Based on a famous story by Richard Connell, a big game hunter is hunted by a fanatic on his island.
On a cabin cruiser the captain suspects the charts near a certain island. A doctor notes that animals killing to survive are called savage, while humans hunting for sport are considered civilized. He asks big game hunter Robert Rainsford (Joel McCrea) if there is as much sport for the tiger. Misplaced buoys cause the ship to run aground and sink. The captain and the doctor are killed by sharks, but Rainsford swims ashore and finds an old castle. Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks) says that survivors of a previous wreck are still in the house. Rainsford meets Eve (Fay Wray) and her brother Martin, who are stranded there. Zaroff has read Rainsford's books on hunting. He hunts at night, and a guest has been missing for three days. Eve spills her tea on purpose and mentions danger while Zaroff is talking about his hunting and how it began to bore him until he found a new animal, the most dangerous one. While Zaroff plays the piano, Eve tells Rainsford that two men have disappeared from the trophy room. Zaroff takes the drunk Martin into the trophy room as Eve and Rainsford retire to their rooms.
Several hours later Eve asks Rainsford to help find her brother. Zaroff's men carry the dead Martin into the trophy room. Zaroff has his men chain Rainsford, and he carries off Eve. Then he explains his game to Rainsford: he will give him a knife and one day's start, or he will be tortured if he refuses. Zaroff implies that the reward of the hunt will be Eve; but if they survive till the next dawn, he will free them both. Rainsford and Eve make a trap from a falling tree. Zaroff starting at midnight trips the trap with an arrow; then he returns with a rifle and calls for his dogs. A spear Rainsford buried stabs one of Zaroff's men. Rainsford and Eve flee through the swamp and climb a tree. Rainsford says he knows now what the animals he hunted felt. By a waterfall Rainsford fights with a dog; Zaroff shoots, and both he and the dog fall into the waterfall. Zaroff's man grabs Eve. After dawn in the castle Rainsford comes in, and Zaroff congratulates him. Zaroff reaches for a gun, and they fight. Rainsford defeats Zaroff and another man in turn, finally stabbing Zaroff with his own arrow. Rainsford takes the gun and shoots a pursuing man. He and Eve escape in the boat as Zaroff dies.
This story brilliantly reveals to humans what it is like to suffer from predators who hunt for sport. Hunters are shown to be even more savage than carnivorous beasts who hunt to survive. For Zaroff the thrill of hunting has become confused with sexual ecstasy that may follow it.