Run for the Sun
Richard Widmark, Trevor Howard
(USDVD release date: ; USDVD release date: ; 1956)
Richard Connell has a lot to answer for. When he wrote the O. Henry Prize-winning adventure story “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924), about a man stranded on an island where a mad millionaire hunts him for sport, he couldn’t have known his instant classic would inspire countless official and unofficial adaptations down to the present day, including a certain movie and juvenile book series with Games in the title.
If this inspires anyone to go back to the source, Connell’s story is easy to find in anthologies. So is the first film version from 1932, co-directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel and produced by Merian C. Cooper at the same time Schoedsack and Cooper were making King Kong. It’s floated in the public domain for decades, and there’s even a Criterion DVD. Now Flicker Alley has issued a Blu-Ray “scrupulously restored in high definition by Lobster Films from the original 35mm studio fine grain master positive” and accompanied by commentary by Rick Jewell.
A real bonus draw is the much rarer Gow, the Headhunter, a 1931 film that compiles silent footage shot in the 1920s by British adventurer Edward A. Salisbury, whose mission was to document vanishing tribes of the South Seas. His cameramen included (surprise!) Cooper and Schoedsack. The 1931 commentary by William Peck is a product of the patronizing white man, so you may be better off switching to the modern commentary by archeologist Matthew Spriggs. A booklet includes an article on how Gow was released through the 1950s as an exploitation film called Cannibal Island.
There’s also a revealing passage by Cooper on how and why they filmed Game and King Kong on the same sets. As he points out, their film version of Connell’s story added the romantic angle between the hero (Joel McCrea) and a stranded damsel (Fay Wray), and it also added the plot devices of the hunting traps. Cooper said, “It’s been remade several times, but each time the people who did it used our concept, the traps and the love story and all.”
Proving his remarks is the third official film version, Roy Boulting’s Run for the Sun (1956), now available as a made-on-demand DVD-R from MGM Limited Editions. Although Connell’s source is credited, the script by Boulting and Dudley Nichols has nothing from it except a jungle manhunt. Even the central conceit of an insane hunter who shoots men for fun has been thrown out.
The set-up presents the soap opera of a plucky yet stylish woman writer (Jane Greer) who tracks down a reclusive Hemingway-esque novelist (Richard Widmark) in a tiny Mexican village. Sparks fly. Then she’s accidentally responsible for crashing their small aircraft in the jungle. They are rescued by characters (Trevor Howard, Peter Van Eyck) with a very contemporary reason for hiding far from civilization (although it would have made sense for them to go to South America, but never mind). The hunt that occupies the last act is sensibly motivated and reasonably exciting, making this a successful re-imagining that has little in common with Connell and much more with Cooper and Schoedsack.
So if you’re hungry for dangerous game-players a little more mature, as visualized in projects a bit longer in the tooth yet still satisfyingly sleek, there are plenty of options for a home-video huntapalooza.