Literature: The Most Dangerous Game
aka: Most Dangerous Game
"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 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, 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
This story provides examples of:
- Action Survivor: Rainsford. In the film, Eve.
- Affably Evil: 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 Faux Affably Evil.
- 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. Zaroff himself also counts.
- Blood Knight: Zaroff.
- Cossacks: Ivan and Zaroff, see Husky Russkie below.
- Curtain Camouflage: Rainsford hides himself this way at the very end.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Zaroff is ten steps ahead of Rainsford. Only being outwitted at the very end.
- Dead Guy on Display: Zaroff keeps the heads of his victims as hunting trophies.
- Derelict Graveyard: Ship-Trap Island.
- Double Entendre: The title. See the entry on the Double Entendre page for an explanation.
- The Dragon: A minor example in Ivan.
- 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.
- Face-Heel Turn: One interpretation of the ending.
- Faux Affably Evil: Zaroff casually converses with Rainsford about hunting and killing others.
- A Glass of Chianti
- Great White Hunter: Rainsford.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Trope Namer.
- The Hunter Becomes The Hunted
- 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
- It Amused Me: General Zaroff doesn't hunt people that he hates; he does it for fun.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: General Zaroff.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: the reason Zaroff got bored with regular game, and why he finds Ivan so useful.
- No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: 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.
- One Name Only: Whitney and Zaroff have no first names, Ivan has no last name.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The climactic battle between Rainsford and Zaroff. Considering the general badassery of both characters, it can be assumed that it was quite a fight.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Zaroff. He's a Cossack, so Truth in Television.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Zaroff, essentially with his whole "I always get what I want" mentality.
- Rule of Three: 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 Ivan.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: 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.
- 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."
- The Speechless: Ivan.
- The Straight and Arrow Path: Zaroff uses a bow when the hunt begins and in the climax.
- Summon Bigger Fish: If the hunt has gone for three days with the huntee still outsmarting Zaroff, the general will release his hunting dogs.
- Tastes Like Friendship
- Teach Him Anger: Rainsford is far from helpless; but when he gets pushed to the limit, he gets mad.
- Tsarist Russia: "Ivan once had the honor of serving as official knouter to the Great White Czar..."
- War Is Glorious: According to General Zaroff.
- We Can Rule Together: Zaroff wants Rainsford to hunt with him, and only decides to make him the game after Rainsford refuses.
- Wicked Cultured: General Zaroff. Emphasized in the film.
- You're Insane!
Tropes particular to the 1932 film:
- Affirmative Action Girl: Eve.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Zaroff is changed from a general to a count.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Russian-sounding gibberish from Zarnoff.
- Big "NO!": 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.
- Canon Foreigner: Eve and Martin, characters that weren't in the novel.
- The Chick: Eve, who pretty much does nothing but look pretty.
- Character Tics: Count Zaroff has a tendency to rub his head scar whenever he's excited or thrilled.
- Disney Villain Death: Zaroff succumbs to his wounds by falling out the window, where his hunting dogs are waiting.
- Fanservice: Provided by Fay Wray.
- The Film of the Book
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It is implied that Count Zaroff plans to make Eva a Sex Slave after killing Rainsford.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: 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 One.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "That's queer, it's unlocked."
- Hotter and Sexier: 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.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: "I'm a hunter, not an assassin!"
- Love Interest: Fay Wray's character was added for the movie version.
- Sacrificial Lamb: 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.
- Sole Survivor: Rainsford is the sole survivor after the yacht he's on wrecks off the shore of Zaroff's island.
- Tempting Fate: Rainsford, to his friends immediately before the ship crashes:
- This Cannot Be!: Zaroff's final words are "Impossible!" before collapsing.
- The Unsmile: Ivan gives one when Zaroff orders him to greet the new guest.