Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Masters of Cinema - THE NAKED PREY on Blu-ray ""

Monday, October 19, 2015

Masters of Cinema - THE NAKED PREY on Blu-ray

THE NAKED PREY (1965; Cornel Wilde)
Very few actors can successfully pull off the transition to actor/director. As much as their insider's point of view must be extremely valuable when working other actors, it must be difficult to be acting in a movie that you are also directing. It would seem like trying to be a chef who is cooking a soup in which they themselves are the main ingredient. Very tricky. As a result, there are many films directed by actors, but not a surplus of great films directed by actors. The greatest movie directed by an actor that comes immediately to my mind is NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Charles Laughton helmed that masterpiece and he notably never did it again. That should give some indication of the difficulty of the task and Laughton himself wasn't even in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Cornel Wilde is underrated as an actor, but even more so as a director. He made a number of notable films including THE BIG COMBO, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, and of course LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN all pretty much before he started directing. He made half a dozen films or so, but NAKED PREY is by far his best (BEACH RED is a distant second). When he made THE NAKED PREY, he was fifty-two years old and it's pretty remarkable that he would be as fit as he was and up for taking on such a physical role. He apparently was an Olympic-level athlete and even turned down a chance to go to the 1936 games for fencing to pursue his acting career. Nonetheless, he kept himself in shape and it shows. He's not like "Mr. Buff" or anything, but he is a lean, mean, running machine in this movie and you can't help but root for him. It's been said that he was actually ill during much of the production, but never slowed the filming in any way and said the sickness actually helped him with the role.
THE NAKED PREY is the story of an African Hunting expedition gone terribly wrong. Wilde plays a safari guide who is escorting to rich gents on an expedition to hunt elephants among other things. When the safari encounters some local natives in some territory they wish to hunt in, the affluent jerks flatly refuse to offer any kind of tribute or gifts to them or their chief. Wilde warns them that the natives could give them trouble if they don't appease them, but his advice goes unheeded. The natives do then "make trouble" in the harshest way, making a mockery of the wealthy chaps and kill them horribly. Wilde is spared to the end of the ritual and the natives strip him down and fire and arrow into a field for him to retrieve. They then form a line and as Wilde reaches the arrow, one of them takes of running after him. Once that guy reaches the arrow spot, another starts sprinting after them and so forth. Wilde then begins a grueling and literal race for his life as he does his best to escape from and or kill the natives that are pursuing him. It's an amazing setup and a fantastic adventure film. The other thing that's great about it is how little dialogue the film has, especially when the chase starts. It becomes pure cinema at that point and it is one of the greatest examples of pure cinema from the middle 1960s. Though the film did receive a Criterion DVD release, I still consider it to be an underrated masterpiece and one that is quite deserving of a U.S. Blu-ray release (get on it Criterion!). For now though, I more than pleased with the transfer on this Masters of Cinema Blu-ray. It looks very nice indeed. The shot-on-location-in-Zimbabwe backdrop makes for wonderful eye candy throughout. Have a look at DVD Beaver's review for some lovely screenshot comparisons:

This Masters of Cinema Blu-ray also includes a new 30 minute interview with film historian Sheldon Hall, who provides some background on not only THE NAKED PREY and its production, but also Wilde himself and some other films in a similar vein to this one.
This is really a must-own for fans of great cinema and I recommend it highly. I love the film and I went so far as to include it in my recent "Underrated '65" list for this very site:

For more information on this release, check out Eureka's website:

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