A Game of Death (1945)


*. In my notes on The Most Dangerous Game I mentioned the economy of that film being made using the same sets as King Kong. A Game of Death takes that economy a step further. In other words, it’s just cheap.
*. This is less than just a remake. For starters, it uses the same script. After a while I had to wonder what the explanation was for the two movies having different credits for screenplay (James Ashmore Creelman for the first movie, Norman Houston for this one). In Creelman’s hands it’s a script that doesn’t take much from Connell’s story aside from the basic premise, and Houston borrows the same set-up, with the Rainsford figure meeting a woman and her brother already on the island (characters not in the original story).
*. In addition, the structure of the plot and even big chunks of dialogue are lifted wholesale from The Most Dangerous Game. This isn’t an original screenplay at all. Changing the name of the master of the island from Zaroff to Kreiger seems kind of pointless, all things considered.
*. There is, however, a lot more borrowing than this. Even that crazy tapestry of the centaur carrying off the woman reappears (though they’ve at least changed the doorknocker). I wonder if that tapestry is still stored away in some prop department warehouse somewhere.
*. Like Leslie Banks’s Zaroff, Kreiger has a scar on his forehead he can’t stop rubbing, which is another addition Creelman made to the original story. And Noble Johnson is back playing the same role, albeit a different ethnicity (I think).
*. As if all of this wasn’t enough, in several instances footage has been cut-and-paste from the earlier film, like the shots of the ship blowing up and the men falling into the water, and the hounds running through the jungle. Hell, they even stick in some shots of Johnson from the first film, and damn the continuity!
*. Given so much has stayed the same, the question is whether anything has been improved. Put another way: if you’re familiar with the 1932 version, is this a movie worth bothering with?
*. My answer would be No. I can’t think of a single thing about A Game of Death that makes it better or more interesting than The Most Dangerous Game. The cast are just adequate, without anyone standing out. Edgar Barrier doesn’t even do a good Leslie Banks imitation and Audrey Long can’t play Fay Wray. Seeing as it’s 1945 the bad guys are Germans, with Kreiger’s hunting costume, complete with ceremonial dagger, looking rather SS. This would be a standard for villainy that was still being adopted ten years later in Run to the Sun. Unfortunately, it has the effect of making the bad guys seem more officious and subdued than the homicidal Cossacks. Why, there’s even a butler in the house.
*. Yes, they still have a trophy room, and even a head in a tank, but it doesn’t have the same gruesome shock value as it had in the earlier film.
*. “We may as well face the fact we’re dealing with a maniac.” “You mean that scar?” “Yes, a homicidal maniac.” Did I miss something?
*. The second half of the story makes a few cosmetic changes to the script. The brother is kept alive a bit longer, and Rainsford prepares another trap (which is then never used, or even mentioned, again). But mostly it’s the same film, almost shot-for-shot.
*. Obviously I didn’t think much of it. If the main point of interest in a movie is the question of why it was made in the first place you know you’re in trouble. I’d call this a footnote you don’t have to read.


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