Wake of the Red Witch, After John Wayne starred in Cecil B. DeMille’s answer to “Gone With the Wind,” an epic called “Reap the Wild Wind,” the Duke wanted to make a similar themed film but with more complex characters. John Wayne made “Wake of the Red Witch,” a terrific follow-up that remakes elements of the original film but creates completely new situations and characters, and explores the dark side of people. Both films open with John Wayne as a 19th Century sea captain who’s ship is scuttled for the rich cargo. In both films John Wayne fights a big octopus and is involved in a love triangle with a beautiful woman and his boss. The period, style, and sets are similar but there are differences in story. DeMille’s story was set in the south and revolved around a southern belle who played with the affections of two men. The characters were somewhat one-dimensional (John Wayne the unquestionable good guy, Ray Milland the unquestionable rich playboy, Paulette Goddard the unquestionable flirt). “Wake of the Red Witch,” set in the South Pacific, is much more complex. John Wayne’s character is sometimes cruel and dishonest. He is driven by drunken rages to beat men and his performance is perhaps the best in his career. As the camera closes in on his face there is true madness in his eyes and the strength and anger he possesses is truly frightening. In one scene where he has just punched out his crew and jumped ship, running violently through the jungle toward the woman he loves (Gail Russell), he is a monster. The entire story is told by a member of John Wayne’s crew (Gig Young) and we are first introduced to John Wayne as a heartless and corrupt captain. As the story unfolds we see a much more complex mystery involving the captain’s rich nemesis who respects the captain as a hero and worthy opponent and has driven John Wayne to madness. The end plays out as a haunting romance as the love between the captain and the woman he adores (and who has married his enemy) conquers all amongst all the tragedy. I would suggest you see Cecil B’ DeMille’s “Reap the Wild Wind” first as it is much less satisfying and might be disappointing compared to the complexity of “Wake of the Red Witch,” though both films are terrific entertainment and showcase John Wayne at his non-western best.