The Naked Prey


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Glamorous leading man turned idiosyncratic auteur Cornel Wilde created in the sixties and seventies a handful of gritty, violent explorations of the nature of man, none more memorable than The Naked Prey. In the early 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, back to a primitive state. Distinguished by vivid widescreen camera work and the unflinching depiction of savagery, The Naked Prey is both a propulsive, stripped-to-the-bone narrative and a meditation on the notion of civilization.

Picture 9/10

The Criterion Collection gives us the DVD premier of Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the first time it has ever been presented in widescreen on home video. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions and the disc is dual-layered.

I have to say how shocked I was by the image presented on this DVD. Except for what looks to be rough stock footage or second unit footage, and the obviously fake blood used throughout, this film looks like it could have been made yesterday. Colours are possibly this releases strongest feature. The blues of the sky are perfect, flesh tones spot on, black levels excellent. Detail is excellent, close-ups expose every pore on an actor’s face. Long shots look absolutely incredible. The print shows next to no damage for the most part. Save for a few areas where it looks like different film stock was used, this is an incredible looking transfer.

Audio 7/10

Criterion presents the film with its original mono track. It’s an excellent track, and like the video it doesn’t show its age. The music sounds fantastic with perfect bass, the little dialogue we get sounds sharp and clear, and there is no background noise or distortion. Solid presentation.

Extras 6/10

While the release excels in the audio/video departments, it unfortunately leaves a little to be desired from its supplements. We only get a few goodies here, though they’re fairly decent.

The biggest supplement on here would have to be the audio commentary by Stephen Prince. I hold Prince’s commentary for the Criterion release of Straw Dogs in such high regard that I always seem to be somewhat disappointed by the other commentaries of his that he does. Again, like with Dogs, he touches on the themes of violence present in the film, and Wilde’s use of it (even mentioning Wilde found this to be the hardest film of his to make since he didn’t want to hurt animals.) He talks about the history of South Afirca both during the time the film was made and the time the film takes place in, makes comparisons to the John Colter story on which the film is based (as well as influenced by The Most Dangerous Game,) gets into the production code at the time, Wilde’s minimalist style, and as a bonus translates what the tribe members are saying in most scenes. There’s quite a bit of info in it, including information about Wilde and other members of the film, but it’s still just a decent scholarly track. But it might be worth it just for a bizarre out-of-left-field comment Prince makes early on about a “big potato.” Won’t ruin that one for you.

The next supplement on this disc focuses on John Colter. Colter was a former member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. In 1809 he and a friend were captured by Blackfoot natives. Colter’s friend was killed and then Colter was stripped down naked and let go to run through the woods only to be chased by his captors for sport. Criterion has taken a 1913 account written by historian Addison Erwin Sheldon and presents it to us not in text form but instead has actor Paul Giamatti read it to us in an audio segment that plays over maps and sketches that may or may not have anything to do with the event in question. It runs only 5-minutes and is not too detailed but gives you a general description of the events. This feature has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Simply titled “Soundtrack” the next feature presents the music cues from the film. There are 18 tracks that are indexed. Also accompanying this are text notes by ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey, who briefly describes recording the tracks, inspirations, and instruments used. You flip through these notes using the left/right arrows on your remote. The film’s score is very unique and having the score here separate from the film is a nice addition.

An awkward trailer (which pretty much gives away the whole movie in less than three minutes) is the final feature on the disc.

Finally, we get a 28-page booklet, containing an essay by Michael Atkinson, which briefly covers Wilde’s directing career as well as a brief analysis of the film. Also included is a segment from a 1970 issue of “Films and Filming” containing an interview with Wilde, who talks about his move to directing and offers some insight into his films, though there is only brief mention of The Naked Prey.

A decent set of extras, though I can’t say any of them are truly worth looking at. The commentary is decent for some history on the production, and the other couple of supplements are nice-to-haves. I just can’t say anything really grabbed me and I feel safe in saying that if one were to skip the supplements, they’re probably not missing out on much.


The transfer looks absolutely incredible and it's almost worth it just for that. Unfortunately the supplements leave a little to be desired. Still, a modest recommendation from me.


Directed by: Cornel Wilde
Featuring: Cornel Wilde
Year: 1966
Time: 96 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 415
Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 15 2008
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | DVD-9
2.35:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English
Region 1
 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   Booklet featuring an essay by film critic Michael Atkinson