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Thursday, October 14, 2010

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (aka THE HOUNDS OF ZAROFF) (1932)

The restored Criterion edition of this classic chase pic looks great. It’s the one about the insane (and insanely rich) hunter who wants to track human prey. He rules a small, isolated island and wrecks ships just to get a survivor or two. There have been many remakes (official and un), but this zippy wonder is the most memorable. Great fun, right from the first reel which features a startlingly blunt & lethal ship catastrophe with just one survivor. The team of Ernest Schoedsack and Merian Cooper made this in tandem with KING KONG/’33 (note the similar cast and shared sets), but this was largely Schoedsack’s show and he proves the more fluid craftsman even if nothing could ever quite match this film's big brother. Still, Leslie Banks’s OTT villain even gives Kong a run for the money. He should be as well known as Karloff or Lugosi, using the facial paralysis he got in WWI to fabulous effect, staring madly at his victims, Joel McCrea and Fay Wray, who do lovely battle against him. Special note should be paid to Max Steiner’s groundbreaking background score, something new in ‘32, and to the amazingly sophisticated use of subjective POVs in the big climactic chase that Schoedsack extends over a full reel. He learned how to pull this off on his great 'fictional real-life' jungle thriller CHANG/'27. Don't miss that one, either!

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