Shalizeh | California United States | 01/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is excellent for 11th Grade English Teachers, trying to go over the Salem witch trials can be difficult. If you purchase this DVD it goes step by step on how everything started and students get interested right away. I thought it was well explained and it was smooth transition into the whole Crucible unit."
Shallow and Misleading
Ana Mardoll | United States | 01/20/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Salem Witch Trials / B0007WFUQ0
I've been fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials since I wrote a paper on the topic for my first year American History class in college. Since then, I've collected a modest collection of books, articles, and papers on the subject. I'm hardly an expert, but I do know enough to be terribly disappointed in this newest addition to my Salem collection.
First of all, this documentary is extremely short - certainly not long enough to justify a twenty dollar asking price. The "50 minutes" length also includes the long teasers that aired prior to and after commercial breaks, bringing the 'actual' length to much shorter than 50 minutes.
Second, even accounting for this shortness, the content here is extremely shallow. I realize the History Channel is supposed to be approachable for everyone regardless of prior knowledge, but a detailed explanation that witches were persecuted because the Bible says not to allow a witch to live is unnecessary when a few mere sentences would have conveyed the same point, and the discussion comes across as a desparate attempt to eat up time for that magic 50 minute mark.
Third: Being short and shallow makes for a bad documentary for an enthusiast like me, but not necessarily a bad documentary for, say, a classroom of high schoolers. However, here is where the documentary is most troubling for it is *extremely* inaccurate. Mere opinions and modern supposition are presented here as facts. Real facts which would undermine these opinions are kept hidden from the audience, in the interests of "drama".
For example, the opinion is aired that perhaps the biggest impetus in stopping the Salem trials was that "nontraditional" people such as men were accused of being witches. The actual fact that, of the first three executions, three of the executed witches were men and that the trials still continued for months afterwards before abating (or even losing steam!) is not mentioned, not even once. A newcomer to the topic would be left with the idea that naming men as witches was what caused the Salem trials to end, when nothing could be further from the truth.
In the interest of accuracy, it would be far more fair to include that the apparent biggest impetus to ending the trials was the Dutch document undermining spectral evidence entirely and the subsequent dismantling of the court by the governor, but there is nothing said about this - presumably because sexism (male witches vs. female accusers) is a more 'sexy' topic than politics and theology. There is also mention of George Burroughs' famous recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the gallows which is presented as being some sort of "turning point" in the peoples' minds, again without mentioning that if it WAS a "turning point", the actual turning was only accomplished months later!
Finally, the narrator also states unequivocally that there were "no transcripts" of the trial, and fails to temper this with the actual fact that copious notes were taken by several of the judges, many in near-transcript form! The fact that most (but not all) of the trials were recorded to history has been obscured in order to represent the much more interesting fiction that the whole event is supposedly surrounded by an impenetrable fog of mystery. This is dishonest and it is bad documentary technique, designed to entertain and titillate rather than inform.
An admittedly minor gripe of mine is also that, of the four or five 'experts' interviewed, two of them are religion professors with apparently little or nothing to add on the topic. It's unclear as to why an event that is notable for historical and psychological implications is left to religionists to interpret, and it feels like the makers decided that it was necessary to sprinkle in some nice religion experts so that they couldn't be accused of being anti-religion. If so, this is an incredibly cowardly way to construct a documentary - focusing on averting potential criticism of your motives rather than giving the best possible presentation regardless. If this had been a 3 hour long documentary, I wouldn't have minded the token religion professors nearly as much, but as a 50 minute presentation, it was grating to watch time slip away to the 'expert' opinion that Puritanism was a rough religion to adhere to and that modern jus' folks wouldn't like it much."
If you know anything about the salem witch trials already th
Lindsey Y. Lukenbill | 12/19/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"My husband downloaded this for me to watch, and frankly I have read about the salem witch trials before so it really wasn't that great. Most of the stuff that it covered were things that anybody who has heard about the trials already know. It gives more dates and stuff like that but for the most part if you know anything about the trials you don't need to watch this one. Slightly disappointing."
Very interesting documentary
B. Thomas | 09/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I teach high school English and this was a great suppliment to The Crucible. My students enjoyed it and asked many questions after viewing it. Highly recommend."