The Most Dangerous Game
The Most Dangerous Game (also known as The Hounds of Zaroff) is the 1924 short story by Richard Connell.
Rainsford, a hunter of big game from New York, finds himself shipwrecked on an island. He finds a big mansion with a bored old general there, who describes his one true passion: hunting. The general tells Rainsford that he only hunts the most dangerous game of all... humans. The full story can be found here. The title has a double meaning, referring both to a "game" or contest between the general and his quarry, as well as "game" in the sense of an animal that is hunted.
The story has been directly adapted for film at least eight times, though only twice under its original title: in 1932, with Joel McCrea as Rainsford and Leslie Banks as Zaroff (available at archive.org), and in 2008, with Brian Spangler-Campbell and Mark Motyl, respectively. However, it has been imitated by a vastly greater number of works, and is the source and Trope Namer of the Hunting the Most Dangerous Game plot.
- Action Survivor: Rainsford.
- Affably Evil: Zaroff.
- Alcohol Is Poison: In the first film (made during Prohibition), the first person we see Zaroff hunt is a drunken boor. This was deliberate on the part of the director.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Zaroff is changed to a Count, rather than a General in the original film.
- Badass: The main character. Not only manages to survive three days in the woods, but also kills two of Zaroff's best hounds and his bodyguard, followed by Zaroff himself.
- Blood Knight: Zaroff.
- Cossacks: Ivan and Zaroff, see Husky Russkie below.
- Derelict Graveyard: Ship-Trap Island.
- Disney Villain Death: In the original film, Zaroff succumbs to his wounds by falling out the window, where his hunting dogs are waiting.
- Double Entendre: The title. See the entry on the Double Entendre page for an explanation.
- Duel to the Death: Rainsford and Zaroff square off at the end of the story; the winner gets to sleep in Zaroff's opulent bed, while the loser's body will be fed to the hounds. It's pretty clear that Rainsford wins.
He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided.
- Egomaniac Hunter: General Zaroff.
- For the Evulz: Killing people is Just for Fun with General Zaroff.
- A Glass of Chianti
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: In the original film, Zaroff has a large scar on the side of his skull, attributed to an encounter with a Cape buffalo. In Real Life, Leslie Banks was permanently disfigured fighting in World War I.
- Great White Hunter: Rainsford.
- Imperial Russia: "Ivan once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White Czar..."
- The Hunter Becomes The Hunted
- Heel Face Turn: One interpretation of the ending.
- Husky Russkie: Ivan; also, Zaroff.
"Ivan is an incredibly strong fellow... A simple fellow, but, I'm afraid, like all his race, a bit of a savage."
"Is he Russian?"
"He is a Cossack," said the general, and his smile showed red lips and pointed teeth. "So am I."
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Ship-Trap Island.
- In Harm's Way
- Man of Wealth and Taste: General Zaroff.
- Modern Minstrelsy: Inverted in the first film. The actor playing Ivan the Cossack (Noble Johnson) was actually an African-American, who went on to have a respected career. This was one of the first ever instances of a black actor donning "whiteface" for a role.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: the reason Zaroff got bored with regular game, and why he finds Ivan so useful.
- Ms. Fanservice: Fay Wray's character.
- One Name Only: Whitney and Zaroff have no first names, Ivan has no last name.
- Prop Recycling: The first movie reused the jungle sets (as well as the stock screams) from King Kong (they were being filmed at the same time, Kong in the daytime and Game at night).
- Promoted to Love Interest: The film version adds Fay Wray for exactly this reason.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Zaroff, essentially with his whole "I always get what I want" mentality.
- Social Darwinist: General Zaroff.
"I refuse to believe that so modern and civilized a young man as you seem to be harbors romantic ideas about the value of human life... Life is for the strong, to be lived by the strong, and, if needs be, taken by the strong. The weak of the world were put here to give the strong pleasure. I am strong. Why should I not use my gift? If I wish to hunt, why should I not? I hunt the scum of the earth: sailors from tramp ships--lascars, blacks, Chinese, whites, mongrels--a thoroughbred horse or hound is worth more than a score of them."
- Tastes Like Friendship
- Teach Him Anger: Rainsford is far from helpless; but when he gets pushed to the limit, he gets mad.
- Tempting Fate: Rainsford, to his friends immediately before the ship crashes.
"There are two kinds of people in this world: the hunter and the hunted. And I'm not about to become the hunted anytime soon."
- The Un-Smile: in the film, Ivan gives one when Zaroff orders him to greet the new guest.
- War Is Glorious: According to General Zaroff.
- World War I: Mentioned in both Rainsford and Zaroff's back story.
- Wicked Cultured: General Zaroff. Emphasized in the film.
- You're Insane!