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The Criterion Collection presents
The Naked Prey (1966)

"This is my last time out. After this, I'm settling on my farm."
- Man (Cornel Wilde)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: January 28, 2008

Stars: Cornel Wilde
Other Stars: Ken Gampu, Morrison Gampu, Bella Randles, Patrick Mynhardt, Sandy Nkomo, Eric Mcanyana, John Marcus, Richard Mashiya, Franklyn Mdhluli, Fusi Zazayokwe, Joe Dlamini, Jose Sithole, Horace Gilman
Director: Cornel Wilde

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, violence)
Run Time: 01h:35m:38s
Release Date: January 15, 2008
UPC: 715515027328
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A-B A-

DVD Review

Growing up in the late sixties/early seventies, I knew actor/director Cornel Wilde for two things: The Naked Prey (1966) and Gargoyles (1972). One's a tense African survival adventure, the other a rather campy made-for-television monster movie, and while I was gleefully oblivious of any other aspect of his career, I knew those two diverse films, and hence I knew about Wilde. Maybe a little geeky for a 12-year-old, but that's the way it was.

Back then my dad turned me on to The Naked Prey during one of its late night television airings, and certain images drilled themselves into my young brain and stayed there for decades. The plot of this one—Wilde both starred and directed—is remarkably spartan (even the characters are nameless), set in the "vast, dark universe" of the wilds of Africa in the early part of the 19th century. An ivory-hunting expedition led by Wilde and pomous ass Patrick Mynhardt goes horribly wrong when their safari bluntly offends a particular tribe, which quickly leads to their capture and torture. Wilde's fate is to be stripped down and hunted by a small group of tribesmen; he spends nearly the entire film trying to stay ahead of his pursuers, while at the same time eking out survival in a harsh and dangerous environment.

Shot on location in Africa, Wilde's adventure is very far removed from the watered-down blandness of old school studio jungle pictures, with large amounts of bloody violence, tribal nudity, and a real sense of a primitive danger at every turn. Wilde, while clearly the lead, is not necessarily painted as the hero trying to right a wrong with unmitigated vengeance. He's just trying to stay alive, and as his character is forced to devolve, the tribesmen who hunt him are shown as men who, despite their apparent savagery, also openly grieve for their fallen comrades, and who are following their own code of honor and order, horrific as it may seem to our eyes.

Once the hunt starts, the English dialogue basically ends, though there are a number of sequences involving conversations between the tribesmen that are completely subtitle-free. What they're discussing is very clear, even if the language is foreign, and Wilde the director goes to great lengths not to paint them as anonymous movie villains, made all the more clear by the time the final scene unfolds. The boldness of the film's violence still bristles with a kind of raw ugliness, and early moments such as baking a man alive on a rotisserie seem like something that could have come out of an Eli Roth movie.

The Naked Prey holds up well as an exciting adventure film, and Wilde's strive for authenticity as a filmmaker adds its longevity. Curious gaffes like a very visible car driving in the distance or the sometimes forced stock animal footage does little to diminish the mounting tension.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The remastered 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very well done, breathing new life into this 1966 color feature. Colors are vivid and bright, with the blue of the sky and all of that extremely red blood particularly eye-catching. Image details do become soft in spots, but much of the time edges carry a sharp and well-defined texture. In fact, the print is so colorfully bright that the stock footage moments of animals seem noticeably dull, soft, and grainy by comparison. There is, however, an odd piece of debris at the 27m:46s mark that appears for a few seconds; other than that the print is very clean.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Issued with its original English mono, The Naked Prey's minimal dialogue helps with the limited range of the format. Voice quality during the opening sequences is cleanly discernible, but once the hunt begins it is largely grunts, groans, and screams, all of which sound clear. Some moderate hiss periodically, but in general an evenly crafted mono presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Stephen Prince
Packaging: clear plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Inside the clear plastic keepcase is a 28-page booklet featuring a lengthy article by film critic Michael Atkinson discussing the production in great detail, as well as excerpts from a 1970 Cornel Wilde interview that appeared in an issue of Films And Filming. The booklet also carries a number of images from the film.

The best part of the supplements come via a rich commentary track from film scholar/author Stephen Prince, who contributes a well-researched, well-prepared talk about the film. Prince doesn't have one dead spot during the entire runtime, and he covers all elements of the production, the daring approach of the storyline, and Wilde's career.

And considering the film is based on the real-life exploits of John Colter, who escaped from Blackfoot Indians in the early 1800s, the segment entitled John Colter pays proper homage. Actor Paul Giamatti reads Addison Erwin Sheldon's 1913 story entitled Colter's Escape (04m:57s) while drawings depict the narrative. Under the Soundtrack heading, we're given a few text screens from ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey (he was also musical advisor on The Naked Prey) discussing Wilde's use of authentic African music, and the option to select 18 musical choices from the film. A widescreen version of the theatrical trailer is also included.

The disc is cut into 21 chapters, and features optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Cornel Wilde's daring survival/adventure classic gets the Criterion treatment, sporting a beautiful new anamorphic transfer that showcases the dangerous beauty of Africa. Here's a film that was way ahead of its time, with Wilde the director becoming something of an iconoclast by boldly depicting all of the brutality and savagery needed to survive.

Highly recommended.


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