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The Crucible VHS
The Salem witch trials of 1692 are brought vividly to life in this compelling adaptation of Arthur Miller's play, directed by Nicholas Hytner ("The Madness of King George"). A group of teenage girls meet in the woods at midnight for a secret love-conjuring ceremony. While the other girls attempt to cast love spells, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) wishes for the death of her former lover's (Daniel Day-Lewis) wife. When their ceremony is witnessed by the town minister, the girls suddenly find themselves accused of witchcraft. Soon the entire village is consumed by cries of witchcraft, and as the hysteria grows, blameless victims are torn from their homes, leading to a devastating climax.
The Salem witch hunts are given a new and nasty perspective when a vengeful teenage girl uses superstition and repression to her advantage, creating a killing machine that becomes a force unto itself. Pulsating with seductive energy, this provocative drama is as visually arresting as it is intellectually engrossing. Arthur Miller based his classic 1953 play on the actual Salem witch trials of 1692, creating what has since become a durable fixture of school drama courses. It may look like a historical drama, but Miller also meant the work as a parable for the misery created by the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s. This searing version of his drama delves into matters of conscience with concise accuracy and emotional honesty. Three passionate cheers for Miller, director Nicholas Hytner, and costars Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. --Rochelle O'Gorman
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It is powerfully acted, but my only gripe is the extent to which the makeup artists strove for realism in the depiction of Daniel-Day Lewis' dental hygiene - that was a bit too much, as he cries at the end "just leave me my name" the power of that statement is sort of lost in the grimace of brown teeth.
Otherwise, this is as close to being a perfect adaptation as I can see being made.
Even Winona Ryder, who is usually insipid and poorly cast - shines in this film.
Based loosely on the Salem Witch Trials, the story centers around a generally respected man (John Proctor) who strays from his marriage and gets involved with an adolescent girl who becomes obsessed with ridding him of his wife so she can have him to herself. She is caught dancing in the forest at night in a dark ritual that many of the young village girls have joined, the purpose of which is to conjure feelings of ardor in their respective love interests. Their christian morals are subsequently questioned and in order to save themselves from judgement, the girls begin to feign visions, faintings, seizures and all manner of hysterics to convince the town elders of their innocence and that they are in fact receiving supernatural messages about other townspeople who the girls accuse of witchcraft and other evil deeds. Many townspeople are found guilty as a result and are basically scapegoated and hanged. Old grudges surface to indict yet more and more people who are subsequently hanged, including John Proctor. It demonstrates how fear-mongering, anxiety, restrictive social norms of behavior and jealousy can lead to deadly results.
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