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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)



Reviews and Comments

Is this the first "modern" action movie? Even though The Most Dangerous Game was made way back in 1932 and looks like an adventure film from the era, it feels like a more recent nonstop action movie. It's lean and mean, running just 63 minutes and racing through them at a full tilt. In the first eight minutes, there's a shipwreck and a shark attack. Then, after a brief lull to get to know the characters, the game is on. I don't know of any other movie from the period with this much adrenaline and momentum. Even King Kong, which was shot at the same time and with mostly the same cast and crew, stopped to breathe once in a while. Admittedly, King Kong was a better film, but there is something admirable and self-assured about the compactness of this one. It knows exactly what it is and wastes no time delivering what it's got. This movie has not a single spare part.

The movie is visually arresting, too. It provides a wonderful space for the characters to run around in: the action takes place on a jungle island, densely packed with cliffs, crevasses, waterfalls, and huge, ancient trees. One memorable shot shows the point of view of a character running blindly through the overgrowth.

Note: A colorized version of this film is inexplicably common, even showing up on the Criterion Collection DVD (which also has the black and white version). Avoid it. The colorization is gaudy. The black and white look, which is what the director intended, enhances the film's nightmarish effect.

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