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. Along the way, Wilde befriends a very young boy whose family was captured by Arabic slavers, and it is this boy whose very initial helplessness reminds Wilde that vulnerability is a trait that has the practical value of reminding one that arrogance on the plain is a negative survival characteristic. The latter half of the movie is a continuing series of confrontations between Wilde and Gampu. By the end, both the pursued and the pursuer recognize that sometimes the distinction between the two is a muddied affair at best, and the winner is not necessarily the one with a trophy, but with a recognition that all life, even the life of your enemy, has some value during a deadly game of chase.