerous Game (1932) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

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Directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack
Produced by Merian C. Cooper and David O. Selznick
Screenplay by Richard Connell and James Ashmore Creelman
Based on the story by Richard Connell
Cinematography: Henry Gerrard
Film Editior: Archie Marshek
Music by Max Steiner

Cast: Joel McCrea (Robert Rainsford), Fay Wray (Eve Trowbridge), Leslie Banks (Count Zaroff), Robert Armstrong (Martin Trowbridge), Noble Johnson (Ivan), Steve Clemente (Tartar)

joel-mccrea-blogathon-badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in the Joel McCrea Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

In 1932 Joel McCrea was a coming star. He had done well in The Lost Squadron and had a considerable success with Bird Of Paradise earlier in the year. Tall and very handsome with a pleasing personality.

Merian C. Cooper had already secured RKO’s agreement to shoot King Kong (1933) and wanted to make a film of Richard Connell’s short novel The Most Dangerous Game. The two films were shot concurrently and shared many of the sets, thus saving budget. Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong starred in both — and Max Steiner scored both.

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The story is a great idea of the hunter becoming the hunted. McCrea is shipwrecked and ends up the only survivor on a remote jungle island. He becomes a guest of an exiled Russian aristocrat Count Zaroff and it becomes fairly obvious early on that Zaroff is mad. He sees a wonderful chance at the ultimate ‘game’ – to set a man loose only to be hunted down and torn apart by Zaroff’s pack of hounds. It becomes a game of nerves as McCrea tries to keep ahead of the hounds and their masters, accompanied by Wray, whose dress gets more tattered and revealing as they go (getting in training for King Kong!!).

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I have not yet mentioned the English actor Leslie Banks who played Zaroff. Because it was apparent Zaroff was mad, Banks played it up quite a bit. I have seen him many times in other films, and his playing was generally subtle and underplayed. He certainly added to the tension with his portrayal though. McCrea was just fine in the central role, as one would expect. There were many more fine films ahead for him – Primrose Path (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), These Three (1936), Sullivan’s Travels (1941), to name only a few – before he decided to dedicate his career to the Western in 1946.

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Producer Schoedsack directed the jungle scenes whilst Pichel directed the interiors. RKO remade the story in 1946 (A Game Of Death) and again in 1956 (Run For The Sun).

The 1932 original is an enjoyable and gripping little film that still entertains 84 years on! The film has been available on DVD in several releases. Quality unknown to me.

Please feel free to view my other contribution to this Blogathon over at Toby’s other blog 50 Westerns From The 50s.

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Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the Western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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18 Comments

Filed under Fay Wray, Joel McCrea, Pre-Code, RKO

18 responses to “The Joel McCrea Blogathon: The Most Dangerous Game (1932) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

  1. I never turn away from The Most Dangerous Game when it is offered. Funny thing, my husband never seems to remember Joel McCrea running through the jungle looking fine while he always has to remind me about Fay Wray and her ripped attire.

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  2. This movie is a seriously nasty little thing — and I love it dearly.

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  3. It’s easy to think of McCrea almost exclusively in terms of his western roles, mainly due to his making so many of them. However, he was nothing less than versatile and this is a good example of his work in other genres. I first saw this on TV over 30 years ago, late at night (I think billed under its alternative Hounds of Zaroff title) and it both fascinated and horrified me – can’t really ask for more.
    Of McCrea’s non-western roles, I live in hope of one day seeing Rough Shoot/Shoot First again. The cast, writing (Eric Ambler adaptation of a Geoffrey Household story) and the direction (Robert Parrish) all combine pretty well according to the sketchy memories I have of the one viewing I had a long time ago.

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  4. Jerry Entract

    Good to have your thoughts here, Colin. Thanks.

    McCrea was indeed much more versatile than he is sometimes given credit for. So good in “Foreign Correspondent” ( a Laura fave), “Sullivan’s Travels” etc.
    “ROUGH SHOOT”, his only non-western post 1946 of course, is a firm favourite of mine. You need a re-view post haste, chum!

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  5. john k

    Jerry,
    Great to see you here at the H8-as you now know,the blog is much
    more than just Horror and I hope that you will be far more regular
    in future.
    I recall reading that Joel was going to play the Bruce Cabot role
    in KING KONG but was physically exhausted after his demanding
    role in THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME.
    That’s a real shame,as with all due respects to Cabot (great character
    actor but never a leading man-to prove a point check out WILD BILL
    HICKOK RIDES) Joel would have “humanized” the humans.
    THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME has been re-worked/ripped off
    many times:A GAME OF DEATH,BLOODLUST (1961) JOHNNY
    ALLEGRO,RUN FOR THE SUN…..
    I too endorse ROUGH SHOOT (Shoot First) which played in the UK
    as the main feature to THE MAGNETIC MONSTER.
    It’s certainly far superior to the other McCrea/Parrish effort THE SAN
    FRANCISCO STORY arguably Joel’s worst Western.
    Top notch Brit supporting cast:Herbert Lom,Roland Culver and the
    intriguing Patricia Laffan who I just discovered,sadly,passed away
    two years ago.
    BTW I believe the DVD from Legend films (which also includes the
    colorized version) includes the infamous censored (remember this was
    pre-code) scene of the human heads in the specimen (trophy!!) jars.
    This shocking scene certainly never made it to UK cinemas.

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  6. john k

    An aside…..
    For the many of us who are suffering from “Colin withdrawal symptoms”
    isn’t it great that the lad has been so prolific in the comments on
    this wonderful blogathon.
    Not as pleasing as having RTHC back in full swing,but enough to
    keep us going for a while,at least. 🙂

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    • Jerry E

      Many thanks for your comments and support, John! I think the scene with the heads in jars may have been in the print I watched recently.

      I second your thoughts as to the very welcome presence of Colin all over this Blogathon.

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  7. Great pick and post! Love this movie and McCrea in it– perfect action hero who’s still an ordinary guy. Love Banks’ performance in this too, sophisticated, creepy and almost juvenile when he mocks his guests. Re Rough Shoot, seen that one before but want to revisit soon as part of all this great McCrea celebration.

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  8. Jerry Entract

    Thanks for your nice comments, Kristina – always good to hear from you.

    So glad you like this great early work.

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  9. Yeah, another great choice and the movie works in the way you say.

    I’ve read Richard Connell’s story. It’s not very long but really packs a punch. And plainly it was a good source for movies–haven’t seen every version but personally I also like the more elaborate “Run for the Sun” quite a bit though I guess it’s not the classic this one is.

    This one is very taut–and that’s probably for the best. As in “King Kong” Cooper and Schoedsack have a pretty deep sense of an allure/mystique that is one important aspect of cinema.

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  10. Jerry Entract

    Thanks for your kind words, Blake. It is no surprise to me that you would like this ground-breaking early talkie.

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  11. Mike Richards

    Good review Jerry. Now I want to see the film. Yes, sorry to admit that I’ve never seen it. The film must have fell into public domain a few years back, and now spread amongst different DVD companies. Can some please recommend the best quality DVD to buy, but not the colourised version.

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  12. Jerry, I love that you wrote about this one. I first saw this as a teenager — no VCR’s then but I was anxious to see it after reading the story in high school, so I got up in the middle of the night to watch it! Even censored and filled with commercials it was enjoyably creepy!

    When my kids read this story as part of their homeschool curriculum we watched a copy I’d taped from TCM. I’m quite certain there were shots in the movie which did not appear in the version I watched on a local L.A. station. Even creepier than when I first saw it!

    I also like RUN FOR THE SUN a great deal but THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME has an aura to it which is spookier and feels closer to the original story.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  13. Jerry Entract

    Great to have your comments, Laura. Thanks!
    In 1932 this film must have hit first-time viewers between the eyes. Just imagine.

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