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The Crucible Movie Review

abigail john jean montand

An American film of Arthur Miller's The Crucible would have to wait until 1996, but the landmark play WAS filmed in 1957 by a French production company in East Germany, which meant that only art house patrons got to see it in America. It starred Simone Signoret (1921–85), Yves Montand (1921–91), and Mylene Demongeot, then 20, and the screenplay was by none other than Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80). In the bleak landscape of East Germany's countryside (which looks nothing at all like Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692), Elizabeth and John Proctor play out their troubled marriage with no help at all from that 17th century vixen, Abigail Williams. John is at odds with the community powers that be, Elizabeth is resigned to Abigail's mischief, and Abigail is made jealous by every moment that John spends away from her. The witch hunt is fueled by uncontrollable sexual tension, but the political nightmare that follows takes on a life of its own from which no one can escape. Reviews at the time of release were just fair, but the film holds up very well today. Montand's John Proctor may have deep political convictions, but he isn't terribly bright. Basically, he sets himself up with his own sexual brutality. Signoret has the challenge of repressing her natural sensuality and keen intelligence to play a good and simple woman whose chronic illness supplies her faithless husband with an excuse to have sex with the much younger Abigail. The sexy Demongeot (bearing a close resemblance to Jennie Garth) became an international star but rarely played a role with as much meat or range as Abigail. Director Raymond Rouleau also played the Governor. The interior sequences still sizzle today, but every single exterior sequence shoves us right into 1957. Couldn't the budget have been stretched to include a few trees or a better location scout? (The Crucible turned up on the small screen in America on CBS in 1967 with Colleen Dewhurst (1924–91), George C. Scott, and Tuesday Weld as Elizabeth, John, and Abigail.) AKA: The Witches of Salem; Les Sorcières de Salem.

1957 135m/B FR Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Mylene Demongeot, Jean Debucourt, Raymond Rouleau, Jean Gaven, Jeanne Fusier-Gir; D: Raymond Rouleau; W: Jean-Paul Sartre; C: Claude Renoir; M: Georges Auric. VHS

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