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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting Experience!
I was thrilled to discover that I could buy this video. I've been searching for a copy of it ever since I saw the PBS presentation back in the early 1980's.
The story was one of the most interesting and deeply-moving ones that I had ever seen, and inspired me to visit Salem with my family. Finding the Rebecca Nurse farmhouse was probably the highlight of our...
Published on December 18, 2000 by Gayle

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3.0 out of 5 stars ... portrayal of the time period and people is very good. It did have some slow sections
The portrayal of the time period and people is very good. It did have some slow sections. Overall, I could use it to fill in some of the gaps my students had regarding their understanding of the time period.
Published 11 days ago by Maryann Cohan


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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting Experience!, December 18, 2000
By 
Gayle (Toms River, New Jersey) - See all my reviews
I was thrilled to discover that I could buy this video. I've been searching for a copy of it ever since I saw the PBS presentation back in the early 1980's.
The story was one of the most interesting and deeply-moving ones that I had ever seen, and inspired me to visit Salem with my family. Finding the Rebecca Nurse farmhouse was probably the highlight of our trip.
The acting, the script and the visual images of this movie combine to leave an unforgettable impression and a valuable history lesson.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST SEE MOVIE, November 29, 2003
By 
L. Morrow "kentuckycuz" (Kentucky, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
True Story: Three Sovereigns for Sarah is a great movie that keeps you intrigued and horrified about the Salem Witch Trials. It's told in a way that helps the viewer to understand what the accused went through. I am a teacher and show it to my high schoolers when we study the Salem Witch trials. They love it!!! They like it much better than The Crucible, which is good but not accurate.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REMARKABLE!, April 27, 2001
I received this movie for Christmas 2000 and I have watched it three times so far since. I do not believe there is a better movie showing America's Puritan past, as well as the awful Salem witch trials. Another one of those 'you are there' epics, the THREE SOVEREIGNS FOR SARAH is a must see for all students of American history. Knowing that this was filmed in the actual buildings where the original events happened sends shivers down my spine. Now, where's the DVD of this movie?
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of My Ancestors, January 1, 2004
By 
Susan Hobbs (Arlington Hts., Il. USA) - See all my reviews
Imagine my delight upon finding this movie that details the experiences that my very own 7X Great Grandmother, Sarah Towne Bridges Cloyce experienced during those very dark and troubling times in Salem, Massachusetts. She very narrowly escaped with her own life after being falsely accused of witchcraft but unfortunately had no recourse to save her two sisters, my 7X Great Grandaunts, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty. Hearing some of the words actually spoken by my own ancestors makes their lives and the history I have been compiling about my genealogy so much more real. The best part is having such celebrated and distinguished actresses recreate the lives and times that my ancestors endured during that fateful year of 1692. My daughter, who is not genealogy-oriented, raved about this movie in two separate phone calls to me and has now become appreciative of her family history. I very highly recommend this movie as one of the best of the Salem Witch Trials.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit of my family history, beautifully told, August 5, 2005
By 
Tracy Hodson (Down by the Sea, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Three Sovereigns for Sarah (DVD)
I really loved and appreciated this film when I saw it, and was so glad to have the incomparable Vanessa Redgrave playing my Great (x10) Aunt, Sarah Bridges-Cloyce, whose maiden name was Towne and who was sister to Rebecca Towne Nourse (of "The Crucible" fame) who was actually born in England (as were all but two of Joanna Blessing Towne's children), before the family's voyage, and to Mary Towne Eastey, whose letter to the Court is available to be read in Salem (I have a copy, and it is heart-wrenching in its quiet assertion of innocence and in Mary's faith in her God). These three sisters, two of whom were hanged, were amongst the first of the Towne women to grow up in the New World. All three of them fought back in their own ways, and after the deaths of Rebecca and Mary, both elderly and pillars of the community, the Towne family broke Sarah out of her prison cell (which was merely an old back shed in someone's yard--by this time the jail was full and the accused were being housed by all sorts of greedy people who were paid to house them); they took her back to her childhood home in Topsfield, which was out of the jurisdiction of Salem Village. (This bit of the story is only known in our family--it is not documented, as far as I know, even in the Village Museum. In this film, she's rescued only after the trials have ended, when in fact she was snuck out before-hand; now you know this bit of family history, too.)

As has been mentioned by another reviewer, "The Crucible," for all its brilliance, is not terribly accurte (Abigail was only 11 and there was no sexual relationship between her and any of the men in the village). Miller used sexual freedom vs. repression to represent the stultifying atmosphere of the entire colony. "Three Sovereigns" is the only accurate play/film to show how some of the people, particularly the women, did not all just accept their fates in stoical silence. I believe, however, that only Sarah fought for restitution in her lifetime; three sisters, one sovereign for each, three weeks after her appearance before the magistrates, she died. Lots of threes... Her descendents went on to found Oxford, Framingham, and other towns in Massachusetts: the last of our particular family branch with the surname Towne was my great-uncle Charles Towne, who was Editor-in-Chief of the Hartford Courant (one of New England's first newspapers) for decades. Unlike the Quakers out of Philadelphia, Puritans in New England, like our family, were not moneyed, merely dedicated, and I am proud to be a Towne woman, doing my best to follow the tradition of strength Sarah and her sisters began (ironically, on the other side of my family I represent one of the Natives the Townes and other settlers unsettled and eventually waged war on--I guess that makes my sister and me rather too extremely "American"!)

I have always wanted to contact Ms. Redgrave to tell her how much I appreciated her portrayal of this brave woman. Sarah's outrage and lawsuit used to be just proud family history, so it was a great joy to see her strength so well-written and acted.

I gratefully and whole-heartedly recommend this film, particularly for people who can show it in a classroom or otherwise use it to teach kids.

--Tracy Elizabeth Towne Hodson
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three Sovereigns is worth it!, October 22, 2009
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I used this movie for my 8th grade American History class. The kids really seemed to enjoy it! It was probably the most historically accurate movie regarding the Trials that I have seen. Not only did it bring the Witch Trials to life, it allowed the kids to see what life was like during the 17th century as far as general info. - New England climate, government, church, dress, speak,etc...It is not really graphic, just realistic, but I did forwarn the students about parts that may make them uncomfortable. I also found a great workbook with background, scene descriptions, and worksheets for historical movies - this was helpful as well. The kids found both the movie and worksheets informative and easy to follow. I shared this with other history teachers and am pleased that I got it at such a bargain!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The compelling story of three devout sisters from the Salem Witch Trials, October 18, 2008
This review is from: Three Sovereigns for Sarah (DVD)
"Three Sovereigns for Sarah" [1985] was part of the American Playhouse series, an anthology television series periodically broadcast by PBS. I have watched most dramatizations of the Salem Witch Trials, be it the History channel's docudrama about the Salem Witch Trials, The Crucible [based on Arthur Miller's work], and more recently Salem Witch Trials [2003 CBS mini-series]. Three Sovereigns for Sarah stands as a gripping reenactment of the tragic events that unfolded in Salem village in 1692 and tells the compelling story of the victims, focusing on three sisters accused of witchcraft.

The main star of this production is Vanessa Redgrave who plays Sarah Cloyce, one of the three accused sisters during the Salem Witch Trials. It's been 10 years since the tragic events of 1692 in which 20 innocent people were put to death for witchcraft [19 hanged, one pressed to death]. Sarah is aging and frail in health and is accompanied by her nephew Samuel Nurse [whose mother Rebecca Nurse was one of those hanged] and goes to Boston to see the English magistrates [who are representing the Queen] and seeking vindication for her and her sisters. Sarah tells the magistrates her story in the hopes that they will be convinced of her and her sisters' innocence.

Sarah takes them all via flashback to the year 1692 when all the troubles began - in the Reverend Parris' household [minister of Salem Village] whose house slave Tituba [Sylvia Ann Soares] passes idle time by indulging young Abigail Williams [Parris' niece] and Bette Parris in dangerous pursuits such as palm-reading and crystal gazing. Not long after a couple of the other village girls begin to attend Tituba's sessions such as Ann Putnam Jr whose mother Ann Putnam Sr is an embittered woman who manipulates her own child for her and her husband's advancement in the community.

Eventually, the girls start accusing townspeople of witchcraft, including Sarah Cloyce's devout sister, the aging and ailing Rebecca Nurse [Phyllis Thaxter]. Soon after, Sarah herself is accused followed by her other sister Mary [Maria Todd]. As the beginning of the story already mentions the fact that both of Sarah's sisters are found guilty and hanged, the rest of the story focuses on Sarah's retelling of the events, with the aim of convincing the magistrates of her and her sisters' innocence.

I liked this production particularly for its historical accuracy. Actual transcripts of the trials were used in the production which added to its' authenticity. What elevated the show for me though was Vanessa Redgrave's compelling portrayal of the wronged and anguished Sarah Cloyce. Be it in her narration of the events [her voice manages to evoke all the pain and horror of the times] or in her acting, she is truly magnificent and ably carries the production. The other adult actors did a credible job too, especially Shay Duffin as Judge Hathorne, the only judge who never repented of his actions and who also happens to be the ancestor of author Nathaniel Hawthorne [of Scarlet Letter and House of the Seven Gables].

The child actors though left much to be desired. I felt they were not very convincing in their roles as the 'afflicted' victims of witchcraft and more annoying than menacing in their expressions of malice.

The production values seemed rather cheap compared to the 2003 CBS mini-series which is to be expected, but what truly annoyed me was the background music. The banging drums in particular seemed really out of place and were played at the most inopportune times.

But those small gripes aside, Vanessa Redgrave's narration and acting truly makes this production a must-see, and it's historical accuracy makes Three Sovereigns for Sarah a compelling and authentic retelling of the Salem Witch Trials. Highly recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 Cheers to Redgrave, December 22, 2007
This review is from: Three Sovereigns for Sarah (DVD)
Three Sovereigns for Sarah is arguably the best dramatic account of the infamous Salem Witch Trials. It certainly has an outstanding script that provides the perfect creative material for legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave. Indeed, Redgrave is outstanding as one of three sisters condemned by the mass hysteria-vendetta-land grab that lay at the center of the deadly accusations & fantasies.

The story is told in flashback by Redgrave and details aren't pretty.

It is a story of inhumanity, conformism & greed.

The course of the persecutions paralleled the witch trials in Europe (referred to as The Burning Times by some people.) Most victims were elderly, unmarried women with little or no property; people on the fringe, like the homeless today. In Europe there were both Protestant and Roman Catholic inquisitors. Their primary goal was to use indefensible claims against people in order to impress the need for religious conformity. There were also elements of sexual sadism involved and the unconscious need for individuals & the community as a whole to feel superior at the expense of somebody else: a social pecking order gone homocidal.

However, in the American Colonies there was the added element of financial & property gain.

Near the end of the film Redgrave's character, Sarah, needs to prove the property angle to a sort of "Witch Commission" in order to exonerate her sisters after their death. She does this by showing a map she had drawn of the township that clearly delineated the property lines of the accusers and their victims. By this time the imperial authorities intervened because 100's of people were being targeted by the "possessed" girls who were clearly out of control. It had mushroomed beyond the Salem township and threatened the highest social circles. In fact, the final incident that put a definitive stop to the madness was when the wife of the Governor was added to the ever longer Witch List.

Playwright Arthur Miller similarly utilized this theme of financial gain in his play "The Crucible." In his play Miller was deliberatly drawing parallels between the McCarthy Era, and that prosecutor's demand that one victim name another if they were going to have any chance of personally get off the hook.

A more recent suggestion by a researcher played down the financial aspect, replacing it with a psychedelic interpretation. According to this theory the bread in the township had turned moldy, producing ergot, the organic & potentially lethal ingredient of LSD. Children were more adversely affected than adults--and this is why the "afflicted" victims, with one exception, were children. However, this theory fails to explain why ALL the victims were female. There should have been boy hysterics too--or at the very lest very energetic boys bouncing off highly colorful & melting walls.

Although veteran actress Kim Hunter (from Streetcar Named Desire to Planet of The Apes) is particularly effective as the elder & pious sister of Vanessa, the rest of the cast, although quite good, don't quite shine or match Redgrave's performance. It's an awesome act to follow.

So I debited 1 star from the overall production rating.

Incidentally, after seeing this film it can only be hoped that people playing at being witches (including those making money in today's Salem at the original victim's expense) will have a flash of clarity & find something more socially relevant to do.

There was nothing "fun" or "romantic" about being condemned as a witch.

Watch this film, you'll see...

In Search of History - Salem Witch Trials (History Channel) (A&E DVD Archives)
Salem Witch Trials (Las Brujas De Salem) [NTSC/REGION 1 & 4 DVD. Import-Latin America]
The Crucible
Haxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages) - Criterion Collection
Rosemary's Baby
The Magus
Simon Magus [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Australia ]
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The folly of children,the politics of Church leads to America's most shameful blot, February 11, 2008
This review is from: Three Sovereigns for Sarah (DVD)
Arthur Miller's screenplay The Crucible and In Search of History - Salem Witch Trials (History Channel) (A&E DVD Archives), as good as they are, cannot hold a candle to a witch's teet when it comes to THREE SOVEREIGNS FOR SARAH. I still hold this PBS special film to be the penultimate when it comes to exposing the complete truth behind "the Salem Witch Trials" of 1692.THREE SOVEREIGNS FOR SARAH concerns the 1711 mission of one Sarah Cloyse,(Vanessa Redgrave) to vindicate the names and reputations of her two sisters Mary Estey and Rebecca Nurse,both falsely accused and hanged as witches in the hysteria and manipulative deceit of greed,jealousy,land disputes and Church politics nineteen years earlier.What makes this retelling of the madness of the time so compelling, is that all of the characters and dialogue comes from the historical records of the time.I have viewed this film countless times since it first premiered in the '80's and still the amount of anxiety and anger that it produces in me is palpable!
I visited Salem,Massachusetts in 2004 and stood in the Memorial Garden where the "hanging tree" was for 20 innocent people who were hanged or "pressed to death" by the accusations of little girls who were the pawns of manipulative knowing adults.The 'three sovereigns' concerns the three gold coins,each given by an apologetic court,who overturned the verdict for Cloyse,Estey and Nurse.The accuracy of the times,prevailing New England thought,religion and superstition is positively unparalleled for insight and knowledge on this tragic open wound on Early pre-American history.
As A+ as any production can get.2 and 1/2 hours,divided into 2 episodes.Perfect for teachers,dramatists,and essential in understanding why religion and politics were decided to be separated when the 1776 Founding Fathers drew up their Declaration and Constitution.
I once saw a bumper sticker that read," The last time they mixed religion and politics,people were hanged."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Sovereigns For Sarah, June 4, 2008
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This review is from: Three Sovereigns for Sarah (DVD)
This is a true story of a most astounding woman that survived the Salem
witch trials. You learn the truth as to why people mainly women were hanged
as witches. It's an old tale that rings true today.
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Three Sovereigns for Sarah
Three Sovereigns for Sarah by Philip Leacock (DVD - 2005)
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