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  Naked Prey, The Red In Tooth And Claw
Year: 1966
Director: Cornel Wilde
Stars: Cornel Wilde, Gert Van den Bergh, Ken Gampu, Patrick Mynhardt, Bella Randles, Morrison Gampu, Sandy Nkomo, Eric Mcanyana, John Marcus, Richard Mashiya, Franklyn Mdhluli, Fusi Zazayokwe, Joe Dlamini, Jose Sithole, Horace Gilman
Genre: Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: South Africa in the mid-1800s and one man (Cornel Wilde) sets out to manage a safari for an obnoxious partner who plans to make his fortune in slavery once he has tried his hand at ivory hunting. The man claims this will be his last safari as he wishes to live out his days on his farm, but his companion (Gert Van der Bergh) disparages him for not following his lead. This fellow is going to be trouble, and it's not long before he has insulted a local tribe, considering them second class citizens as opposed to the man's efforts to get along with them. So when they finally get to shoot elephants, they suddenly become hunted themselves as the tribesmen attack...

Funnily enough, The Naked Prey was based on a true story, only that happened in North America and involved a trapper who had to escape from natives who had captured him. Due to money matters, it turned out to be cheaper for director and star Cornel Wilde to film in South Africa, so the location was changed and an interesting tension arose. This was a South Africa still labouring under Apartheid, and here was a film that had a respect for the black Africans while still portraying them as brutal: savages, even, a point that could not have been lost on anyone who saw it at the time.

This was a pet project for Wilde, and indeed became the best known of his self-directed films gaining a sizeable cult over the years for the film's uncompromising and unexpectedly violent nature, especially taking the year it was released into account. His Oscar-nominated writers were Clint Johnson and Don Peters, authors of his equally well-received war movie Beach Red, and they fashioned the survivalist themes into a tribute to untamed nature and man's place in that landscape. It could be accused of pretention, but you're not thinking about that when the hero is running for his life across the plains.

The safari is captured by the tribe who manufacture something of a carnival to kill them all off. Memorable deaths include the women of the village hacking one chap to death, a poisonous snake let loose on one victim in a ring of flames and most famously, the unfortunate covered in clay and held over a fire to be baked alive. Our hero is luckier, however, when he is stripped of everything and given a head start for a group to hunt him down; but against their expectations he kills the first hunter who catches up with him and scavenges a loincloth, water bottle, knife and spear from him then looks to be getting away.

Will he be caught? Their pride injured and their fellows picked off one by one by their supposed quarry, the hunters are more determined than ever that he be captured. Notable, apart from anything else, for being almost entirely without dialogue for long stretches, The Naked Prey makes it clear where it's coming from by including an abundance of nature footage: chiefly animals eating other animals, drawing the parallels that are undeniably effective in this context. But what most strikes you when you know of the social climate this was made in is the fact that the plot revolves around a white man killing black men, a pretty dicey topic that is cooled by making sure that the natives are never reduced to caricature. Then there's the little girl the man befriends along his journey - in between eating snakes and snails and bumping off his pursuers - a note of camaraderie across the races that even extends to grudging respect between him and the lead hunter (esteemed South African actor Ken Gampu). More complex than a simple Most Dangerous Game knock-off, Wilde's muscular direction elevates a film full of interest.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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