Saturday, February 22, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Reap the Wild Wind (1942) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Cecil B. DeMille's REAP THE WILD WIND (1942), which boasts a wonderful cast -- not to mention a famous battle with a giant squid! -- is available in a truly gorgeous Blu-ray print from Kino Lorber.

REAP THE WILD WIND may not be a great film, but it's quite enjoyable, and I find myself returning to it every few years. I first reviewed the movie on my blog in January 2009, and I saw it again in January 2015 as part of a UCLA series honoring producer-director DeMille.

This weekend I caught up with Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release from last fall, and I'm pleased to say I've never seen the film look so spectacularly good. As much as I love 35mm, the print I saw at UCLA was a bit rough at reel changes.

I was very impressed with the Blu-ray print; surely leading ladies Paulette Goddard and Susan Hayward never looked quite as beautiful as they do in this film, photographed in Technicolor by Victor Milner and William V. Skall. The Blu-ray shows the ladies off to perfection, right down to the roses in their cheeks, and everything else in the film looks wonderful as well.

Goddard stars as Loxi Claiborne, who lives in the Florida Keys of the 1840s; with her father deceased, it's Loxi who runs her family's shipwreck salvage business. King Cutler (Raymond Massey) is taking salvage business from Loxi and others in the community, as he always manages to arrive at shipwrecks first; little does anyone know that he arrives first because he causes the wrecks!

Loxi falls in love with a ship's captain, Jack Stuart (John Wayne), whose career has been interrupted by a Cutler-caused wreck; she's also attracted, though she's reluctant to admit it, to lawyer Steve Tolliver (Ray Milland), who runs a shipping business. Loxi and Jack's plans to wed are thwarted on more than one occasion, and then Jack unfortunately decides to throw in with Cutler rather than work for his rival Steve...

At the same time, Loxi's sweet cousin Drusilla (Hayward) is herself in love -- with King Cutler's brother Dan (Robert Preston). Dan sincerely loves Drusilla, but his brother's penchant for wrecking ships will ultimately lead to multiple tragedies.

The film is a bit odd in that Wayne and Milland's characters change significantly over the course of the story. Wayne's Jack Stuart starts out as a nice guy who appears to be a perfect match for the adventurous Loxi. Milland's Stephen, meanwhile, is a dog-toting dandy who is more taken with Loxi than she is with him.

Over the course of the movie, however, Wayne's character transforms into a frustrated man willing to work with someone who's pure evil, while Milland's Steve proves to be a quick thinker who is also good with his fists -- and more admirable and deserving of Loxi's love than Jack. This flip-flop really threw me the first time I saw the movie; it still surprises me a bit after multiple viewings, but at least I know to expect it now and the transitions thus make a little more sense.

Goddard seems to be channeling Scarlett O'Hara at times, with men on a string and her lack of concern for social niceties; she even says "Fiddle-dee-dee!" at one point. That said, it's hard to imagine Scarlett dressed down for sailing adventures like Goddard's Loxi, and Loxi is entirely more likeable than Scarlett. Among other things, Loxi genuinely cares about Drusilla, who one might say is the Melanie to Loxi's Scarlett. (Ironically, both actresses had tested to play Scarlett in the 1939 film!)

I especially love Hayward as Drusilla in this, and my biggest regret about the film is simply that I wished there had been more of her and Robert Preston in the movie.

With the film set in the 1840s and made in the 1940s, there are a couple wince-worthy moments, particularly when King Cutler tries to sell Jack on sailing a slave ship to Africa, but in the end that scene has the effect of underscoring how truly bad Cutler is.

That's brought home even more in Massey's final scene with Preston, which is a bit of a jaw-dropper, even knowing that Massey is playing a total reprobate.

The film is a bit overlong at 123 minutes, but that battle with the giant sea squid takes some time! The movie, incidentally, won the Oscar for Best Special Effects.

In the end, it's not a perfect film, but it's quite entertaining and, as described above, something I enjoy watching every few years. It's a good exemplar of big, colorful moviemaking of its era, and the Kino Lorber Blu-ray is definitely the best way to see it.

The cast also includes Charles Bickford, Lynne Overman, Louise Beavers, Martha O'Driscoll, Janet Beecher, Hedda Hopper, Victor Kilian, Elisabeth Risdon, Walter Hampden, and J. Farrell MacDonald.

The screenplay was by Alan Le May, Charles Bennett, and Jesse Lasky Jr., from a magazine story by Thelma Strabel. The score was by Victor Young. Costumes were designed by Natalie Visart.

Extras on the Blu-ray consist of the movie trailer, a trailer gallery for seven additional films available from Kino Lorber, and an extensive, enjoyable image gallery. I wish we'd been treated to a featurette or commentary for this film, but I can't complain too much given how much I enjoyed the beautiful print.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Familiarity has taken none of the glow from Reap the Wild Wind for me. It was epic in my younger years and still entertains like nothing else today. The Blu-ray releases you have been reviewing are making me think about spending money I shouldn't. Well, you can't take it with you.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Not sure I should be glad or guilty tempting you to buy some Blu-rays LOL...but I can guarantee if you get them you're going to love the way they look!

Glad to know I'm not the only one who has a soft spot for this film!

Best wishes,

11:56 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Love this film, one of Paulette’s best. As you say Loxi is far more likeable than Scarlett!

12:56 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Vienna, so glad to know you like this one also. I find Paulette so enjoyable in everything, love her bubbly personality.

Best wishes,

11:41 AM  

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