Naked Prey, The (1966)

“Man — lacking the will to understand other men — became like the beasts, and their way of life was his.”

Synopsis:
A safari leader (Cornel Wilde) in 1800s Africa is captured by a tribe, set loose with no clothing or weapons, and hunted by a group of warriors.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “brutal adventure movie” — which bears resemblance to The Most Dangerous Game (1932) in its tale of a man hunted as human prey — is indeed an “unusual, exciting, often frightening film”, with very little dialogue or plot. Although director/producer/star Cornel Wilde pushes the metaphor of “kill or be killed” a bit too far (the extraneous footage of African fauna in battle quickly becomes repetitive), it’s still remarkably exciting to see Wilde outrunning his captors, and using his substantial wits to survive.

What Peary curiously neglects to mention in his review, however, is the sticky issue of how the African natives are portrayed. On the one hand, Wilde respects the warriors as individuals, showing them stopping to mourn each other as they’re killed. And it’s undeniably refreshing to see Africans gaining a sort of revenge against the whites who so brutally invaded their culture. On the other hand, they’re still clearly posited as The Exotic Others: the women dance around without shirts on, the warriors are essentially portrayed as savage and uncivilized, and Wilde (The White Man) is the undisputed protagonist. On the whole, however, I would still vote for The Naked Prey as a rare mid-century American film which at least attempts to humanize Africans.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Cornel Wilde as The Man
  • Plenty of exciting action sequences

Must See?
Yes, to see Wilde in his most iconic role.

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One Response to “Naked Prey, The (1966)”

  1. A must – it’s too unique a film to ignore, though I don’t think it’s one that merits repeat viewings; you pretty much get what’s there first time out. (I first saw it at the movies, as a young’un, and have only seen it again now many years later. What I did not recall specifically, though, was the savagery of the film – i.e, the ritualistic murders of the safari team.)

    I’ll refrain from discussion re: how African natives are portrayed – except to say there is some weight there. Still, the film works on its own terms. (A particularly disturbing realization is that the tribal member who first speaks with Wilde does not – even though he has reason to – distinguish him as different from his greedy partner.)

    Being a bit of a sentimental slob, my fave sequences involve Wilde’s brief companionship with the African boy who saves his life.

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