Movie Review: Wake of the Red Witch

WakeofWitchThumbby Brad Nelson
How did I ever miss this one? This is a surprisingly good South Seas adventure. It features three things I love: Jack-London-like sailing adventures, the exotic South Seas, and John Wayne.

What you might think is going to be a stamped-out b-movie made up of pieced-together clichés turns out to have a better-than-expected plot and better-than-expected acting. This is a surprisingly smart picture.

And John Wayne shows a bit a range here. There’s even a decent love story or two woven in. And I do mean woven. The movie, unlike many others of this general type, does not come to a dead stop in order to get its chick-flick time in. The love story is not an interruption of, but a completion of the characters.

John Wayne plays a rough-and-tumble (and somewhat dodgy) captain of a trading ship looking for adventure, women, and pearls. He finds all three, and all three get him into trouble. He bumps heads with his boss and nemesis, Mr. Sidneye. Along the way Sam Rosen (played by Gig Young) gets pulled into Wayne’s business hi-jinks and we’re off and running.

Although this is not quite Shakespeare, this is an engaging story with fleshed-out and well-acted characters. Rent this one and have a grand old time with the black-and-white charm of a 1940’s era film that will not be as stereotypical simplistic and scripted as you might expect from the genre. This really is a good effort and fun to watch. And John Wayne really is splendid in this as well. I give it 3 (make that 25) lashes out of 5.

Review by Werner:

This is kind of out-of-way stuff for the duke, closest he got to again in “Reap the wild wind”. It is basically a Wuthering Heights of the Southern Seas, with a very young and slim Wayne being pulled into a story of intrigue and lost love by the most beautiful Gail Russell. Great pity that her early death prevented her from rising to true stardom, but she truly holds her own next to the Duke in this strange, patchwork story of a true love. If you can hold of it, view it and enjoy it. And it once again convinces me, that John Wayne could pull off almost everything convincingly, giving tribute to him being a real quality actor after all.


Available on DVD (used, $1.43) or Blu Ray (new, $20.78) from It is also available in its entirety on YouTube.

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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