In the late 19th century Africa, after insulting a local tribe, members of a safari are brutally killed by the offended party. Local natives do spare one person, the safari’s guide (Cornel Wilde, A Song to Remember), but they have plans for him. The guide is stripped naked and released into the jungle to be hunted like an animal.
Reaction & Thoughts:
When Cornel Wilde is set free naked in the wilderness as part of a bizarre tribal ritual, a gritty and suspenseful commences. Set against a beautiful but foreboding African landscape, The Naked Prey is an action film in its purest form — it’s a series of images stacked up against each other with the sole purpose of thrilling the audience.
The Naked Prey was allegedly inspired by a real-life incident that occurred in Wyoming in the 1800s. Wilde, who directed and co-produced the movie, initially intended to stay closer to the facts. In pre-production, the American West became Zimbabwe.
I have a long-held prejudice against actors-who-direct. My experience is that actors rarely understand the unique aspects of cinema. They often see movies as theater-with-a-camera, which in plain English means that actors really know very little about visual composition, sound, editing, etc.
To my utter shock, Wilde is able to create one helluva exercise in film technique — this is a fine example of “pure cinema.” There is little dialogue in the film. Wilde is confident enough to let the images tell the story — it’s essentially a silent film with sound effects. Cinematographer H.A.R. Thomson’s (No Blade of Grass) work is excellent.
The Naked Prey has a few problems, though. Wilde used stock footage of wildlife to demonstrate that nature is cruel. The extra-footage is of poor quality. The film also got into trouble with civil rights leaders who saw the movie as a study of white men’s superiority. I didn’t get that from The Naked Prey, but I can see how someone could (mis)interpret it that way.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Naked Prey wasn’t a financial success. Critics weren’t impressed either. The film has, however, become a cult classic. It isn’t as good as John Boorman’s Deliverance or Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort, but it’s worth your time. The movie was written by Clint Johnston and Don Peters. Color, 96 minutes, Rated R.