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A group of men are on safari. One of the party refuses to give a gift to a tribe they encounter. The tribe is offended, seizes the party, and one-by-one, kills all but one of the safari members in various creative and horrifying ways. The last surviving member is given "The Lion's Chance" by the tribal leader to be hunted down by a party of tribal warriors. Naked and weaponless he is set loose, the hunters hot on his heels, beginning a life-or-death hunt through wild Africa. Written by
If you want a basic movie review you may want to skip this entry. However, if you are a fan of the late Joseph Campbell, or enjoy attempts at mythological interpretation, you might find this interesting. On the surface, Naked Prey may appear as just a neat Tour-de-Force action film, but having viewed it numerous times over the past 15 years, I have found the film to reveal a much deeper critical significance then most works of the celluloid genre can offer. Cornell Wilde's survival trek across the wilds of South Africa portrays an immensely symbolic experience that mirrors the primal journey of every human mind and spirit. Filled with archetypes instead of personalities, (Notice there are no names in the movie, only "Man" and the "Pursuers", as if they are only ideas of something) Naked Prey is a showcase for the figurative battle that every human "fights" in their subconscious mind.(The sparse dialogue of the film underlines the fact that this is a movie of the mind) The film's chase scenes appear as a model of the universal/eternal cycle of life. In the film's opening, Cornel Wilde sets off from the fortress like an infant from the womb, and influenced by choice and chance, goes through a figurative cycle of birth-life-death-rebirth. A few of the movie's "props" play important roles: The harsh flora and fauna of the savanna act as the world of obstacles that we all must struggle and compete within. "Stripped down", literally in this film! The naked man must become a part of his environment in order to conqueror it. (Just as Wilde becomes both hunter and hunted in many scenes of the film). Other major archetypes include the Masai tribesmen, who are not so much the "villians" of the story as they might represent the elements of primal fear. They are part of the danger, and their pursuit to catch the man is as relentless as the uncertanties/trials we must face as human beings. The "Man" is not the target of their hunt solely by chance. Though demonstrating some "nobleness" of character, he has paritally put himself in this position by the reluctant choice of company he kept with the Safari.
The Man must therefore confront the unknown possibilites of the wild, and be willing to "die" (As he appears to briefly when dragged from the river) before he can get back "home". His goal of "settling down" on his farm must be put-off until he completes this "rite of passage". Ultimately as the late mythological expert Joseph Campbell would say, we come to the task of the mythical hero, to accomplish that unknown goal that brings spiritual fulfillment. Obviously, this is the "Man" who is able, well almost able...to return to the seminal place from which he came. With the help of some outside support, (The little girl, the sentry guards at the fort) "Man" becomes a survivor and fulfills his quest. He is able to look back at his struggle (As we sometimes reflect on our past) with an almost wry smile. Though not very movie-buff would care much to turn entertainment into philosophical study, it is to me as if these sub-conscious archetypes in Naked Prey are unlocked gradually through the viewer's very natural relationship to them. I don't necessarily believe that Wilde read as deeply into the story as I have, but then again that's the subconscious mind at work. Naked Prey is a very entertaining action picture. Like Boorman's Deliverance, it just also happens to an inconspicuous mythical masterpiece.
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