Second Opinion – The Crucible

Movie Review #913


Nationwide release on November 27, 1996. Drama/History. This film is rated PG-13 for intense depiction of the Salem witch trials. Runs 124 minutes. American production. Director: Nicholas Hynter. Play: Arthur Miller. Screenplay: Arthur Miller. Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Bruce Davison, Rob Campbell, Jeffrey Jones, Peter Vaughan, and Karron Graves.


By Alexander Diminiano

Editor’s Note: This is a second-opinion review. Judging from his review a few months ago, Red didn’t like it either.

“For the next few days, we’ll be watching ‘The Crucible’ in class.” I kind of rejoiced, either internally or externally, when I heard my Literature teacher say that a few weeks ago. Because who doesn’t love it when you’re allowed to watch movies in class? We were going to have to take notes, but who cares? I mean, I’m kind of used to taking notes on movies, but it’s a movie for crying out loud. What better way to spend four days?

But those were my thoughts before, when I rejoiced before we watched the movie. I may as well have rejoiced afterward, simply because it was over. And I should’ve clapped too. It would save me the fear that if I didn’t clap, the director would come to me five minutes later, put me in a headlock, and demand that I clap for him. The movie is massively over-performed. Its demand for ovation is obnoxious.

How tremendously ironic that the tragic hero in this story is a preacher. It’s ironic because the movie gives us the preachiest account I could imagine of the Salem witch trials. The moral? “Everyone is evil! Be glad the Puritan Age ended a couple hundred years ago, because if it hadn’t, the Puritans around you would be out to get you!” It’s not clear that John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis), our tragic hero, is the good guy. We don’t feel very sorry for him. We don’t think anybody’s doing wrong to him. Everybody around him is evil not because they’re wrongdoers but because their actions are selfish and puerile. We feel more emotion toward the villains here (curiously, that seems to be everybody but Proctor and his wife), and even if it’s the emotion of disgust, it’s strong enough to make us forget that the seemingly indifferent Mr. and Mrs. Proctor exist. I mean, the fact that John Proctor is played by Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, whose greatness speaks for itself, helps this tragic hero become somewhat more noticeable.

What’s sad about “The Crucible” is that the film has everything going for it, and yet it’s not even halfway decent. The screenplay was written by Arthur Miller. That’d be the same Arthur Miller whose play this movie is based on: the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning stage production of the same name, published in 1953. That was the McCarthy Era, and this play was an allegory for communism. Some saw it as a clever fable, while some decried both it and its author as “un-American.” The controversy eventually reached a point where Miller was forced to testify to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) as a Communist; his later works were blacklisted.

Anyway, before I get too sidetracked with a story as intriguing as the 1996 adaptation of “The Crucible” should be, Miller’s play had a serious impact on the people of his time, and despite its controversy, it’s considered a classic today. His screenplay, four decades later, is anything but. If this was ever a classic, Miller must have rewritten it.

I won’t bore you with much details. Let’s just say that this isn’t at all a “classic” script. Why? Well, you know those pictures somebody’ll paint for you for ten bucks at a baseball game? The ones where they draw you with a big head and a small body? I wouldn’t compare one of those with the Mona Lisa. My point is, you don’t compare a simple caricature to a timeless composition.


3 thoughts on “Second Opinion – The Crucible

  1. Ironically, I also saw this in my English class. Great review.

    Btw Cinemaniac, I responded to your reply on the Dumb and Dumber To review. I just want to clear up any misconceptions that my comment may have arisen.

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