Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Ahhhh, habit. Writing habits are a good thing, and I'm finally settling back into mine. It's a really good feeling, particularly after a night like tonight, where I whipped right through 1800 words in an hour. It was quite nice to realize I wasn't stopping every paragraph to check my word count (oooh, look ma, another 101 words... how exciting!), I just immersed and went. I did the math and I need 2000 words a day between now and Nov 30 to complete Nano. Definitely can't afford any slackage. And short stories, I've found, are a far more difficult thing to tackle in a Nano sprint than a novel. On a novel, you can just blithely plow ahead no matter what, and there's room to roam. That doesn't work so well with shorts. At least not with my shorts.

Speaking of shorts, Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" has always been one of my favorites. I had this very treasured book growing up called A World of Events that had all sorts of fiction and non-fiction in it. I read "The Most Dangerous Game" over and over until I had sections memorized. Probably one of those early influences that led me to believe that the scariest villain will always be another human being. Here's a photo from that book (of course, I still have it!). I always loved this particular picture. I always thought Zaroff looked like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in this drawing (click pic to make big). And Ivan always scared the pants off me, as I'm sure he supposed to. And yes, this book was a teacher's edition and has all sorts of interesting annotations in the margins.

So, since I did so well on writing tonight, I had time to watch the 1932 version of The Most Dangerous Game and not feel guilty. The movie changes a few things, naturally, from the short. Mostly in adding a woman to the mix. It is Hollywood, after all. Gotta have a woman around for the hero to protect. Fortunately she's played by Fay Wray and is a nice mixture of spunky, brave, and understandably a bit freaked. And despite her, the movie rather eerily captured exactly the feelings and atmosphere reading the story gave me. Weird. I didn't expect that at all. The jungle sets (same ones used in King Kong), the foggy swamp, they all looked like I used to imagine when I was a little girl. Being chased by a bloodthirsty pack of hounds... eiiii! Now there's something that always makes me cringe and hide on the couch. (Too much of The Hound of the Baskerville when I was young, I think!)

I expected the movie to be corny, and it wasn't at all, exact opposite, in fact. It was tense and the violence and a couple of the deaths quite gruesome. Some of the dialogue was even straight out of the short story. They shortened the timeline from the story's three days to 24 hours, and that suits the movie quite well. Injects a lot more tension into it, as there's no time for the hunted to rest. This Zaroff's also quite mad, where I never quite got that impression from the story version. That makes him quite creepy in the movie. Him and his forehead scar, and his post-kill cigarette, and mad buggy eyes. AHHHH! I have to admit, if I were Fay Wray in this movie, I'd rather take my chances in the jungle too than be anywhere near Zaroff. Particularly as going into the jungle means going with Joel McCrea, and I'd go with him anywhere.

Ah yes, Joel McCrea. The real reason this movie got bumped up to the top of my Netflix queue right now. Thirty years younger here than in Ride the High Country, still learning how to act, but he's still a wonderful combo of earnest and athletic and naturally relaxed. And he's already got that intense way of looking at his female co-stars, like time just stopped for him when they entered his view and nothing else in the world matters but them. Something about the way he's so laidback the rest of the time just makes it that much more arresting. He does this in every film I've seen so far where he's the romantic lead, and it's one of the absolute sexiest things I've ever seen from any male actor, and, out here in the audience, it melts me every time.

The Most Dangerous Game only has an hour running time, so I'll probably watch it again before I return the DVD. I've always wanted to see the Richard Widmark movie variant of this story, Run for the Sun, but somehow I don't think it will be nearly as satisfying as this one.


  1. Sounds interesting! I haven't seen THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, nor have I read the story.

    My most favorite short story is A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND.

  2. Oh! I LOVED A Good Man is Hard to Find! That story blew me away the first time I read it.