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"The Most Dangerous Game" (also known as "The Hounds of Zaroff") is a 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 occupied by Zaroff, a bored old Russian general, who describes his one true passion: hunting. The general tells Rainsford that he only hunts [[TitleDrop the most dangerous game of all]]... humans. The full story can be found [[http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/danger.html 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, 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 TropeNamer of the HuntingTheMostDangerousGame plot.

!!The Most Dangerous Tropes:

%%* ActionSurvivor: Rainsford. In the film, Eve.
* AffablyEvil: More so in the movie than in the book, Zaroff is quite ruthless, but he can be very charming and polite when he's not hunting human beings. In both cases he quickly slides to FauxAffablyEvil.
* BigBad: General Zaroff, master of HuntingTheMostDangerousGame.
%%* BloodKnight: Zaroff.
%%* UsefulNotes/{{Cossacks}}: Ivan and Zaroff, see HuskyRusskie below.
* CurtainCamouflage: [[spoiler: Rainsford]] hides himself this way at the very end.
* DeadGuyOnDisplay: Zaroff keeps the heads of his victims as hunting trophies.
%%* DerelictGraveyard: Ship-Trap Island.
* DoubleEntendre: The title. One meaning is that the actual sport of hunting is the most dangerous game to play, but the other meaning is that humans are the most dangerous game to hunt. (And therefore the most challenging according to the hunter's logic.)
%%* TheDragon: A minor example in Ivan.
* DuelToTheDeath: 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. [[spoiler: It's pretty clear that Rainsford wins]].
-->[[spoiler: "He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided."]]
* EarnYourHappyEnding: Considering ''everything'' that happened to him, [[spoiler:Rainsford greatly deserves his victory]].
%%* EgomaniacHunter: General Zaroff.
* EvilCounterpart: Zaroff is what Rainford would be if he had [[AristocratsAreEvil a lot more money]] and a lot less scruples.
%%* FaceHeelTurn: One interpretation of the ending.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Zaroff casually converses with Rainsford about hunting and killing others.
%%* AGlassOfChianti
%%* GreatWhiteHunter: Rainsford.
* HatesEveryoneEqually: Zaroff mentions he doesn't care what race somebody is; to him, they're all prey.
%%* HuntingTheMostDangerousGame: TropeNamer.
* TheKillerBecomesTheKilled: The fate of [[spoiler:General Zaroff]]. Overlaps with HoistByHisOwnPetard and LaserGuidedKarma.
* HuskyRusskie: 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 [[UsefulNotes/{{Cossacks}} Cossack]]," said the general, and his smile showed red lips and pointed teeth. "So am I."
* IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace: Ship-Trap Island.
%%* InHarmsWay
* {{Irony}}: A big game hunter who dismisses his friend for empathizing with those they hunt (as he figures [[WhatMeasureIsANonHuman "who cares how the animal feels?"]] and [[SocialDarwinist "hunters have the right to do whatever they want to the hunted"]]) gets trapped on an island with another big game hunter who has decided to hunt ''him''. [[spoiler:Rainsfield manages to win his life, though whether he learned from his experience is left open]].
* ItAmusedMe: General Zaroff doesn't hunt people that he ''hates''; he does it for ''fun''.
%%* ManOfWealthAndTaste: General Zaroff.
* MotherRussiaMakesYouStrong: The reason Zaroff got bored with regular game, and why he finds Ivan so useful.
* NoChallengeEqualsNoSatisfaction: The whole purpose of both the story as well as the trope in general. The villain is a big-game hunter who got bored with dumb animals and started hunting humans who could present more of a challenge. Then he finds another almost equally-bored big-game hunter who would be even more of a challenge than random sailors who don't know how to really fight back.
* NotSoDifferent: As Zaroff himself notes when they first meet, Zaroff and Rainsford are both [[EgomaniacHunter Egomaniac]] {{Great White Hunter}}s from refined backgrounds (at least more than common sailors) who are so skilled they [[VictoryIsBoring find it difficult to find a challenge]]. The main difference is Rainsford draws the line at hunting and killing people, while Zaroff does not.
* OneNameOnly: Whitney and Zaroff have no first names, Ivan has no last name.
* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: [[spoiler: The climactic battle between Rainsford and Zaroff. Considering the general badassery of both characters, it can be assumed that it was quite a fight.]]
%%* ProudWarriorRaceGuy: Zaroff. He's a Cossack, so TruthInTelevision.
* PsychopathicManchild: Zaroff, essentially with his whole "I always get what I want" mentality.
* RuleOfThree: Rainsford makes three traps for Zaroff. The first time Rainsford makes a Malaccan man-catcher, which almost kills Zaroff, but the man dodges just in time. The second trap is a tiger pit with sharpened stakes, which succeeds in killing Zaroff's best hunting dog. The third trap is a Ugandan knife trap, which takes out [[spoiler:Ivan]].
* ScarilyCompetentTracker: As soon as the game begins Rainsford sets out on making the most confounding false trail he can, then covering up his real path. Zaroff finds him anyway.
* SensitiveGuyAndManlyMan: Rainsford's friend Witney and himself. While a fellow big game hunter, Witney at least acknowledges how much it would suck to be the hunted. Rainsford admonishes Witney for being "soft."
* TheSocialDarwinist: 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."
%%* TheSpeechless: Ivan.
* TheStraightAndArrowPath: Zaroff uses a bow when the hunt begins and in the climax.
* SummonBiggerFish: If the hunt has gone for three days with the huntee still outsmarting Zaroff, the general will release his hunting dogs.
%%* TastesLikeFriendship
* TeachHimAnger: Rainsford is far from helpless; but when he gets pushed to the limit, he gets ''mad.''
* ThereAreTwoKindsOfPeopleInTheWorld: Or rather "classes," regardless of species: the hunter and the huntee. Both Rainsford and Zaroff start off with this philosophy, but while Rainsford means humans are the hunters and animals are the huntees, Zaroff includes humans in the latter category.
* TsaristRussia: "Ivan once had the honor of serving as official [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knout knouter]] to the Great White Czar..."
%%* WarIsGlorious: According to General Zaroff.
* WeCanRuleTogether: Zaroff wants Rainsford to hunt with him, and only decides to make him the game after Rainsford refuses.
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman: Rainsford begins the story thinking the animals he hunts have no feelings, and if they do, who cares how they feel? They're just animals. Then he meets a SocialDarwinist EgomaniacHunter who measures humans and animals equally...
%%* WickedCultured: General Zaroff. Emphasized in the film.
%%* YoureInsane

!!Tropes particular to the 1932 film:

%%* AffirmativeActionGirl: Eve.
* AristocratsAreEvil: Zaroff is changed from a general to a count.
* AsLongAsItSoundsForeign: Russian-sounding gibberish from Zarnoff.
%%* BigNo: By Rainsford at the climax.
* {{Blackface}}: A very rare inversion, as the actor playing Ivan the Cossack (Noble Johnson) was actually a black man who wore "whiteface" to play a Cossack. This was easier to do in black-and-white.
* CanonForeigner: Eve and Martin, characters that weren't in the novel.
* TheChick: Eve, who pretty much does nothing but look pretty.
* CharacterTics: Count Zaroff has a tendency to rub his head scar whenever he's excited or thrilled.
* DisneyVillainDeath: Zaroff succumbs to his wounds by falling out the window, where his hunting dogs are waiting.
* {{Fanservice}}: Provided by Fay Wray.
%%* TheFilmOfTheBook
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: It is implied that Count Zaroff plans to make Eva a SexSlave after killing Rainsford.
* GoodScarsEvilScars: Zaroff has a large scar on the side of his skull, attributed to an encounter with a Cape buffalo. In RealLife, Leslie Banks was permanently disfigured fighting in UsefulNotes/WorldWarOne.
* HaveAGayOldTime: "That's queer, it's unlocked."
* HotterAndSexier: The film, compared with the original story. Sexual deviance is a major theme of the pre-Code movie. Check out the look of naked lust that Eve gives Rainsford while Zaroff is yammering on in the lounge room.
* ImADoctorNotAPlaceholder: "I'm a hunter, not an assassin!"
* LoveInterest: Fay Wray's character was added for the movie version.
* SacrificialLamb: Movie-exclusive character Martin serves this purpose. He's a drunk, lazy comic relief character whose only purpose is to display how Zaroff's game works and trigger the plot.
* SoleSurvivor: Rainsford is the sole survivor after the yacht he's on wrecks off the shore of Zaroff's island.
* TemptingFate: Rainsford, to his friends ''immediately'' before the ship crashes:
-->"[[ThereAreTwoKindsOfPeopleInTheWorld This world's divided into two kinds of people]]: the hunter and the hunted. Luckily, I'm the hunter, and nothing can ever change that."
* ThisCannotBe: Zaroff's final words are "Impossible!" before collapsing.
* TheUnsmile: Ivan gives one when Zaroff orders him to greet the new guest.