Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey is not the first survivalist drama of man hunting man, but it is arguably the definitive, most visceral and primal example of the genre. Part Run of the Arrow (the story is inspired by a real event in American history but shifted to turn of the century colonial South Africa) and part The Most Dangerous Game, director/star Wilde strips the set-up to the essentials. There are no names in the safari crew and all we know of the Man is that he wants out of the safari biz and return to his farm, and that he has a wedding ring. You can’t miss the influence of the film on Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, which trades the searing austerity and matter-of-fact savagery of the African veldt and jungle for the lush South American rain forests and adds complications, but otherwise charts the escape of a captured man from warriors hunting him down, first as sport, and then as vengeance.
The film is notorious for the tortures unleashed upon the captured hunters for tribal sport and spectacle, but the blunt slaughter of elephants is as grotesque as any of the cruelties faced by the humans. Wilde so effectively matches his beautifully shot film with the wildlife footage of the animal food chain in action that the most telling difference is the contrast in film grain. The restored digital transfer looks great and the color balance helps match the otherwise disparate film sources.
[Note: click on titles for the complete review; click on DVD cover to find it on Amazon]
Also reviewed on MSN this week is Criterion’s latest release in their Eclipse Series: Postwar Kurosawa, a five-disc collection that collects “the socially conscious dramas of made in the years after World War II, presenting a country and an economy devastated by war and a culture upended by loss. ” No genre pictures here, but it feature one the most searing, devastating, and overlooked dramas in his career:
The most startling film in the collection is “” (aka “Record of a Living Being”) (1955), with Mifune as a callous patriarch driven into a state of panic out of his fear of an atomic holocaust. He is almost unrecognizable under his transformation into a compulsive, gray, perpetually scowling industrialist, and his paranoia is palpable as he descends deeper and deeper into depression and helplessness. It’s a dark, vivid drama of nuclear anxiety through the eyes of a culture that lived through the bomb.
It’s a slight week for new films (Good Luck Chuck and Mr. Woodcock? Please…), but we do see the release of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century, who “described the film as his attempt to capture the quality of memory and, like his previous films, it’s a work of formal experimentation and sensory textures.”
In the TV releases, we have The New Adventures of Old Christine: The Complete First Season, Lars Von Trier’s The Kingdom II, and Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest, the show’s strangely faithful tribute to/spoof of Star Wars featuring the show’s cast as Lucas’ heroes and villains.
It’s a parody in the “Family Guy” tradition, crammed with all sorts of goofy cultural references (from an inspired appearance of the old “Asteroid” video arcade game to a memorable “Airplane” gag) and accompanied by John Williams’ original score and the original film’s actual sound effects. It turns out George Lucas is a “Family Guy” fan.
And last, but certainly not least, we have Spike Lee’s feature debut She’s Gotta Have It, special editions of An Affair to Remember and When Harry Met Sally …, and new special editions of two Ray Harryhausen creature features: It Came From Beneath the Sea and Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers.