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(aka 'The Hounds of Zaroff')

directed by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack
USA 19
32

The Most Dangerous Game is a superb, pre-Code action-adventure film. Based upon a famous short story by Richard Connell, it follows big game hunter, Bob Rainsford, (Joel McCrea), as he becomes quarry for another, the opulently deranged Count Zaroff, (floridly played by Leslie Banks). Utilizing some of the amazing sets made for King Kong, the film is sometimes thought of as a place-holder to keep key cast and crew available during Kong's lengthy animation schedule. This included actors Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson and Steve Clemento, as well as editor Archie Marshek, composer Max Steiner, sound effects expert Murray Spivak, illustrators Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe, and optical effects wizards Vernon Walker and Linwood Dunn.

The strong story and theme, excellent production values, vigorous action and fast pacing make The Most Dangerous Game an exciting and more than satisfying entertainment after eighty years. Both picture and sound are scrupulously restored in high definition from the original 35mm studio fine grain master positive, and there is a full-length optional audio essay by Rick Jewell, Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of The RKO Story and The Golden Age of Cinema: Hollywood 1929-45.

***

“One of the best and most literate movies from the great days of horror,” The Most Dangerous Game stars Leslie Banks as a big game hunter with a taste for the world’s most exotic prey—his houseguests, played by Fay Wray and Joel McCrea. Before making history with 1933’s King Kong, filmmakers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack wowed audiences with their chilling adaptation of this Richard Connell short story.

Posters

Theatrical Release: September 9th, 1932 - USA

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Comparison:

Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Legend Films (colorized and b/w) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC -
MIDDLE

3) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 46 - Region 0 - NTSC Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:02:48  1:02:44  1:02:22.739 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.53 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.32 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,945,935,212 bytes

Feature: 10,505,306,112 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Criterion

Bitrate: Legend

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0) Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Subtitles English, None None None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by film historian Bruce Eder
• 6 page liner notes 


DVD Release Date: June 8th, 1999

Keep Case
Chapters: 20

Release Information:
Studio: Legend Films

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Ray Harryhausen on the Importance of a Music Score (2:30)
• James V. D'arc: Curator Merian C. Cooper Papers, BYU (4:29)

• John Morgan Composer on Max Steiner (7:13)

• Trailers for Things to Come and She

DVD Release Date: July 1st, 2008

Keep Case
Chapters: 8

Release Information:
Studio: Flicker Alley

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,945,935,212 bytes

Feature: 10,505,306,112 bytes

Video Bitrate: 20.98 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Two full-length audio essays - Rick Jewell for TMDG, and Matthew Spriggs for Gow
• Excerpts from an original audio interview with Merian C. Cooper conducted by film historian Kevin Brownlow (8:03)
• Booklet containing notes on each film by Merian C. Cooper as quoted in David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ronald Haver and by Emerson College professor, Eric Schaefer

Blu-ray Release Date: July 3rd, 2012
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 8

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray (July 2012): Flicker Alley have put the classic The Most Dangerous Game to Blu-ray. along with Gow (aka Cannibal Island) in a celebration of the filmmaking team of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. It is significantly brighter with more layered contrast than the previous DVDs. There is also more information on all 4 sides of the frame. The 1080P image shows frequent rounded corners. It is very clean with a bit of depth and generally looks solid on the single-layered Blu-ray disc. There is contrast flickering notable in the opening but the image settles down and the disc offers a pleasing presentation.

Unfortunately, Flicker Alley didn't go lossless with the audio but I'll wager it may not have made much difference. The limitations of the production would still show through although in uncompressed it may have had more depth to the soundtrack. So the audio is acceptable, and probably authentic, but is still imperfect. There are no optional subtitles on the region FREE Blu-ray disc.

Supplements are fabulous. We get two full-length audio essays - full-length optional audio essay by Rick Jewell, Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of The RKO Story and The Golden Age of Cinema: Hollywood 1929-45  for The Most Dangerous Game, and for the additional feature Gow (aka Cannibal Island) an audio essay by Matthew Spriggs, Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University and author of The Island Melanesians. I've only listened to Jewell's so far and it is excellent - filled with immense vintage information. There are also 8-minutes of excerpts from an original audio interview with Merian C. Cooper conducted by film historian Kevin Brownlow and a booklet containing notes on each film by Merian C. Cooper as quoted in David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ronald Haver and by Emerson College professor, Eric Schaefer.  

Another impressive package from Flicker Alley - and for fans of The Most Dangerous Game it is extremely enticing. Certainly recommended!

***

ON THE DVDs: ADDITION: Legend Films - May 09': Legend films came out with a dual colorized/black+white package with another Public Domain film; "The Most Dangerous Game". It compares reasonably well to the single-layered Criterion which shows more damage and cue-blip markers (see sample below) but looks a bit sharper with visible grain.  Whether you are in opposition to the colorization of classic films or not - it's always interesting to see the results. I'm not overwhelmed by this effort by Legend Films. Mostly, I find it looks quite a bit more artificial than some of their similar DVD projects. The trouble with this film is you can't dramatically improve the detail. It will probably always remain somewhat hazy. The film is more than 75 years old and both DVDs have some contrast flickering.

Legend don't offer subtitles on this one where Criterion have their usual optional English. Audio on both remains a bit scratchy mimicking the image quality.

Despite the listing of supplements Legend's extras consist of three separate brief sound bites from Ray Harryhausen, James V. D'arc and composer John Morgan lasting less than 15-minutes. Criterion's Edler commentary and liner notes essay by Bruce Kawin have much more value.

The film gained some prominence for its mention in David Fincher's Zodiac but I've never found this as appealing as other representatives of the genre from the classic era - despite the excellent storyline. I don't believe I have revisited it for many years prior to recently viewing the colorized version for this review.

The colorization is a curiosity and to be fair to Legend films - it's appreciated and important of them to include the original black+white version along with it. These are both superior to the many cheaper PD-bandit version available but the Criterion still rules on all fronts.

***



 

ON THE CRITERION DVD (written in 2000): This film is public domain and hence has had some atrocious transfers by other DVD distributors. Criterion have done a nice number on this one. There is quite a lot of flickering in the beginning. The commentary is sound, but the real trouble with this release is the film is just over an hour long. The data on the disc only takes up 3.5 gig... room for double the info!  Audio is relatively weak for this DVD, but keep in mind it is from 1932. Overall its the type of early horror that I love to own in my collection, yet don't have the desire to watch it often. It's appeal seems to be dated. Still, the best it will look and sound out side a huge retrospective that most likely won't happen.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


DVD Menus

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC -
RIGHT

 

 
 

 

Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Capture

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


Notice "cue-blip" on Criterion - used for reel change indication

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP
2) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Black/White - SECOND
3) Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC - Color - THIRD

4) Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


 

 

GOW (1931, 63 min.) is not only a true curiosity but also in many ways a key influence of later Cooper and Schoedsack productions including King Kong. The footage in Gow was produced by Edward A. Salisbury, a wealthy British adventurer, who in 1920 set sail in an 80-ton yacht equipped with a motion picture laboratory to, in his words, catch and hold for history a photo record of the fast–disappearing races of the South Seas Islands”. Cooper and Schoedsack were among the cameramen on this two-year expedition that documented genuine head-hunters and cannibals along its route. The material was originally released as four separate films in the silent era and was consolidated as the film Gow, The Headhunter for an illustrated lecture by expedition member William Peck. Peck recorded his own cringe-inducing commentary in 1931.

 

Gow was reissued as an exploitation film into the 1950s under the title Cannibal Island, but it was made with a serious purpose. True to Salisbury’s intent, it indeed documents vanished cultures and is brilliantly illuminated here with an exclusive audio essay by Matthew Spriggs, Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University and author of The Island Melanesians. Gow is mastered for this edition in high definition from the original 35mm fine grain master positive.

 

 


Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 46 - Region 0 - NTSC Legend Films - Region 1 - NTSC Flicker Alley - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 



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Gary Tooze

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