A Game of Death (1945)
A legendary big game hunter is shipwrecked and lands on an island where a reclusive man and his motley crew of servants has been trapping humans and hunting them like wild game. A great idea, and this movie is pretty good at making an entertainment about it.
It's not helpful to jump to the obvious, I suppose, but for those of us who have seen the two major versions of this sordid and contrived tale, the original short story is much better. In fact, the "The Most Dangerous Game" (as the Richard Connell story is called) has wit and drama and surprise, and an economy of telling, that makes it a classic and very readable still.
So this 1945 version of "The Most Dangerous Game" falls short partly because it doesn't want to be as chilling and scary as the story. For one thing, it adds a shade of romance to the thing which cheapens the real essence of the conflict. When our hero, played by John Loder, arrives he finds a pretty young woman (Audrey Long) and her brother are captives there from an earlier wreck, and so we all know the brother is expendable and the man and woman are likely to win the day and drive off in the sunset at the end.
Which ruins the point. The original has a tension of survival built in. It really does turn around the notion of the hunter becoming the hunted. The crazed hunter in this case, since it's 1945, is a German named Erich Kreiger (played by the very American actor Edgar Barrier, who came out of Orson Welles's Mercury players, and who played Banquo in the Welles MacBeth a couple years later).
While we are name dropping, the director is the young Robert Wise, who it might be said never made a bad film in his life, and who had his own start as an Orson Welles tagalong. Even here, where the thrust of it is watered down, there are so many visually terrific parts it is a thrill to watch. In particular are the night shots of the pursued couple in the jungle, with moving camera through the weeds presaging the more famous running shots of Kurosawa's "Rashomon." In fact, the whole movie is very well made and edited, clearly an intelligent technical achievement. On that level, you can watch it with real pleasure.
And the plot will just carry itself along. If you like this at all you should find the Joel McCrae and Fay Ray version from 1932, called "The Most Dangerous Game." It was shot partly on the "King Kong" sets at night when the more famous film crew was at home in bed, except Fay Ray, who of course was the heroine in both. It's essentially the same idea, with Max Steiner music, and it was here that the brother and sister were added to the Connell plot. You can also look for the very good Richard Widmark version, which has a very different feel and intention but ends up with the same hunter becoming hunted scenario, called "Run for the Sun" (1956), currently streamable on Netflix.
A Game of Death
A Game of Death
A remake of Richard Connell's famous short story, "The Most Dangerous Game," about a madman who hunts human prey on his personal island habitat.
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July 17, 2018 at 03:53 PM