Saturday, July 21, 2012

Running Men

Hollywood is famous for plagiarism, re-running successful ideas, and repeating themes, memes, tropes, motifs, images, yadda yadda yadda. Most of the time however this is a conscious, deliberate decision. Fairy tales for adults is the current dumb idea that Hollywood types keep stealing from one another.

On the other hand, some times certain scenes or themes are subsconsciously repeated, reflecting a cultural obsession, fear, realization, or whatever. Growing up watching late sixties and seventies reruns in the eighties, I noticed a lot of these themes, but one that I really liked, for erotic reasons, was the scene in which a misplaced Anglo was stripped down to what nature gave him and chased, hunted, and captured by natives, "savages," or, in the case of Sci-Fi, aliens. I'm not sure what cultural preoccupation this reflected - maybe the seemingly endless fear of white, Western society that the barbarians are at the gate, but it didn't really matter to me since my sympathies were with the natives. I wanted to be the hunter tracking down naked studs.

This was probably a movie theme prior to the sixties, but I first "thrilled to the hunt" with what is probably the quintessential flick in this genre, the appropriated named Naked Prey (1966). The film's tag line pretty much sums up the plot: "Stripped, turned loose like a wild beast ... a manhunt of indescribable terror and screaming suspense!" Cornel Wilde, who was 52 at the time but still trim and muscular, portrays the hunting guide for a safari party in southern Africa, whose leader insults a local tribe. The tribe retaliates by killing everyone in the party but Wilde. Instead they strip him of his clothes and send him off into the wild, to be hunted for sport by some of the tribesmen. Wilde isn't really naked but is instead wearing a tight-fitting, flesh colored maxi-speedo, but most of his well preserved body is on display the whole flick.

Wilde in his fleshtone Speedo.

The Naked Prey was based on the American legend of the trapper John Colter, a mountain-man guide for the Lewis and Clark. Some time after the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, Colter was captured by Blackfeet Indians and hunted in a similar fashion. The Naked Prey transfers the story to 19th-century Africa in because Wilde, who not only starred in the movie but was also its producer and director, received financial aid from the South African government.

Naked Prey was based on the story of John Colter, an early 19th century guide who was pursued by Native American. The story was set in Africa because the production received funding from the South African government.

Two years later, Charlton Heston would be hunted in a similar fashion - but this time in the future not the past and by talking apes not African warriors in The Planet of the Apes (1968).

The hunky Heston, and his handsome and well-built fellow astronauts Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton, stranded on what they think is a barren planet, are so excited to find a watering hole that they immediately strip and dive into the pond. While they're swimming, mysterious hands are stealing their clothes and equipment. The men notice and pursue the cavemen thieves, finding their shredded clothes and ruined gear just in time to be caught up in the pursuit of these primitive people by the superior species on the planet - apes. Of course Heston is caught and later stripped and tied up and tormented by the apes, so his naked butt is frequently seen, and his hairy chest is pretty much on display the whole movie. The movie's pretty liberal with the nudity - Gunner, Burton, and Heston all bare their asses, and there's even a glimpse of Heston's dick - but for some reason they felt obliged to clothe the men in the same kind of maxi-Speedo worn by Wilde in Naked Prey during their run-through-the-jungle scene.

The cast of Planet of the Apes in their fleshtone Speedos, not unlike the one worn by Wilde in Naked Prey. Heston's fellow astronauts, Gunner and Burton, were cast late and wore fake beards.

No such modesty was deployed in A Man Called Horse (1970), in which Richard Harris plays an English aristocrat on a hunt in America who is captured by Sioux. He is abused and ridiculed by his captors, but he eventually learns their language and ways, gains their respect, and ultimately becomes their leader. But in the beginning of the movie he is caught while bathing in a nearby river and chased down like an animal - and he's as naked as one throughout. The Sioux name him "Horse" because they treat him like a beast of burden, but when you see Harris's long schlong flopping around as he runs, you have to wonder if they didn't also have another equestrian point of comparison in mind when they named him.