Friday, November 2, 2012
The Naked Prey (1966)
I remember Ginger from Asleep in New York raving about Cornel Wilde and dreaming about him in the buff. And in an episode of Mad Men, Don Draper is asked if he has seen The Naked Prey (1966). It's mentioned that Cornel Wilde is mostly naked in the film. Both of those nudity references got my interest piqued.
The Naked Prey (1966) is directed by Cornel Wilde who also stars in the film. He plays "the man" a nameless Westerner who is put in a very difficult situation. His colleague refuses to give a tribe a gift for their leader. This stirs their ire and their whole group, including members of another African tribe, are humiliated, tortured and killed. They leave Cornel Wilde's Man for last.
He's stripped down to nothing and released. He gets a head start but that's it. After a little while, a group of men from the tribe hunt him down like the naked prey he is.
I was both horrified by the story and impressed with Cornel Wilde's performance. I don't really see the appeal of watching Cornel Wilde naked on screen. He had a very fit body but given the circumstances of the story I just felt bad for him. No lust involved! In fact, I really just wanted to give him water and food.
The theme of predator versus prey holds the story together as the man continues to elude the tribal men who hunt him down. The man witnesses snakes killing birds, lions killing antelopes, and one tribe killing another tribe. It's interesting to watch how resourceful both prey and predator become in the game of life. The tricks both the man and his hunters develop in order to achieve their goal.
I highly admire Cornel Wilde for taking on such a project. There is very little dialogue, conditions must have been harsh and the work was very taxing on his body. I've read that he was ill during the filming and that at one point he was bitten by a snake. Also to expose his body like that, to both the elements and to film audiences, must have taken a lot of courage.
For me the hardest scene to watch was the stock footage of the elephants being shot down one by one. I also had a difficult time watching the captured men being tortured in various inhumane ways. The story was originally about Native Americans and took place in North America. However, the South African government gave the filmmakers an incentive to work on their land so the story was changed to suit the setting.
The movie is available on DVD from Criterion. You can rent it from Netflix. I recommend at least one viewing of this! It's quite a remarkable film.