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The Naked Prey (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Glamorous leading man turned idiosyncratic auteur Cornel Wilde created a handful of gritty, violent explorations of the nature of man in the sixties and seventies, none more memorable than The Naked Prey. In the late nineteenth century, after an ivory-hunting safari offends an African tribe, the colonialists are captured and hideously tortured. Only Wilde s marksman is released, without clothes or weapons, to be hunted for sport, and he embarks on a harrowing journey through savanna and jungle and back to a primitive state. Distinguished by widescreen camerawork and unflinching savagery, The Naked Prey is both a propulsive, stripped-to-the-bone narrative and a meditation on the notion of civilization.


New, restored high-definition digital transfer

Audio commentary by film scholar Stephen Prince

John Colter s Escape, a 1913 written record of the trapper s flight from Blackfoot Indians which was the inspiration for The Naked Prey read by actor Paul Giamatti

Original soundtrack cues created by director Cornel Wilde and ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey, along with a written statement by Tracey on the score

Theatrical trailer

PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Michael Atkinson and a 1970 interview with Wilde

Actor-turned-director Cornel Wilde (The Best Years of Our Lives) released this fascinating fever dream of a thriller in 1966, basing its terrifying story on the legendary escape of trapper John Colter from Blackfoot Indians. Wilde plays a laconic, big-game hunter (the script refers to him only as "Man") managing an ivory-gathering safari for an arrogant loudmouth who refuses to pay tribute to a local chief. The chief's tribe takes exception to this slight, capturing the hunters and subjecting them to sundry, nightmarish tortures. (The worst, arguably, is the baking of one poor fellow inside a head-to-toe clay suit.) Wilde's character is stripped bare and given a bit of a lead before being pursued by a party of spear-wielding men. For the next few days, the Man lives by his wits in the most violent surroundings, never far from the predator-prey cycle in the animal kingdom and even saving a boy from an attack by slave-traders on his village. Horrifying as the Man's journey becomes, there is something redemptive about Wilde's jaded character going back to nature in a radical fashion. Wilde the filmmaker expertly mingles stock footage of jungle beasts with his own bold images of a savage Eden, though nothing gets under one's skin quite like some of those torture scenes. --Tom Keogh

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Cornel Wilde
  • Directors: Cornel Wilde
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Restored, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: January 15, 2008
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000XPSC0M
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,390 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Naked Prey (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Martin Asiner on August 14, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Most films which have the basic premise of a white man battling native Africans somewhere in the Dark Continent usually portray these natives as nameless, unmotivated ugga-mugga tribesmen whose only purpose in life seems to be able to toss missionaries into a round cooking pot. Thankfully, Cornel Wilde acts in and directs himself in THE NAKED PREY, a movie that is as astoundingly gripping as any film whose plot revolves around the hero's struggle for survival in a savage environment.
Wilde is a guide whose safari of foolish white hunters antagonizes some ferocious natives, who proceed to kill the hunters in a variety of graphically nasty ways. The natives allow Wilde a head start, then chase him. It is this chase that forms the bulk of the movie. Along the way, Wilde shows the natives (and the audience) that a near naked white man can still be a formidable foe. The pursuing natives, led by Ken Gampu, are a diverse lot, not all of whom are as dedicated to the chase as he is. They have numbers, food, knives. Wilde has only his fierce determination to live. What starts out as a standard chase movie, morphs quickly enough into another sort of chase. This time, though, it is Wilde who starts calling the shots about who is chasing whom. THE NAKED PREY is full of magnificent vignettes of survival on the African plain. This is no jungle movie. It is an engrossing film that allows the camera frequent panoramic sweeps over vast desert plains that are quite capable of supporting life if one only knows how. The natives are astonished that Wilde's knowledge is at least as full as theirs.
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Format: VHS Tape
This overlooked gem directed by and starring one-time Olympic fencer Cornel Wilde concerns a knowledgeable safari guide (known only as The Man) whose greedy client gets him into a slew of trouble when he refuses to pay tribute to a band of Zulus while hunting elephants in Africa. The Zulus return en masse and take the white hunters prisoner, torturing them to death in a variety of ingenious ways. Recognizing Wilde as being made of stouter stuff than his companions, they strip him naked and cut him loose with the intent of hunting him down. But their generosity backfires when Wilde up and kills one of them. What follows is one of the greatest pursuit movies of all time as the vengeful Zulu hunters chase the Man across the savannah in a race to reach a remote British fort. The Man has to use every ounce of human ingenuity to stave off his relentless pursuers, as well as to contend with various random perils (pissed off wildlife, starvation, and slavers, to name a few).
This was filmed entirely in Africa and Wilde makes great use of the rich locales. The hunt is juxtaposed at various times with real footage of animals contending with each other in the natural world, and there are some pretty memorable scenes here alone (including the snaring of a flying sparrow by a tree climbing viper!). This is a 2:35:1 movie, but you?ll be hard pressed to see it that way. I think there is a laserdisc, but no DVD. If you can, catch it on AMC until they come out with a well-deserved DVD version, because the widescreen format is well-used here, serving to encompass a panorama of natural beauty.
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Format: VHS Tape
I accidentally caught this movie late at night when I was a kid...and found it the most gripping movie I had ever seen. 30 years later my opinion has not changed one bit. After an hour into the movie, I remember finding myself amazed at how much I cared about the characters and how strongly their personalities came through - even with virtually no dialogue!! This is perhaps one of the most underrated movies in the latter half of the 20th century. Other reviewers here have already done an exceptional job of running down the highlights, so I need not do the same.
This film leaves me with 2 questions that I would love someone to answer. First, why do they not make movies like this anymore? And second, when oh when will this come out on DVD??
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
An all time great film with Cornel Wilde starring and producing the film. This adventure film offers a respectful portrayal of African life with a guide (Wilde) on his last hunting safari with an arrogant group of white hunters. Insult turns to ultimate and dramatic revenge as the insulted tribe acts to even the score in a barbaric and frightening fashion. You pity the ignorant whites as they suffer cruel and horrible death along with their African aides. In respect to Wilde, the tribe allows him a brave's death allowing him to run for his life with a head start with nothing but his bare skin. Wilde is followed by single tribesman staggered in pursuit but his initial success against his adversaries result in pursuit by a well armed platoon of tribesman led by an angry and possessed leader that will not stop. Filmed on location in Africa, Wilde plays the part realistically, almost in documentary style, virtually living the role as he eats what he can in this marathon pursuit. Portraying the harshness of African life in the mid 20th century, you can relate to the cruelty of Darfur today with a scene of Arabs raiding a peaceful village brutally making them slaves for sale. The film features non-stop excitement with a race to the death that reaches its climax, with all characters gasping for air, only at the very end of the film. You won't catch your own breath until the credits pass.
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