The Naked Prey

Shot on location in Africa, with excellent African actors speaking their own language, The Naked Prey is, as Peter Davalle writes, “a desperately well-meaning piece dedicated to the axiom that if you scratch Man, you will find Animal snarling just under the skin.... (Star-producer-director) Cornel Wilde is Man... a white hunter in Africa, period 1840. Lone survivor of a safari butchered by the natives, Man is given what the tribesmen call ‘The Chance of a Lion.' He is stripped of his clothes and weapons and given 10 seconds' start after which a bunch of native hunters, each of whom has killed 10 lions, will chase him across the wildlands and give him a taste of his own medicine. Survival then is the theme.... Man is both a sentient being and a killer. He can interchange his roles of hunter and prey with ease... no less subject to the laws of the jungle than... animals....

“As for the native pursuers... savage when provoked... they are shown to be capable of deep grief (usually, in the cinema, the exclusive prerogative of Whities)... ready to respect exceptional bravery in an enemy. With the natives, Wilde's argument reaches its apotheosis: nothing is entirely good, or bad. Everything is relative... at heart, we are all primitives.”

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