Crucible, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: +1

This many-layered, thought-provoking fictionalized account of the Salem witch hunts of the 18th century was originally a play by Arthur Miller. Winona Ryder gives a mesmerizing performance as Abigail Williams, a vengeful teenager in love with married John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis). The whole town becomes embroiled in a deadly controversy when Abigail's uncle, Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison), accidentally comes upon Abigail and a group of chanting young girls performing a strange occultic dance. As word spreads quickly of the girls' behavior, the townspeople are convinced they must be demon-possessed. The task is to find out whose evil spirit has consumed these souls. Led by Abigail, the girls tell terrible lies about some of the town's most respected, devout citizens. The accused refuse to admit to being witches even though denying it means certain death. This is definitely not the usual feel good holiday movie, but audiences will get emotionally involved in this very disturbing film. It's sure to be competing for an Oscar.

The author intended this story to represent Hollywood's witch-hunt during the cold war of the 1950s, when Communists were being black-listed. Of course, this is a highly controversial subject. Today it could parallel the wrongful accusations some misguided children have made against supposed child abusers that literally destroy families. Abigail's demonic threats force the other girls to lie and point fingers at innocent bystanders. Proctor's one indiscretion with Abigail turns into a fatal attraction. During the occult ritual she kills a chicken and drinks its blood. She also dances naked with her back to the camera, but the scene does not seem overly sensuous for mature viewers. Religious leaders and judges who conduct the investigation are portrayed as self-serving, narrow-minded and cold. The falsely accused recite The Lord's Prayer as they face death rather than sacrifice their integrity. Some beatings and slappings occur, and a man is gradually crushed to death as stones are stacked on him one by one. The girls chanting and performing witchcraft is disturbing but not gratuitous. THE CRUCIBLE is not appropriate for under age 14, but it could generate some very useful and interesting discussions among adults about the intent and validity of Miller's story.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Distributor: 20th Century Fox, P.O. Box 900, Beverly Hills, CA 90213

Summary
Crude Language: Several (6) times - Mild 3, Moderate 3
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: Few (3) times - Exclamatory (for God's sake)
Violence: Several times - Moderate (slappings, whippings, public hangings, man crushed with stones)
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: Once (obscured, brief female rear nudity)
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Few times (girl grabs man, passionately embraces him; subtle references to sex)
Drug Abuse: None
Other: Authority figures portrayed negatively; strong religious faith among common people, demonic woman performs evil deeds
Running Time: 115 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and adults

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