Catching up on some early Criterion releases – this was filmmakers Schoedsack and Cooper and star Fay Wray’s precursor to King Kong. The Old Dark House, Island of Lost Souls, Vampyr and Freaks were also released in 1932, an amazing year for horror and horror-hybrids.
Leslie Banks (protagonist of The Man Who Knew Too Much) lords over a tiny jungle island where he hunts and kills people who shipwreck on his trap reef. Fellow hunter Joel McCrea (eight years before Foreign Correspondent, which was previously the earliest of his movies I’d seen) escapes a boat full of boring disaster-bait yachtsmen, and pals up with Fay Wray, while her doomed drunk brother (Robert Armstrong, the Jack Black of the original Kong) is killed offscreen. Banks, a great villain who might’ve seemed hammy had Armstrong’s drunk routine not far out-hammed him, chases the young couple with his bow, rifle, dogs, and mute guard played by Noble Johnson, a black actor in white-face. McCrea lays traps, which pro hunter Banks detects, and the good guys only win because of a lucky cliff fall.
The story by Richard Connell (who also cowrote Thrill of a Romance) has been filmed a million times, starring the likes of Sid Haig, Jane Greer and Richard Widmark. Good, short movie with some slick motion-camera shots.