One of John Wayne's more unusual ventures, Wake of the Red Witch is a mixed bag of a movie, containing some haunting moments that stick in the mind long after the film ends. Chief among these is the ending, a fantasy that shouldn't work but which makes quite an impression. This and the other memorable moments have a strange, dream-like quality to them that demonstrates that at least one of the men at the helm (John Farrow and Edward Ludwig) was going for an odd, poetic approach. That approach is not carried all the way through, and the unevenness of the direction matches that of the script, which is a jumble of the good and the bad, with a good helping of credibility issues thrown in to complicate things. It also doesn't help matters that far too much of this sea picture is clearly filmed in a studio; the artificiality gets seriously in the way of the artifice. Witch does boast solid performances, with Wayne in top form and demonstrating a greater range than was often demanded of him. Luther Adler is a fine foil for him, and Gail Russell is quite believable as the third point of the triangle. Despite its flaws, many will find many moments in Witch that are hard to forget.
by Craig Butler review