This is a first rate remake of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME . The 1932 movie with Joel McCrae, Leslie Banks (as the mad Count Zaharoff )Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. It captures the best aspects of the short story, but not all the details. The same sets were re-used by the same production group (along with Fay Wray, Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot) for KING KONG shortly afterwards.
The hero is the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and finds himself on an island owned by the villain played by Leslie Banks. He is a master hunter, is insane, and has found there is only one game worth hunting – “the most dangerous game” or man, the only animal that one knows can think. He gives his “guests” (he has caused the shipwrecks) a good dinner or two, and then they proceed to run for their lives or until he kills them. But Rainsford is a trained hunter too. So for a change, Zaharoff really has a worthy opponent. The ending of the tale I will not give away.
But this 1956 film is an interesting version of the original. The scene shifts to an isolated jungle area of Mexico. Richard Widmark and Jane Greer are in a plane crash, and are rescued by Trevor Howard and Peter Van Eyck, both of whom are far from welcoming. Widmark is not sure, but he keeps thinking he knows Howard, although he’s never seen him. Then he realizes it’s Howard’s voice – he heard it in World War II, as a Nazi propaganda figure (a British traitor). In short, Howard is a version of William Joyce, “Lord Haw Haw” (see SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR). Van Eyck is Howard’s brother-in-law.
Howard and Van Eyck have been less than willing to help Widmark and Greer get back to civilization before, because they did not want to have them report them to the authorities – they are wanted for war crimes (at least Van Eyck is). Widmark, when he makes the mistake of discovering who his hosts are, suggests that if they help him and Greer get back, he can take a message to Howard’s loved ones about their safety. Unfortunately, Howard explains, his wife and children were killed in the war by bombing. As it is apparent that Van Eyck wants to see the strangers dead, Widmark and Greer take off to try to get to safety. And then the story follows the lines of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME.
But ironically there is a final twist to the tale. Howard has been connected to Van Eyck only by the marriage – personally he has no liking for the man. As it turns out, he would not mind if he could get out of the jungle – away from this remnant of a bloody, horrific past and so the film actually goes onto a somewhat different conclusion. We had better leave that to the viewer though.