Wake of the Red Witch

  • Directed by Edward Ludwig
  • December 30, 1948 (Houston, Texas) / March 1, 1949 (US)
  • Based upon the 1946 novel Wake of the Red Witch by Garland Roark

In the 1860s a sea captain working in the East Indies seeks revenge against a wealthy shipping magnate.

Wake of the Red Witch is an old school adventure film starring John Wayne as Captain (no first name) Ralls that plays like a melodramatic movie serial. It’s got treasure and love and loss and even a giant octopus guarding a fortune. That is part of the appeal as I am a fan of movie serials. Have been since I was a kid. Much like the more enjoyable serials, this is just a grab bag of elements and overly dramatic storylines and with what is supposed to be an emotionally meaningful finale.

Ralls is a tough and rugged captain who at the start looks like a bit of a jerk but as the story goes on and more is revealed you learn his actions are not that of a jerk but a man seeking to enact some revenge because of love. Honestly though some of Ralls’ actions totally disregard others such as making Mr. Loring (Jeff Corey) of the Red Witch think he’s crazy. Seriously. Poor Mr. Loring was apparently left a mental wreck by the end of his story and given that this was the 1860s that is not a good place to be.

Gail Russell, having been paired with Wayne the year before in Angel and the Badman, is cast as Ralls love Angelique Desaix who is the focus of everything Ralls does. Their chemistry is still evident here as they played lovers who are kept apart by circumstances. Russell’s Angelique is a little less of a defined character here than her character of Penelope was in Badman. The connection the two actors had from working together before helps get you through that issue. If this were their first film together that lack of previous chemistry would cause her lack of characterization to harm the connection their characters were supposed to have together. Perhaps that is because what we see her in occurs via flashback.

I always feel the need to mention John Wayne’s romantic rival no matter how big or small they were in the overall narrative. Is anybody ever a match for the significant masculinity of The Duke? He was the manliest of men in any movie. Whether a jerk or a dangerous man or the most upright of people in the film his moral code and fair play and general passion always won any woman over.

Mayrant Ruysdaal Sidneye (Luther Adler) is the focus of Ralls rage. The rivalry between Ralls and Sidneye has been going on for some time. In this story there are traps and plots and counter traps and counterplots. Each is out to get the other and that sums up what goes on between the two.

At times it appears as if Ralls’ plan was thought out and at other times it appears that the writers were flying by the seat of their pants to make it happen. While the director does deliver a generally even toned film with a steady pace that plan feels a little disjointed. 

There’s a good chunk of this movie told in flashback though that’s not always clear. If you walk away to get a drink or your dog comes bolting across the room at high speed after one of your cats you might be forgiven for missing that brief two or three seconds that lets you know you’re heading into a flashback.

Edward Ludwig hands in a film that rises just a little bit above serviceable. The script is fine and other than Paul Fix or Jeff Corey who are bit excessive, the acting is pretty solid. It’s an enjoyable movie that seeks to entertain first and send a message almost never other than if you do bad things justice of some type will get served. There is nothing too strong here one way or the other.

Wake of the Red Witch is an entertaining throwback. While not perfect it’s a worthwhile watch for fans of John Wayne movies as well as old school adventure serials. For the general movie goer they may have a bit of a tough time with it though.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

One thought on “Wake of the Red Witch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: