The two features on this Blu-ray publication honor the extraordinary lives of filmmaking team Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack as their "distant, difficult and dangerous productions" evolved from pure documentary (Grass), through semi-documentary (Chang) and semi-fiction (The Four Feathers), to their fictional apogee in King Kong (1933).
The Most Dangerous Game (1932):
The Most Dangerous Game is a superb, pre-Code action-adventure film. Based upon a famous short story by Richard Connell, it follows big game hunter, Bob Rainsford, (Joel McCrea), as he becomes quarry for another, the opulently deranged Count Zaroff, (floridly played by Leslie Banks). Utilizing some of the amazing sets made for King Kong, the film is sometimes thought of as a place-holder to keep key cast and crew available during Kong's lengthy animation schedule. This included actors Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson and Steve Clemento, as well as editor Archie Marshek, composer Max Steiner, sound effects expert Murray Spivak, illustrators Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe, and optical effects wizards Vernon Walker and Linwood Dunn.
The strong story and theme, excellent production values, vigorous action and fast pacing make The Most Dangerous Game an exciting and more than satisfying entertainment after eighty years. Both picture and sound are scrupulously restored in high definition from the original 35mm studio fine grain master positive, and there is a full-length optional audio essay by Rick Jewell, Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of The RKO Story and The Golden Age of Cinema: Hollywood 1929-45.
Gow The Headhunter (1931):
Gow is not only a true curiosity but also in many ways a key influence of later Cooper and Schoedsack productions including King Kong. The footage in Gow was produced by Edward A. Salisbury, a wealthy British adventurer, who in 1920 set sail in an 80-ton yacht equipped with a motion picture laboratory to, in his words, catch and hold for history a photo record of the fast–disappearing races of the South Seas Islands”. Cooper and Schoedsack were among the cameramen on this two-year expedition that documented genuine head-hunters and cannibals along its route. The material was originally released as four separate films in the silent era and was consolidated as the film Gow, The Headhunter for an illustrated lecture by expedition member William Peck. Peck recorded his own cringe-inducing commentary in 1931.
Gow was reissued as an exploitation film into the 1950s under the title Cannibal Island, but it was made with a serious purpose. True to Salisbury’s intent, it indeed documents vanished cultures and is brilliantly illuminated here with an exclusive audio essay by Matthew Spriggs, Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University and author of The Island Melanesians. Gow is mastered for this edition in high definition from the original 35mm fine grain master positive."
Starring: Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson, and Steve Clemento
Directed By: Merian C Cooper, Edward A. Salisbury
Written By: Arthur Bernède, Louis Feuillade
Score By: Max Steiner
Video: 1080P / 1.33:1 / Black and White
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Theatrical Release: 1932 / 1931
Runtime: 60 Minutes / 63 Minutes
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Region Code: Region Free (A/B/C)
Special Features: In addition to the two full-length audio essays, additional bonus features in this set include a booklet containing notes on each film by Merian C. Cooper as quoted in David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ronald Haver and by Emerson College professor, Eric Schaefer, as well as excerpts from an original audio interview with Merian C. Cooper conducted by film historian Kevin Brownlow.
Genre: Adventure, Horror, Mystery, Documentary