Directed by: Cornel Wilde
Starring: Cornel Wilde, Gert Van den Bergh, Ken Gampu, Patrick Mynhardt, Bella Randles
“Man, lacking the will to understand other men, became like the beasts and their way of life was his.” So claims the narration at the beginning of Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey (1966), a mildly pretentious (the characters don’t even have names; they’re just types) African-set variant on The Most Dangerous Game (1932). The setup is simple: Wilde’s character is going on “one last safari” (when will people learn that “one last anything” is always one too many?) before retiring to his farm. Naturally, he and his compatriots are captured by hostile natives, who torture and humiliate their victims. Wilde’s character is stripped naked—or at least down to a pair of flesh-colored underpants (unless he’s come down with a bad case of G.I. Joe-doll crotch)—and given the chance to run for his life with select tribesmen in murderous pursuit. Naturally, being the lead, he manages to create a production-code-worthy loincloth and outrun and/or outwit his trackers. That’s pretty much it.
It all works in its Edgar Rice Burroughs-ish way, even though it obviously desires to be more than a mere jungle thriller. To this end, there’s lots of documentary wildlife footage (primarily of the “nature as a giant cafeteria” variety), a National Geographic look at the natives and scads of creepy lizards, insects, snakes and less identifiable fauna for atmosphere. But really, no amount of red paint splashed around as blood makes this any more convincing than your average Tarzan picture or even Road to Zanzibar (1941). Taken as a lively adventure yarn, it’s enjoyable, but the claims that there’s more to it than that ring a little hollow.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Naked Prey at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)