Some fun facts for film aficionados – the original King Kong was the first movie to ever get an audio commentary, as part of its 1985 laserdisc release from Criterion. It was the company’s second home video release, following only Citizen Kane (another picture produced by RKO, which, funnily enough, has stock footage from Son of Kong in one of its background scenes, accounting for some inexplicable pterodactyls in an otherwise conventional drama). While the company never reissued those films, they still to this day distribute King Kong‘s sibling as the 46th entry in their collection: The Most Dangerous Game, and will likely do so in perpetuity, since it’s public domain.
The 1932 film shares much with King Kong, though its lack of a monster (unless man is the true monster?) made me hesitate to include it here at first. However, it’s worth noting because it’s an underrated and influential classic (films from Hard Target to Zodiac to Predator draw inspiration), and because of its ties to the King Kong production.
Based on a 1924 short story by Richard Connell, the movie has a big game hunter getting shipwrecked on a remote island, owned by an eccentric aristocrat sharing a passion for hunting, though he’s interested in a particularly tricky and ferocious beast….human! Being a pre-code film, there’s some great gruesome content that censors would have none of (especially the human trophy room), and, like King Kong, there was some heavy editing done after the fact. You can already tell some similarities, both being adventure films set on a remote island, but let us share two images with you:
It’s the same set. Also, if you zoom in on one of the figures in the first shot, you might notice Ann Darrow herself, actress Fay Wray, sans blonde wig. Her brother in the picture is played by Robert Armstrong, better known as Carl Denham. The picture has a score by Max Steiner, like King Kong, and was also produced by Cooper and co-directed by Ernest Schoedsack. You see, this is the incredible thing: this team of people shot the two movies concurrently, filming Kong all day and then turning around to film Game by night. With that sort of regimen, it’s shocking that what they turned in was even passable, but both films are A-grade material worthy of shelf space in even a modest horror fan collection.
If you haven’t checked it out, it’s a brisk 62 minutes, meaning you can do a double-feature of it and King Kong in less time than it takes to watch the 2005 Kong flick. Maybe watch one film by day and the other by night to really replicate the production experience!
Ooh, how cool would a crossover be, with Count Zaroff going hunting on actual Skull Island?