It's hard to believe this is the first English language feature version of Arthur Miller's play about the paranoia, prejudice and hysteria that produced the Salem witch trials. But it is, and British director Nicholas Hytner appears to have resisted all impulses to mess it
up. If the result is occasionally a bit stagy, it hardly matters: The story's sickening spiral into madness is preserved, and watching the noose of lies woven by a vindictive teenager (Winona Ryder) strangle a whole community is as morbidly fascinating as ever -- like watching a clutch of mice
swallowed up by a snake, one by one. Hytner's cast is uneven: Ryder tries hard, but never seems at home ...