In 1932, a luxury yacht is sailing through a channel off the western coast of South America. Among the passengers is big game hunter and author Bob Rainsford. In discussing the sport with other passengers, Bob is asked if he would exchange places with the animals he hunts. After the yacht's owner disregards the captain's concerns about the channel lights not matching the charts, the ship runs aground, takes on water and explodes.
Theatrical release poster for The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Ultimately, Bob is the lone survivor, able to swim ashore to a small island nearby. He notices the channel lights off the shoreline change, and suspects the ship was deliberately led off course to its doom. Bob stumbles across a chateau where he becomes the guest of the expatriate Russian Count Zaroff, a fellow hunting enthusiast, who is familiar with Bob and his writings. Zaroff says four other earlier shipwrecked survivors are also his guests: Eve Trowbridge, her alcoholic brother Martin, and two sailors.
Later, Zaroff introduces Bob to the Trowbridges, and tells them his obsession with hunting became boring until he discovered "the most dangerous game" on the island. Bob doesn't understand Zaroff, who fails to explain further. Eve is suspicious of Zaroff and tells Bob the two sailors that survived with them have not been seen since each visited Zaroff's trophy room. During the night, when Martin also vanishes, Eve and Bob go to the trophy room where they find the "trophies" are human heads. Zaroff appears with Martin's body. Now realizing what prey Zaroff hunts, Bob calls him a madman and is restrained. Bob refuses Zaroff's offer to join him in hunting humans, and Zaroff tells Bob he must be the next prey. Like those before him, Bob will be turned loose at dawn, given a hunting knife and some provisions and allowed the entire day to roam the island until midnight, when Zaroff will begin his hunt. If Bob survives until 4 a.m., then Bob "wins" the game and Zaroff will give him keys to his boathouse so he can leave the island. Zaroff then says he has never lost what he terms "outdoor chess."
Eve decides to go with Bob, and Zaroff tells Eve he will not hunt her since she is a woman; but, if Bob loses, she must return with him. The pair spend most of the day setting a trap for Zaroff. But, when the hunt begins, Zaroff discovers the trap and begins a cat and mouse pursuit of Bob. Eventually, Bob and Eve are trapped by a waterfall. When Bob is attacked by a hunting dog, Zaroff fires a shot with his rifle; both Bob and the dog fall off the cliff into the water below. Presuming Bob is dead, Zaroff takes Eve back to his fortress to enjoy his prize. However, to Zaroff's surprise, Bob returns to the chalet, explaining that the dog was shot, not he. Zaroff admits defeat and presents the key to the boathouse, but Bob discovers him holding a gun behind his back. Bob first fights Zaroff, then his henchmen, killing the henchmen and mortally wounding Zaroff. As Bob and Eve speed away in the motor boat, the dying Zaroff tries to shoot them from a window with his bow. Unsuccessful, he succumbs to his wounds and falls into the pack of his frenzied hunting dogs below, implying that he has now become their “prey”.
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