The Most Dangerous Game / Gow (Flicker Alley) – The Most Dangerous Game (1932) is the first screen adaptation of the classic story of the big game hunter who stalks human prey, and it’s still the best. Joel McCrea plays the celebrated big game hunter who is shipwrecked on an isolated jungle island by the mad Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks, perfectly unnerving), an aristocrat who, bored with stalking animals, has switched to hunting humans in his island jungle. Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong, stars of King Kong (which was being shot concurrently), play fellow “guests” and future victims of Zaroff, who teases them with vague hints of their fate with a manner that suggests aristocratic excess and sadistic megalomania. And it’s not just bloodlust that drives Zaroff; he’s saving his female captive for the post hunt festivities. “Kill!… Then love,” he explains to fellow hunter McCrea in his invitation to join him as a partner. When he refuses, he sends McCrea out as his next challenge.
The film was shot on the sets of King Kong during down time on the production, with members of the cast and crew giving what was in many ways a B-movie the A treatment. After a static opening, the film quickly delivers a gruesome wreck (the first of the grotesque and lurid details that, even in suggestion, give the film a pre-code perversity beyond the premise) and an ominous cocktail party in the vast castle drawing room, and then simply adds to the promise of illicit thrills. Ernest B. Schoedsack, who shares directing credit with Irving Pichel, delivers terrific set pieces and exotic atmosphere in a tight 63 minutes. Schoedsack and his producing partner Merian C. Cooper don’t have the snap that Warner Bros. directors brought to their street smart early sound productions, or the carefully sculpted mood of the best of the Universal horror movies, but they deliver great spectacle and wonderfully lurid flourishes, and once the film moves into the action portion, it doesn’t slow down.