The Most Dangerous Game
I hated school when I was a kid and high school was the absolute worst of the worst. Yet, even among the soul sapping powers of public education, I was able to find some joys. English class was always hit or miss, but when it hit, it was great. During those classes, I was required to read books I would never have found on my own. One of my lasting favorites is The Most Dangerous Game.
Written by Richard Connell in 1924, it’s remarkable how well the story holds up. It’s a short story and easy to read in a quick sitting but the book is entertaining to the last page. Sanger Rainsford is hunter who falls overboard in the middle of the night. He swims to the nearest island and finds himself on the game preserve of General Zaroff, a hunter who’s grown bored of the sport. During dinner, it is revealed that Zaroff has invented a new type of animal to hunt. Connell plays with the reader a bit, not giving the answer right away but the hints are too strong to miss. Zaroff is hunting men.
Of course, Rainsford is appalled by the idea and Zaroff can’t see why. Soon, Rainsford is running for his life in the jungle, with Zaroff on his trail. The story now becomes a cat and mouse chase between the two men, with Rainsford constantly trying to keep his nerve. No matter how clever Rainsford is, Zaroff always seems one step ahead of the game. The story ends in a climatic way, for its time, and the twist in the final is rewarding;the last sentence has a morbid sense of satisfaction.
The story is nearly perfect. Simple, with few characters to bog it down, the plot is a freight train. Each scene moves quickly to the next, never stalling. Even in his quick writing, Connell is able to create a foreboding and isolating mood. The reader knows that no matter where Rainsford runs to, he’s trapped on that island. Zaroff is the right kind of crazy to be absolutely convinced of his reasoning.
The story was adapted by RKO in 1932, by the same men who would go on to make King Kong. You can see how each influenced one another. The island was used both for The Most Dangerous Game and King Kong, both starred Fay Wray, and both experimented with special effects to enhance the thrill.
The movie separates itself from the book in a few ways. Rainsford isn’t the only one being hunted; he has the beautiful Eve along with him. Zaroff is a count, not a general. The hunt lasts twenty-four hours instead of taking place over the course of three days. The ending is changed as well, mainly to add more drama and to see Rainsford save the girl.
While the movie isn’t a perfect adaption of the book, it could be worse. The film is only an hour long and shares the fast pace of its source material. The movie stands on its own; it’s more of an example of early film history and adventure movies than adaptation.
Honestly, it’s strange to think that the story hasn’t been adapted into a new movie. The book has gone on to influence plenty of other stories, with The Condemned and The Hunger Games being the most recent examples. Brian K. Vaughan used the story as the basis of one of his arcs and even Ultimate X-MenJumanji had a crazy white game hunter after Robin Williams.
The story has been one of my favorites since I read it. I’m not sure what it is about the book that hits me the right way. It’s an island adventure, a prolonged chased, and a commentary on hunting. When I was taking an animation class, we had to come up with our final project. The final had to be about three minutes long and we needed to script it out. I decided to go the way of adaptation and since The Most Dangerous Game is a simple story, I used the book as my project. I took major liberties with the story, going the route of geekery and comedy, but I was glad to have used the story for the betterment of my grade point average. Plus, I got to add Velociraptor to the story! I hope you like the video.
If you haven’t read the book, do it now. You can read it for free here or download it to your eReader for . Most people have probably read it in school, but even if that’s true for you, I would suggest rereading it. It holds up remarkable well and is a great way to spend thirty minutes. cheap