by Jack Nilan            EMail :

The Crucible (1996)

Movie Grade A

McCarthyism Connection Grade A+

McCarthyism Connection
Arthur Miller's screenplay was based on his play which was a parable of the Communist witch hunts lead by the HUAC and Senator McCarthy. In his play about Salem in 1692 he was really talking about 1950's America. Miller also wrote the screenplay for the movie.

Drama / Historical Fiction


Jack   A
Roger Ebert   **
IMDB    6.7

   I feel The Crucible is a much underrated movie. Most people tend to think it is pretty slow going but I enjoyed every moment of it. To me the movie works on four levels.

   On the first level it works because it really gives a great view into how people lived in 1692 Salem. The houses, the farms, the village, the church. The cutting of the hay in the field. I think that the attention paid to period detail is tremendous - probably amongst the best work ever done for that milieu. I can watch this movie and just enjoy the look and feel of it.

   On a second level I think the movie gives a very nice feel for goings on at the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. In that year, a wave of superstitious terror gripped the Puritan town. Nineteen villagers were hung as witches , four died in prison and one was pressed to death. Disappointingly, for dramatic reasons, The Crucible veered from the historical events (Abigail was really only 11 , John Proctor was 60 and there was no love triangle). However, I feel the movie gives you a real feel for the time and the events that took place. Not perfect history but a pretty good look at the events that took place.

   On a third level the movie is pretty good on its own merits. The love story melodrama is an old story but packaged pretty well here. The acting was good and Arthur Miller's story worked for me.

   On a fourth level the movie is most successful. As a reflection of the McCarthyism of the 1950's and as a warning that that climate could again appear, the movie is most effective. The Crucible is probably the best allegorical play ever written and this movie does it justice. Paul Scofield (as Judge Danford) says "A person is either with this court or against it. There is no road between. This is a new time. A precise time. We live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed with good, and befuddled the world. Now, by God's grace the good folk and the evil entirely separate." He is talking of McCarthyism but he is also talking about any time where the majority decides what is "right" at the expense of the minority. I feel the movie is as relevent for America today as the play was for America in 1953.