The Naked Prey (1965)

Rating: C+

Dir: Cornel Wilde
Star: Cornel Wilde, Ken Gampu, Gert Van den Bergh, Bella Randles

Certainly a product of its time (1966), Wilde plays a big-game hunter in Africa whose party is captured by natives after refusing to give them “gifts”. The rest are killed in inventive fashion (baked in clay!), but he gets an arrow-shot start as the prey for a group of huntsmen. However, he kills the first one to reach him, becomes armed, and it’s a much more even battle, as he makes his way across country toward the fort from where he started out. And it’s not just the natives who’re a problem; the local wildlife, and even his own needs for food must be overcome.

There’s very little dialogue after the first ten minutes, since the hero is mostly alone, and the tribesmen aren’t subtitled. This does make it something of a challenge and doesn’t encourage much connection to them – you could certainly argue the film is casually racist, though no-one really comes off as particularly heroic here. There’s also a lot of Discovery Channel-style stock footage: lions dragging off gazelles, etc. The most disturbing sequence is at the beginning where the white men casually gun down elephant after elephant, with a striking image where one of their bearers crawls out of the stomach of a fallen pachyderm, holding an armful of guts for dinner.

The lack of development leaves it difficult to feel much for the characters, but given the severe limitations and moral qualms I have (largely stemming from the “mondo” aspects), it is better than you might think, with a decent sense of tension. A very strong central idea, which could certainly have benefited from some more variety and better scripting. Nice scenery, even if it probably did more to put us off going to Africa than anything.