(director: Cecil B. De Mille; screenwriters: from a story in the Saturday Evening Post by Thelma Strabel/Alan Le May/Charles Bennett/Jesse Lasky Jr.; cinematographers: Victor Milner/William V. Skall; editor: Anne Bauchens; music: Victor Young; cast: Ray Milland (Mr. Stephen ‘Steve’ Tolliver), John Wayne (Captain Jack Stuart), Paulette Goddard (Loxi Claiborne), Raymond Massey (King Cutler), Robert Preston (Dan Cutler), Lynne Overman (Capt. Phillip ‘Phil’ Philpott), Susan Hayward (Cousin Drusilla Alston), Hedda Hopper (Henrietta Beresford), Walter Hampden (Cmmdre. Devereaux), Victor Kilian (Mathias Widgeon); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Cecil B. De Mille; Universal/Paramount; 1942)

“Tepid hokum adventure tale from Cecil B. De Mille.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tepid hokum adventure tale from Cecil B. De Mille (“The Ten Commandments”/”Samson and Dehlila”) that comes to life in the third act when Ray Milland and John Wayne battle a squid. The fake giant squid was operated by an electronic keyboard. It’s based on a story in the Saturday Evening Post by Thelma Strabel and written by Alan Le May, Charles Bennett and Jesse Lasky Jr. The Technicolor classic won an Oscar for special effects. The great underwater scenes were filmed in the Santa Monica Pan Pacific Marine Museum. The rest was filmed on location in Key West, Florida.

The film is set in the 1840s, and mostly takes place around Key West, Florida, where pirates make it difficult for legitimate salvagers to make an honest living. Cutthroat pirate King Cutler (Raymond Massey) causes the wreck of Captain Jack Stuart’s ship the Jubilee on a reef, just like he has many others. The fiery Southern belle Loxi Claiborne (Paulette Goddard) runs a rival salvaging shipping company since her father died, and rescues Jack and nurses him back to health in her Key West mansion. But no one pays for saving the crew, as King loots the valuable cargo. In any case, Loxi and Jack fall in love. Jack says he dreams of three things: 1) To captain the modern steam vessel called the Southern Cross. 2) Take over the Devereaux shipping company. 3) marry Loxi.

The story then picks up in Charleston, South Carolina, where Loxi is sent to stay with her Aunt Henrietta Beresford (Heda Hopper). There Loxi meets the foppish Steve Tolliver (Ray Milland), the office pencil pushing second in command of the Devereaux shipping company, who pulls some corny ventriloquist bits using his dog as a puppet. Steve falls for Loxi, and we got a love triangle on our hands. Loxi manages to talk Steve into giving Jack command of the Southern Cross. But the jealous Jack, learning that old man Devereaux died and Steve took over the company, makes a bargain with the devil as he agrees to help King’s piracy. This brings about a court trial with Jack on trial for the wreck of the Southern Cross. The court introduces evidence that a woman passenger died aboard the Southern Cross, even though Jack says there were no passengers. That woman is believed to be the missing Drusilla (Susan Hayward), Loxi’s cousin, who is in love with King Cutler’s handsome brother Dan (Robert Preston)–a partner in the treacherous schemes to cause wrecks. To gain evidence against King and find out for sure if the woman murdered was Drusilla, Jack and Steve go deep-sea diving. When Steve is attacked by the giant squid Jack redeems himself and comes to his rescue, but with tragic results.

The acting was mostly hammy and uninspiring, except for Milland’s hammy off-beat performance and Wayne’s usual heroic one except for a momentary lapse where he becomes the bad guy. Though entertaining the film excels only through its special effects, which were good for its day but pale when compared to similar special effects in modern times.

Reap the Wild Wind Poster