Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies

The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous Game
The Most Dangerous Game

In 1932, a film was released, the plot of which may have influenced some serial killers. The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks and Fay Wray, was based on a short story by Richard Connell. A cabin cruiser wrecks off the coast of a remote island, and its three passengers reach the island safely. They encounter the man who owns the island, the enigmatic Count Zaroff, who invites them to stay. He seems to be a gracious host, but he has a hidden agenda: He likes to hunt and he needs more prey — humans.

The RKO Studio then remade the film as A Game of Death and released it in 1945. Directed by Robert Wise, it received poor reviews. Many television series used the plot as a foundation for an episode, and other filmmakers have been inspired by the original premise. Thus, the human-as-prey notion has become engrained in our culture.

A Game of Death
A Game of Death

It's not surprising, then, that "hunting humans" would occur to serial killers within the framework of a challenging game. In June 1983, Alaskan police were faced with a strange story told to them by a young prostitute in Anchorage. She claimed that a redheaded john had tortured and raped her, and had planned to fly her to a remote cabin, but she had escaped. She identified the home of local baker, Robert Hansen, as the place where she'd been raped, but he insisted she was lying. Yet the remains of several women had turned up in the wilderness, shot or stabbed, and most had been prostitutes.

Robert Hansen
Robert Hansen

The local police invited the FBI's profiling unit to assist in developing a warrant and a set of questions for Hansen. The warrant turned up a weapon that ballistics matched to bullets removed from the murdered women; it also turned up their missing jewelry and IDs. Hansen finally admitted using his victims as "game." For a sexual thrill, he would drop them off, naked, in the wilderness and hunt them down. He showed detectives on a large aerial map where he had buried victims, identifying gravesites, and the detectives took him along as they went to search each location. He was able to lead them to the burial places of twelve women not even known to be dead. On February 18, 1984, he pled guilty to only four of the murders and was sentenced to 461 years, plus life. By May that year, investigators had found seven of the bodies at the gravesites that Hansen had shown them.

Another movie had a definite influence on several serial killers, many of whom found within it their ultimate fantasy of sexual enslavement.

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