January 13, 2020  (Web Review)

Reap the Wild Wind

Kino Lorber, 123 min., not rated, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Ray Milland takes the lead in this Cecil B. DeMille drama set in the world of 19th-century seafaring salvagers on the Caribbean. Milland plays a maritime lawyer looking after the interests of his father, a salvage operation owner, while John Wayne takes second billing as a young captain engaged to the tomboyish Loxi (Paulette Goddard), who is running her family’s small salvage operation. Milland sabotages their wedding so he can woo the headstrong Loxi, making the two men instant enemies. Raymond Massey takes on villain duties as King Cutler, a rival salvager who sabotages cargo ships for his men to plunder, and recruits Wayne’s angry young captain to his fold. Reap the Wild Wind serves up melodramatic action on a grand canvas that turns the sea adventure into spectacle, with a climax featuring deep sea divers in enormous suits and helmets exploring an unstable undersea wreck and battling a giant squid. But while visually impressive and featuring a superb cast, the film suffers from the acting by Wayne, who is out of his depth during much of the film, left to glare or stare silently while Milland takes center stage. In addition, the film’s portrait of pre-Civil War Deep South culture makes Gone with the Wind look enlightened in comparison. Much of the film has aged poorly, from the dialogue and acting to the offensive and painful stereotypes of enslaved African American characters. Susan Hayward has a small role as Goddard’s younger sister and Robert Preston and Charles Bickford costar. Bowing on Blu-ray with extras including an animated image gallery, this is not a necessary purchase. (S. Axmaker)