A Game of Death (1945)
Director: Robert Wise
Starring: John Loder, Audrey Long, Edgar Barrier & Russell Wade
Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Readapting Richard Connell’s thrilling tale just over a decade after its pre-Code movie makeover from the directors of King Kong, A Game of Death is a briskly paced and suspenseful jungle-based adventure where the hunter becomes the hunted. Starring John Loder (How Green Was My Valley) as noted author and respected hunter Don Rainsford who after becoming shipwrecked, finds shelter in Erich Kreiger’s (Edgar Barrier, Macbeth) exotic island homestead. An isolated locale hosting fellow shipwrecked siblings Ellen (Audrey Long, Born to Kill) and Bob (Russell Wade, The Body Snatcher) Trowbridge, their welcoming host proves sinister as his homicidal tendencies to hunt humans across his vast land are revealed. Tensely orchestrated by the masterly Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting) while recycling selected footage from The Most Dangerous Game, A Game of Death never wanes in its excitement with commendable performances put forth by the respectably gruff Loder and deliciously wicked Barrier as the German human hunter who prefers a bow and arrows over rifles. Climaxing with a fog-entrenched pursuit through the island’s jungle greenery with hungry bloodhounds on Don and Ellen’s coattails, A Game of Death is a thoroughly entertaining catch, tonally reminiscent of the weekly film serials of the era with an unquestionably cinematic punch drawing viewers into its horrifying island of danger.
Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics proudly presents A Game of Death with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Bearing age-related traces of speckles and scratches to varying degrees, the 1945 black-and-white remake overwhelmingly impresses with its conveyed detail in Kreiger’s prize room and the dirt and blood stains found on Rainsford’s attire. Meanwhile, black levels bear strong deepness while, recycled footage from the ship’s destruction to instances of the hounds pursuing Don and Ellen show obviously grainier levels. Equipped with a basic-sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is decently relayed with increases in volume recommended to fully capture their entirety. Furthermore, mild instances of hiss are present but never deal-breaking on the track while, obscene cracks or pops are thankfully excused. Special features include, a richly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith and Trailers for The Quatermass Xperiment (2:13), The Earth Dies Screaming (2:14), 99 River Street (2:13) and No Highway in the Sky (2:09). An excellent second stab at Connell’s revered short story, A Game of Death keeps its suspense high and runtime swift ensuring a pulse-beating good time for all. Bestowing a solid HD remastering on the RKO thriller with a recommended audio commentary, KL Studio Classics have claimed another keeper in their hunt for film’s treasures.