This public television production is so magnificently acted and tooted in its period that it's hard not to feel as though you've been transported to the 17th century to relive Nathaniel Hawthorne's tragic tale. 1842: Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (Josef Somer) discovers old historical documents detailing the sad affair of sinful Hesther Prynne (Meg Foster) who, in 1642, refused to name the father of her illegitimate baby, Pearl. As Hawthorne recounts, the unwed mother is shunned by her community, wearing the scarlet "A" for adulteress on her dress, moves into an outcast's cabin, and makes her livelihood as a seamstress. Believing that her English husband drowned at sea, Hesther is stunned when Mr. Prynne turns up, alive and with a new identity, Roger Chillingworth (Kevin Conway). During his early years in America, Chillingworth lived among the
savages and acquired a knowledge of herbal remedies; but the experiences he survived seem to have unhinged him. Chillingworth swears her to secrecy, and vows to unmask the man who cuckolded him. Time passes, and the townspeople re-evaluate their harsh assessment of Hesther, who's become a midwife and Good Samaritan. Chillingworth figures out that the well-regarded Reverend Dimmesdale (John Heard) was Hesther’s lover, but rather than publicly denounce him Chillingworth befriends the weak-willed holy man and uses his herbal skills to keep Dimmesdale alive and guilt-ravaged. As Dimmesdale's conscience erodes his physical health, Hesther tries to curb the wanton spirit of the maturing Pearl (Jessica Ruth Olin), who's incapable of downcast demureness that befits a Puritan woman. Meanwhile, Chillingworth waits in the wings for Dimmesdale's day of reckoning. Period pieces often ring false, undermined by stilted dialogue and thoroughly modern body language. But writer-director Rick Hauser's adaptation
brings together spare, on-location visuals and a remarkable teleplay that evokes the unforgiving spiritual landscape of 17th-century New England; the result is an extraordinary experience.
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- Released: 1979
- Rating: NR
- Review: This public television production is so magnificently acted and tooted in its period that it's hard not to feel as though you've been transported to the 17th century to relive Nathaniel Hawthorne's tragic tale. 1842: Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (Josef Som… (more)