Thursday, April 09, 2015

Nude Safari Spectacular

How do you catch a wild Cornel? Or a Cornel Wilde, for that matter? That's what a group of warriors from a south African tribe in the mid nineteenth century decide to find out in 1965's The Naked Prey, a film which Wilde also directed. An exciting adventure film with nice location shots, it's also a bit racist and mired in well trodden plot mechanics.

The character Wilde portrays is credited as "Man" and he's a safari guide under employ of "Man #2" (Gert van den Bergh). They're the only two white characters which may explains why the film reserves the word "man" for them and not the many male black characters. Man #2 talks about going into the slavery business and annoys Man with generally obnoxious behaviour, including a failure to pay tribute to a tribe whose territory they travel through. I guess this is where the film satisfies itself it's playing on even terms but when Man One and Two are caught it's by a whole community who apparently have no other pleasure in life but tormenting, killing, and eating white men.

Sure, Man and Man were in their territory and I don't expect them to be nice. I don't even expect members of the tribe to speak out against torturing the two. But surely one or two people could have something else on his or her mind. Maybe food, caring for a child, something. They're all either tormenting or laughing at the intruders. That's all there is to them.

I've never thought much of Wilde as an actor--I don't think I've seen any of the other films he directed. In 1945's Leave Her to Heaven, part of the fun is seeing what an absolutely tone deaf performance he gives as his character is wildly and ignorantly inconsiderate of his wife played by Gene Tierney. It's one of those noirs where you really root for the villain because the "hero" is such a putz. I kind of felt that way about him The Naked Prey, too, especially since he keeps surviving due to some really forced luck, like spears that continually miss him when he's not looking. But the reality of the environments makes up for Wilde's unconvincing plight a little.

By the way, don't expect to see him actually naked. They strip him and he's wearing some flesh coloured briefs I think are meant to be read as nude. Then he steals one of those nylon speedos everyone in Africa wore in the nineteenth century. I think they came from the same manufacturer who made the trunks in 300.

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