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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.

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. Crazy, right?

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! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima

Readers Talkback
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  • July 9, 2008, 12:42 a.m. CST

    Where is the Hellboy II reviews?

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

  • July 9, 2008, 12:43 a.m. CST

    OK I suck at english; it is my only language.

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

  • July 9, 2008, 12:50 a.m. CST

    they really shit the bed with that dvd cover

    by prunkhaft

    way to sell discs boys.

  • July 9, 2008, 12:51 a.m. CST

    so is that it for pigphart?

    by prunkhaft

    now thats cool news!

  • July 9, 2008, 1:35 a.m. CST


    by TroutMaskReplicant

    Is it just me, or does John Wayne look awfully gay in the original poster? Also is it ok if I'm a little turned on? Sailors don't need shirts. Don't need no women too.

  • July 9, 2008, 1:41 a.m. CST

    Fighting a giant octopus...

    by zaggnutt

    ...with a knife and a speedo = badass.

  • July 9, 2008, 1:44 a.m. CST

    Underwater White Don King

    by zaggnutt

    Also badass.

  • July 9, 2008, 1:48 a.m. CST

    Popeye looks tougher than John Wayne

    by zaggnutt

    JW needs to tone up a bit. He looks more chubby than cut. And that ain't him fighting the octopus. That's a stunt double in the poster.

  • July 9, 2008, 2:09 a.m. CST

    Oh man Sleuth!!!!

    by kungfuhustler84

    Caine and Olivier both got Oscar nods for that, but lost to Brando's Godfather. Understandable, but still, both guys put on quite a show in that movie. Such an amazing film. I just hope you just see it before the remake with the Jude Law. Definitely not as good.

  • July 9, 2008, 2:42 a.m. CST

    Wow. That theatrical poster is top notch

    by Gwai Lo

    Checklist before battling the kraken: <p> 1. apply lipstick<p> 2. remove shirt<p> 3. gaze off into the distance<p>

  • July 9, 2008, 2:57 a.m. CST

    Sounds like...

    by psychedelic

    ...a wacko fun movie to check out sometime. Hey Quint, you said in talkback you worked out the schedule for AMAD for the rest of the year--Are you going to post it? I probably speak for some others saying it'd be easier to coincide our screening with yours if we knew far enough in advance. Example: you mentioned elsewhere watching Val Lewton horror movies and I have that unwatched box set too. Would those be in October for Halloween time? BTW, you keep doing a teriffic job on the column.

  • July 9, 2008, 3:47 a.m. CST


    by Quint

    I may post the full run (at least up to what I have figured out) at some point. Looking at it on the calendar I should have tried to schedule more horror movies over October... as it is, I think I blow my horror load (gross) in August and September with a good amount of the Val Lewtons, some Bava and some Christopher Lee stuff. But I wasn't creating the list with an eye for coinciding movies with specific times of the year, more just focusing on keeping the direct connections going.

  • July 9, 2008, 3:58 a.m. CST

    SLEUTH is a fucking great movie.

    by The Guy Who Slept Through Everything.

    can't wait to read that.

  • July 9, 2008, 4:23 a.m. CST

    When I saw the title...

    by judderman

    I imagined a Hammer horror flick in which a bunch of pompous upper class twits gather in a decaying mansion to celebrate an evil witch's funeral.

  • July 9, 2008, 5:52 a.m. CST

    You forgot to mention...

    by garofellatio

    Not only does Wayne fight a giant octopus, he also fights a GIANT CLAM! It's Eight Ropes of Danger AND Jaws of Death (or, if you were a Big Jim kid, Terror off Tahiti). Awesome, awesome movie. I only collect John Wayne movies where Wayne fights oversized sea beasties, so of course I have Reap the Wild Wind, too.

  • July 9, 2008, 9:28 a.m. CST

    I love Sleuth

    by JackRabbitSlim

    But anybody fooled by the "big twist" in the movie has to be ... not very bright. Makeup can only do so much.

  • July 9, 2008, 9:30 a.m. CST

    The modern hate of Sir Larry is mindboggling

    by JackRabbitSlim

    Yes, he had an obvious disdain for filmmaking as a lesser art compared to the stage but, Jesus, that old bastard could act.

  • July 9, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST

    Is it the same octopus they used in Citizen Kane?

    by Knuckleduster

    Best cameo ever.

  • July 9, 2008, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Don't remember if I had the Terror off Tahiti

    by jim

    But I did have the one with the giant ape, and the one with the mummy and the yellow car with big tires (you can sometimes see it in the basement on That 70s Show).<p>When I heard someone mention an octopus in the movie I thought "I hope John Wayne fights with it" and he did! <p>I know gold is heavy, but is it that heavy that he couldn't at least drag the boxes out of the ship and then load them in the basket? Or maybe take a rope down and tie it to each box handle and use the ship on the surface to drag it out of the sunken ship? Of course this is the same guy who sunk a ship on the edge of a 1000 foot crevice. Just saying, for a good plan it wasn't that well thought out. But the movie has a giant octopus and a man-eating clam so I can't complain.

  • July 9, 2008, 11:04 a.m. CST

    that's it for The Duke for a while

    by Napoleon Park

    And a bit more than i could take, though he's, well, the effing duke.<p>In the early days of cable when they'd run sattelite feeds and anything they could find to fill all those 24 hour channels, i caught a flick I'd never heard of. and it was one of a series - called "The Three Mesquiteers" Mesquite being a kind of cactus and these being a series of westerns. And John flippin Wayne played A SINGING COWBOY ala Roy Rogers. All I remember is a scene of him sitting by the campfire playing the guitar and singing, apparently to his horse. Of course he was shown holding the neck of the guitar from behind since he didn't actually play, but we saw him sing in profile looking over his shoulder.<p>I swear, it was one of the things I ever saw.

  • July 9, 2008, 5:33 p.m. CST

    Thanks for answering

    by psychedelic

    Just try not to blow your load all over us. ;)

  • July 9, 2008, 7:07 p.m. CST

    Qunit, you knucklehead

    by thegreatwhatzit

    No mention of Wayne's nemesis, Henry Daniell? This perpetual sourpuss is seriously underrated--a sterling actor who contributed to the longevity of THE GREAT DICTATOR, THE SEA HAWK, JANE EYRE, THE WOMAN IN GREEN (the best "Dr. Moriarty"), et al (check out THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE, an ultraviolent 50s movie that pioneered modern Grand Guignol). His best role is disputably "Dr. MacFarlane" ("Toddy") in Val Lewton's BODY SNATCHER; Daniell and Boris Karloff competed for acting honors (Daniell reunited with Karloff for numerous episodes of the THRILLER television series; scary stuff, especially Robert Bloch's "Hungry Glass" episode). Hell, I just spotted Daniell as royalty in the "ball" scene of MY FAIR LADY. He certainly doesn;t deserve anonymity. Please have the courtesy to mention this man as often as possible.

  • July 9, 2008, 7:33 p.m. CST


    by thegreatwhatzit

    Sorry, sir--should have been typed as Quint, of course. And you're still a knucklehead (but thanks for the reviews of vintage films).