My grandfather was unimpressed at "The Naked Prey", where Cornel Wilde was shown running away from a small herd of African tribesmen. They have spears, and Wilde's safari guide was like a terrified deer. Wilde based his story from John Colter's exploration of a mountain range between Idaho and Wyoming. He was credited as the first individual of European descent to set foot on what would become Yellowstone National Park. Alas, Colter encountered tens of hostile Native Indians. Grandpa could imagine Colter running for dear life, which made me wondered about several things.
Why did Wilde change the location? He might have been a huge fan of Haggard's novels, and this could be his vision of Allan Quatermain. Moreover, the exploration of Africa would be a romantic idea for Europeans. "King Solomon's Mines" had been adapted to the big screen while "She" had a cult following. Did Wilde like the Rockies? I suspected that "Northwest Passage" might have passed his mind, and he may have thought of Spencer Tracy highly. What was behind Wilde's fascination with violence? This one could be anyone's guess.
The poster of "The Naked Prey" would indicate a warning to moviegoers, but not the extent of violence in the movie. I was referring to a troika of British hunters who gunned down a number of wild elephants, and the following scene showed a native getting out of what was once the elephant's abdomen. The organs almost surrounded the dead mammal. It was hard to tell if this would be a real depiction of a hunting expedition, as protection of animals (during filming) wasn't the norm back then. Wilde led his audience to a different kind of voyeurism, where they must find out the level of their tolerance to such brutal scenes.
The safari guide advised the hunters to tip the natives, which they didn't take heed. They insulted them instead, and they were too late to regret about their actions. It didn't take long before the incident reached the village, where the tribesmen came from. They captured the huntsmen, where they were led to their horrible death. (One was covered with clay and roasted while the other one was tarred and covered with feathers. The womenfolk ran after him and then killed him with spears. A cobra bit the third one.) As for the guide, he was given the chance to run as fast as he could.
Wilde was a member of the US fencing team during the 1936 Summer Olympics, and "The Naked Prey" showed Wilde's toned body. (He may be 54 years of age during filming, but he was fit and buff as his younger years.) Viewers would sense that Wilde's safari guide would reach the community (of white settlers) before the tribesmen captured him. He had Joseph Conrad in mind, as the guide had a first-hand account of slavery and its causes. The actor/screenwriter/director didn't spare the audience, and I was certain that this movie won't make the cut during the studio era. Viewers couldn't make out of it, so I wasn't surprised at the mixed reactions. Time would give it a different perspective, though.
It was a romantic concept of man's survival in the wilderness, and Africa turned out to be the most challenging one. Technology hardly changed it. (I doubt if the producers of "The Amazing Race" will ever consider filming in Africa's rainforest.) "The Naked Prey" could be a warning, even a guilty pleasure. What started as armchair traveling led to a series of savage happenings. Wilde could be telling the audience that they liked it.