A Movie A Day: Quint on WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1948) I'm a victim of one of the 7 deadly virtues: Greed, Cpt. Ralls.
Published at: July 9, 2008, 12:35 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we hit our last John Wayne movie of this run, WAKE OF THE RED WITCH.
First off, ignore that ugly, boring and inaccurate DVD cover. Romance does play a part, but this is more of a fucking crazy seafaring adventure… For some reason they don’t put JOHN WAYNE BATTLES A GIANT FUCKING OCTOPUS… UNDERWATER! on the cover.
I think that’d sell more DVDs, personally. Why not use the original one-sheet art?
This is a bizarre movie. It starts off as any other naval adventure, with Wayne being the stern captain of a ship called the Red Witch watching two men fight to exhaustion, all to show the crew what happens if a fight breaks out.
Gig Young plays a new crew member of the Red Witch who is brought in by Wayne on a plan to sink the ship. It seems they are carrying $5 million worth of gold, owned by a mysterious man named Sidneye and the idea is to sink the ship while off course so only they know where it is and abandon it to return later and claim the sunken treasure.
In order to do this, Wayne brings on Young and and Paul Fix to slowly drive the one honest and truthful crew member crazy… they give him orders and then claim he got them wrong, disgracing him in front of the crew and opening the way for them to execute their plan.
That’s enough story to stretch across a whole film, but that’s all before the first reel change.
The real meat of the story is a cat and mouse game between Wayne and Luther Adler (Sidneye). They hate each other, but respect each other. It’s a superhero/super villain relationship, actually. Sidneye saves Wayne a few times during the course of the film because to see Capt. Ralls die would mean he loses the meaning in his life… He’s so rich, he has nothing else. I wonder if M. Night Shyamalan saw this as a kid?
The majority of the flick takes place on a tropical island and we see a good half of it in flashback as told to Gig Young by Sidneye. We see the origin of their feud, all centered around a beautiful woman (of course) named Angelique, played by the dark haired beauty Gail Russell.
It seems that there are pearls on this island and John Wayne is held up as a god to the tribesmen (they tried to burn him for messing around with one of their girls, a giant rain swept through, putting out the fire, so they believe him to be the son of their god, under his protection). It is on this island that Wayne fights a giant octopus while diving for sacred pearls.
This movie is bizarre, the storytelling is bizarre, the characters are bizarre, the effects are bizarre, but it’s all good bizarre, not bad bizarre. It is totally not the movie I thought it’d be.
Keep a look out for yesterday’s kind of Kiwi girl from SANDS OF IWO JIMA, Adele Mara, as Gig Young’s love interest and neice of Gail Russell. Also keep this bit of trivia in the back of your mind… The octopus that Wayne fights is the very same octopus that Ed Wood stole for BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. “Let’s shoot this fucker!”
Final thoughts, this movie is a refreshingly different vehicle for John Wayne and is much more fun than it appears on the video art, which make it look like a slow moving sea-faring romance. And there’s a giant octopus. And sharks.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Wednesday, July 9th: D.O.A. (1950)
Thursday, July 10th: SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
Friday, July 11th: THE MATCHMAKER (1958)
Saturday, July 12th: THE BLACK HOLE (1979)
Sunday, July 13th: VENGEANCE IS MINE (1974)
Monday, July 14th: STRANGE INVADERS (1983)
Tuesday, July 15th: SLEUTH (1972)
Tomorrow we follow Luther Adler over to the noir D.O.A. See you then!