Few stories have been adapted (or plagiarized) for the big screen than Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” (1924), and though the short story remains as popular and seeped in the cultural conciseness as ever, a good (or even adequate) film adaptation remains unrealized and out of arms reach. A terrific example of how not to adapt a classic short story is Ralph Brooke’s ‘Bloodlust!’ (1961), a film so hopelessly campy and unmemorable that the movie almost comes off more as a parody than an homage (or theft) of Connell’s classic tale.
The film stars Robert Reed (yes, you read that right: Mr. Brady from ‘The Brady Bunch) as Johnny, a young man who, along with his judo-expert girlfriend (yes, you read that right as well) Betty (June Kenney) and their friends Water and Jeanne (Eugene Persson, Joan Lora) go exploring on an island during an innocent fishing trip, only to discover that the island is inhabited by the insane Dr. Albert Balleau (Wilton Graff), a big-game hunter who has recently set his sights on the most dangerous game of all: man.
Although the plot of Brooke’s film is relatively faithful to Connell’s story, ‘Bloodlust’s “tone” and “atmosphere” could not be more alien and removed from the source material, resulting in a film that has almost none of the chilling atmosphere of Connell’s classic tale, and adds nothing to the story save tedium and confusion. Though the set-design of the film is worthy of some praise (its ghoulish and macabre locations occasionally offering a glimpse of hope that maybe something of interest or suspense might happen), the film’s mise-en-scène alone hardly justifies enduring the 68-minutes it takes to watch Brooke’s film.
Robert Reed does an adequate enough job in his role (given the material he was forced to work with), though the rest of the “acting” found in Brooke’s film can hardly be described as such, the principal cast producing a strange phantasmagoria of the wooden and the histrionic. Wilton Graff is easily one of the best examples of the latter issue, his performance of a jaded epicurean tainted with so much garrulous grandiloquence (try saying that three times fast) and strange posturing that it becomes impossible to take the man seriously as a villain, his character coming off being more “fay” than “fierce”.
But perhaps the most painful thing about Brooke’s film is this: it’s not bad, it’s only mediocre. A bad film can still be a fun experience, if only because its voluminous errors and ridiculous gaffs can ultimately transform it from a forgettable movie into an ironically entertaining pleasure (i.e. see Ed Wood’s entire career as proof). Unfortunately, ‘Bloodlust!’ is not bad enough to be a bad film. It’s terrible, to be sure, but not so terrible that one can have any fun with it, its most prominent gaffs consisting of long stretches of nothing happening, and dialogue that trails on and on forever.
Ultimately, Brooke’s ‘Bloodlust’ is a film that fails on two levels – its fails to be good entertainment, and it fails to be good fodder for fans of so-bad-its-good cinema. With the exception of a few hardy souls interested in seeing “Mike Brady” star in a horror film, Brooke’s ‘Bloodlust!’ has no real target audience, no real entertainment value, and ultimately, no real reason to even be seen. Certainly, making a “bad” film is a terrible mistake, but to make a “forgettable” film like Ralph Brooke did, is just plain unforgiveable.
Find the nearest Blockbuster (assuming they still exist) near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.