MAID OF SALEM (1937)
Article #772 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-26-2003
Posting Date: 9-23-2003
Directed by Frank Lloyd
Featuring Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray, Harvey Stephens
A woman in Salem falls in love with a refugee from the law, and then gets caught up in the Salem witch trials.
Though technically this doesn’t fall into the realm of fantastic film, any movie about the Salem witch trials must by its very nature align itself marginally with the genres. The first half of the movie is necessarily a bit slow, as it’s setting up a lot of the events that come into play in the second half of the movie; it’s at the halfway point that the witch hunt begins, and the next quarter of the movie does a strong job in capturing the almost claustraphobic terror of the situation. Unfortunately, in order for a movie to handle this situation honestly, it really needs to take a hard look at human nature at its ugliest, and a movie made in Hollywood under the restrictions of the Hays Office simply can’t work up the candor to really take a good, hard look at these things; the last quarter of the movie seems convenient, doctored, and fairly unconvincing. Nonetheless, it’s still worth a look for those interested in the subject, and a sequence where a storm arises during the first announcements about witchcraft is very effective, even if the metaphor is a little too obvious.