Maid of Salem - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Maid of Salem Reviews

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½ January 12, 2016
another picture about salem witch trials with little historical accuracy and much dramatic liscense
Super Reviewer
½ March 3, 2011
Early Hollywood version of the Salem witch trials isn't bad but the miscast leads hurt the overall film. Both Colbert and MacMurray were expert at drawing room comedies and contemporary dramas but at sea in a historical setting. Bonita Granville is properly hateful as the spiteful girl who starts the panic.
October 10, 2010
A pre-[i]Crucible[/i] look at the Salem witch hunts... while certain plot devices and developments are familiar and intriguing, a lot of it just feels formulaic and plodding. Fred MacMurray's casting is just plain wrong - never mind the fact that I just plain can't stand the dude. Colbert fares better, but not by much - the dialogue is a hilarious attempt at old-timey speak, and in a film so obviously borne from the studio system, it just doesn't work.
July 3, 2010
3: It's hard not to be enthralled by a story as powerful as that of the Salem witch trials, but the Hollywood ending does strike me as a bit false. Everything is wrapped up a bit too neatly in the end for the film to become truly immortal. Colbert gives a powerful performance though. There are definitely times when the simplicity of classic Hollywood pictures is very alluring. The style of filmmaking was certainly partially determined by the technology available in the day. Black and white film allowed the California coast to double for Massachusets in this and many other films (including How Green Was My Valley for instance). The quality of the film forced one to remain somewhat at a distance and obscured the details of the costumes and sets to some extent. Thus, sets and costumes that would pass for authentic then wouldn't necessarilly work today. Nothing needed to be weathered in the same way. The sets could be clean and less detailed and still work. It ends up being quite charming and clean, whereas newer films seem more true to life, but less like Hollywood. Both can be highly desired. Period pieces seem to have been much more in vogue at the time as well. Again, this seems to be somehwat out of necessity rather than a specific desire on the part of the studio system and audiences (technology was the culprit here as well, see my review of Avatar for an explanation). Since films set in 17th Century America are so rare today, this picture is quite a welcome change. I can't say I'd like to live in an early Puritan colony such as Salem though. I know this story mainly through The Crucible so this version was quite interesting. I wonder if Arthur Miller was familiar with it. It must have been a horrible life for those not apt to enjoy the Puritanical persuasion as well. I imagine life must have been very harsh, particularly for women. Humans truly can be vile, disgusting, and weak creatures. Colbert and MacMurray work quite well here and are supported by a quality cast as well. It's a perfect example of the strong product churned out by the studio system on a regular basis. Hollywood didn't always produce the masterpieces on the level of those made in Europe, but they were extremely proficient in turning out consistently entertaining and quality pieces time and time again. This being an example of the latter and Dreyer's La passion de Jeanne d'Arc being an example of the former. Both involve the torture and murder of women, but one is a masterpiece, while the other is merely excellent. This would have rated a 3.5 if the ending had been different.
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