The Most Dangerous Game (1932)/Steiner
December 30, 2012
While Richard Connell was a somewhat prolific writer of short stories, novels, and screenplays (nominated for Oscar in 1941 for “Meet John Doe”) he will be most remembered for his short story about hunting THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME(1925),a tale of man hunting man. It has been made for television, radio, and other movies several times, and even referenced by the Zodiac killer in one of his notes to San Francisco police. This early film of David O. Selznick has to rank at the top of the list. The cast of Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong was strong, all giving top notch performances with direction from Irving Pichel (“Dracula’s Daughter”) and Ernest B. Schoedsack with assistance from Merian C. Cooper who would later go on to film “King Kong.” In fact the jungle set was designed to be used by both films and a keen eye will spot this almost immediately.
The original score was composed by W. Franke Harling and Cooper found it to be more of a Broadway sound than a jungle island drama and rejected it. Does this remind you of Lambro/Goldsmith, Yared/Horner, or Shore/Howard? Apparently this rejection has been going on in Hollywood since the beginning of sound pictures. To my knowledge it is not available on the market and disappeared wherever these kind of things end up. Max Steiner was hired with very little time to do the soundtrack but he didn’t disappoint and turned out what was to be the early beginnings of a full orchestral work for a film, albeit a small orchestra. I consider this to be an early landmark in film scoring and a template that ended up being adopted by many other films.
The Main Title begins with the ominous two horn note motif (call of the hunter) which is used often in the score. It is a classic Wagnerian idea. The Wagnerian opera was definitely the template when Max sat down and began to write this score. There is a prelude which leads the listener to the major theme of the film followed by a brief romantic melody and ending with a danger sequence. The brass has already begun to work overtime and they are downright exhausted by the end of the 31+ minute soundtrack. I’ve included the Main Title as an audio clip as it gives a fine overview of the entire score. most dangerous game main titleRussian Waltz is a concert version of the main theme with a Rachmaninoff showy style cue performed by Leonid Makarevich in this reconstruction. In Incidental Music it is the same theme but the mood is an evil lurking one. The Chase will tire you out with its frantic pace of action and tension. This is the cue I discussed earlier that the brass is worn out by the time they finish. This is one of the better written action music sequences this reviewer has encountered. One can only imagine how black the music paper looked! Misterioso Dramatico, with the exception of the ending reminds one of the kinds of dramatic underscore music you’ll hear in King Kong.
Since a lot of the entire series offered by Morgan/Stromberg are now available on the budget Naxos label these have now become quite an incredible value especially if you invest in the Monster Music Box Set (8.506026) which this CD is a part of. Since this soundtrack was written for a smaller orchestra John Morgan kept this is mind when he reconstructed it. Believe me when I tell you that John and William are not becoming millionaires from these projects but are doing the industry a service by making this material available. The original soundtrack is rated no more than listenable and I would urge you to invest in this recording. It is ½ of a coupling with Son of Kong
William Stromberg conducts the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Playing Time is 31:49