This unusual, dreamlike John Wayne vehicle is set in the East Indies. The focus of the film is the deadly rivalry between two men of the sea. Ship's captain Rails (John Wayne) nurses a long-standing grudge against shipping magnate Van Schreeven (Luther Adler). The reason for the animosity: Van Schreeven stole away Rails' love, Angelique (Gail Russell). Revenge has warped Rails to point that sometimes he seems to be the heavy of the picture. Complications involving valuable pearls ensue before the offbeat climax, which finds Rails scuttling his own vessel, the Red Witch, as means of getting even. The film's resolution is one of the strangest ever concocted for a Wayne picture. Wake of the Red Witch represented the second screen teaming of John Wayne and Gail Russell; the film must also have held some special significance for Wayne, since he named his own production company, Batjac, after the shipping firm depicted in the picture.
by Hal Erickson synopsis