The Naked Prey, released in 1966, is a brutal yet brilliant action film. Set in South Africa, the film's plot is simple: a group of hunters on safari encounter and anger a local tribe, which leads to a slaughter of the party, except for the main character (played by director Cornel Wilde), who is sentenced to be released as the subject of a chase by a tribal hunting party. It's considered an innovative film, due in large part to its beautiful yet extremely disturbing cinematography, simple yet haunting plot and its minimal use of dialogue. Cornel Wilde, who was both the main character and the film's director, considered it to be his masterpiece.
The soundtrack, originally released on Smithsonian Folkways in 1966, is a stunningly fascinating collection of tribal recordings. As one would expect from such recordings, the sound is rough, but that roughness adds a certain dimension that makes them hauntingly realistic. Not much is known about the actual recordings; it's assumed that the producers of The Naked Prey simply took their recording equipment and pressed the ‘record’ button, although actor Ken Gampu (who portrayed the main tribal leader and well as an accomplished South African actor) does appear on the soundtrack.
Despite the dark nature of the film, the soundtrack itself is quite fascinating, capturing the beauty of African tribal life. The music itself is occasionally quite celebratory—witness “Boasting Song Of Men” and “Village Celebration: Musical Examples”—and sometimes it’s otherworldly, such as the “Dancing Song,” “Urban Song” and “Animal Imitations.” These recordings capture an Africa not known by most westerners, and they also help illustrate why Cornel Wilde fell in love with the region. The Naked Prey is a fascinating listen that not only raises interest in the film, but stands as a captivating document of African tribal life.
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