Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Naked Prey (1965): A New Ivanlandia Fave!

Cornell Wilde’s incredible The Naked Prey is the baby that Sam Peckinpah and Werner Herzog would have had—except it was made in 1965, before either of those filmmakers really hit their stride.

The Naked Prey feels like PURE CINEMA—as close to a documentary as possible (plunk a guy in the middle of the veldt and make him run for his life), while still being fiction; one of those flicks, like Herzog’s Aguirre or John Boorman’s The Emerald Forest, for example, that feels like it was just as tough for the filmmakers to make as for the “fictional” characters to go through.

This film is mostly a visual experience, with extraordinary, often brutal images (men stepping out of an elephant carcass; cheetah versus baboon; the various animals we seeing surviving the so-called wastelands), and is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best action movies ever made.

According to Michael Atkinson’s essay for the Criterion Collection DVD release of The Naked Prey,
Wilde has a “damned-on-holiday visual approach,” and:

The African plains have never been shot so unromantically, the clichéd loping-giraffe-and-baobab-tree imagery swapped out for raw dust, thorns in the skin, and hurtful sunshine. It’s a berserkly hostile landscape, teeming with predatory beasts of all sizes. The film’s expressionistic framing and cutting have an amateur’s faith in totemic meaning, and a soldier’s impatience with ambiguity and trickery.

The fights are fast, merciless, and full of jump cuts; Wilde would cut from somebody throwing a spear to an already impaled body for lack of expensive opticals or prosthetics, but the impression is that the camera just couldn’t keep up. The net effect is of a film on the run for its own life, caring nothing for aesthetics and everything for surviving the experience.

It may not be possible any longer for a filmmaker to approach the innocence and immediacy of Wilde’s ideas—try to imagine a pulp work today that doesn’t have its source in the filmmaker’s adolescent junk-culture memories but instead comes out of an authentic sense of life’s brutality and merciless fortune.

Cornel Wilde is among those “old” directors that I’ve known about, but am in the process of rediscovering—and finding goddamn gems, like The Naked Prey.

Other “Old New Directors” for Ivanlandia, include:
Otto Preminger
Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties, wow!)
Alejandro Jodoworsky (The Holy Mountain, wow!)
Basil Dearden (All Night Long—a must-see for fans of jazz or Patrick McGoohan!)

The list is growing, and may be the subject of a future Ivanlandia post (promises, promises…), but it is something that makes me happy:
There I was thinking I’d just about exhausted all of my “old school” (in other words, non-contemporary) cinematic possibilities—and then I go and discover some stuff that’s very new to me! It’s like striking oil, or discovering gold. Yes, sir.

For further adventures on the “Dark Continent,” please visit the eternally awesome site Diversions of the Groovy Kind, and read a gruesome comic (SPOILER IMAGE BELOWhahahahaha!) titled “The Laughing Man,” written by sick genius Bruce Jones and illustrated by even sicker genius Berni Wrightson.

Super-brief review of a New Ivanlandia No-Fave!
Mr. No Legs (1979)
(Also known as “The Amazing Mr. No Legs,” but calling the movie that would be a lie.)

Jesus H. Palomino! What a film—The Missus and I watched it last night,
and we were STUNNED by its unrelenting incompetence!
We were AMAZED by its nonstop incomprehensibility!
And we were SHOCKED by the unstoppable ugliness of Tampa!

Mr. No Legs makes Ray Dennis Steckler seem like a goddamn David Lean!

My fave bits? The black dwarf in the bar,
and the fact that at one
point a dope peddler turns over the "stuff" to a customer before getting the cash--even The Missus was shocked: "Do these people know
ANYTHING about buying drugs?!?" she yelled at the TV.

Thanks to Toestubz for the boot…


  1. Wow, Naked Prey sounds like my kind of film. I will have to pick it up now that it's been re-released. So, would you say that Mr. No Legs was... crippled in it's ability to tell a story?

  2. Oh, Mr. Hoaks2! Wah-wah-waaaah!

    I really should've mentioned in my review was: my belief that many of Wilde's shots of animals in the wild is not just another threat or danger (or example/indication thereof) to Wilde's character, but is an example/indication of *hope*. Because if bugs and lizards and other nasty critter can survive--so can you (or rather, the character). Now, a viewer can say that the chasing tribesmen are example/indications of human's capability of surviving in the harsh environment--but I think viewers may forget that, as the pursuers are the "villains".

    Okay, time to make some pasta with a friend's homemade pesto.

  3. I recently saw CORNEL WILDE on an episode of FATHER KNOW'S BEST, playing himself! I never knew he had directed some films.