Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Sink meh!"

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982
Anthony Andrews as the eponymous hero of The Scarlet Pimpernel

I think I have a new favourite movie - not to mention a new favourite hero. I'll have to go back and revise my Top 10 Heroes post sometime, eh? Not sure if Sir Percy knocks Henry Tilney off the No. 1 spot, but he's definitely right up there.

Several of you were amazed that I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera until the other day. . . shockingly, I hadn't seen The Scarlet Pimpernel either, until now! I myself am amazed. . . how on earth has it taken me this long to discover this gem? I've heard that the books were good, and have been meaning to read them since forever. I also knew that there were a couple of movie adaptations, but I had no idea that this particular one (the 1982 version) was THIS GOOD!!

Right, I'll try to write a review of sorts. I find it's easiest to write reviews of movies that I somewhat dislike, since there are always lots of things for me to criticise (bad Jane Austen adaptations are a prime target) - or even just movies that I like, but don't love. Writing a post about a film that I LOVE is always a challenge, because I constantly have to rein myself in, in a lame attempt to not sound completely like a giddy fangirl. (OMG I LOVE THIS MOVIE!! etc.) As you may have gathered, I love this film (bad). And I love the hero (much, much worse!). This does not bode well for my review, but I'll try to write it anyway. . .


The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982

The setting is Paris, in the late 18th century. The Reign of Terror is at its height, with countless "enemies of the Republic" losing their heads to the guillotine everyday. One man has been smuggling out victims earmarked for the guillotine - and doing so from practically right under the executioners' noses, saving lives and defying the Republic. He is known only as The Scarlet Pimpernel - his true identity is not known, though it is thought that he is English.

Ahem - his true identity is not known to the French authorities, but it is known to us, the audience. Sir Percy Blakeney, baronet, foppish, filthy rich, and generally regarded as something of an idiot by most of his acquaintance. Little do they know that behind the silly, dandified exterior, lies a scheming, highly intelligent mind, and the courageous saviour of many lives - in short, the Scarlet Pimpernel.

It's essentially the forerunner of the modern superhero story - superman, batman, et al. . .

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982
Jane Seymour as Marguerite St Just

While in Paris, Sir Percy meets and falls for Marguerite St Just - one of the most celebrated actresses and beauties in France - and she in turn falls totally and unequivocally for him (ha, who wouldn't!). They get married. Marguerite still knows nothing of his second identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel. 

Marguerite had previously been romantically entangled with Citizen Chauvelin - an agent of Robespierre. Chauvelin is very much in love - and needless to say, when he learns of Marguerite's engagement to Sir Percy, he is not happy - even though he does not yet know that Sir Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel. When he does find out, he is. . . erm, even less happy. Marguerite finds herself caught between the two men - suspected by one, blackmailed and manipulated by the other.

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982

Anyway, it's all extremely interesting and exciting.

It's a hugely enjoyable movie, but beyond any doubt, the best thing about it has to be Anthony Andrews, who is brilliant as Sir Percy/The Scarlet Pimpernel. He absolutely nailed the part, playing both the foppish fool and the dashing hero to perfection. 

The rest of the cast were good too, though they were all totally eclipsed by Andrews whenever he was on screen. Jane Seymour was very beautiful as Marguerite - but am I alone in feeling that Marguerite didn't quite deserve Sir Percy? I dunno. . . she was awfully nice, but surely such a hero deserves a truly exceptional heroine. . . Maybe it was just Jane Seymour's performance. I'd better read the books to get a fuller picture of all the characters.

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982
Sir Ian McKellen as Chauvelin

Ian McKellen was excellent as Chauvelin, and I had a lot of fun spotting familiar faces from the old Austen and Bronte adaptations done by the BBC in the early '80s - including Tracey Childs (Marianne in S&S 1981, Georgiana Reed in Jane Eyre 1983), and Christopher Villiers (Tom Bertram in MP 1983). Also, Julian Fellowes - the acclaimed screenwriter of The Young Victoria, Vanity Fair and many others - is hilarious here as the Prince Regent.

The production values are outstanding! A 1980s TV movie. . . it didn't sound promising, and I wasn't expecting much, but I was very pleasantly surprised - the costumes, sets, cinematography and score are all absolutely gorgeous. The filming locations are also lovely to look at - many of the exteriors were shot on location at various stately homes around Britain.

Problematic content: there's not a whole lot, but I'd still only recommend this film for ages 12+ or so. The guillotine scenes are not graphic, but they'd still be a bit much for small children. There is also some language, and one instance of a man and woman living together out of wedlock. See also the Charity's Place review.

The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982

I haven't seen the 1999 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel yet. To be honest, I don't really want to - I liked this adaptation so much. What do you people say - is the 1999 series worth bothering with? I will try to read the books sometime (another heap of books to add to my mile-high mental stack of "books I need to read").

More on this film:

Eras of Elegance
Gallery (where I got most of the pics for this post)

Any other fans of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel?


Shining as Stars said...

I'd rather have Sir Percy than Batman or Superman, thankyouverymuch. His sartorial splendour and engaging wit has charmed me more than any other superhero before, and I am dangerously fangirly whenever I watch this film. Why isn't Sir Percy real? Whyyyyyy?
I agree with you about Marguerite. I really wasn't impressed by Jane Seymour's portrayal, and while I know it must have been hard to stand up to AA's energetic performance, I found JS rather cold.I've read two books in the series by Baroness Orczy. Surprisingly, I prefer the film to the books. Maybe it's because the first book spends pages and pages raving about how beautiful Marguerite is. They're good books overall though. I'm just not in love with Marguerite, a state I suspect the book wants me to be in.
P.S. I watched the 1999 version too, and I think the 1980 version blows it clean out o' the water. It's okay, but nothing beats Anthony Andrews!

Mallory said...

Ooooh! Sir Percy Blakeney is definitely my favorite hero of all time! I never tire of reading of his daring escapes and rescues or watching the movie. Of course, the books are always better. They kind of combined several of the books into one movie, but I like the way the books do them even more. I think my favorite book so far is El Dorado. But of course, you have to read the Scarlet Pimpernel first. A word of caution though: the book has quite a bit of language in it. That is one of Sir Percy's only faults. The most language takes place when Percy is acting as an idiotic fop. So the first book is the worst. After that, it's not as bad. I did want to warn you though.
To the best of my knowledge, the 1980 version is the best. I started to watch the 1999 version, but it started out so differently than the books that I couldn't finish it. Maybe they got better as they went along. You'll have to let us know if you decide to watch it.
I must admit, I've always liked Marguerite. Perhaps it's because in many of the books, she is always willing to stand with Sir Percy and to help him when it appears to her that he is caught in a trap, even though it would often be better if she didn't.
One more thing, have you ever read the Count of Monte Cristo? I don't remember seeing you post anything about it. If you haven't read it, please do. It is one of my favorites, if not my favorite book. The hero ranks up very closely with Sir Percy.
Well, I think this is one of longest comments I have left on a blog before. Then again, it's about the Scarlet Pimpernel and once you get me on that subject, its hard for to get me to stop! Now to go watch the movie for the gazillionth time :)

Hydra said...

I loooooove Sir Percy too! (Though I must admit he doesn't make my top 5 list of heroes.) I've only seen the old, old movie with Leslie Howard and Meryl Oberon and read the first book. I really like the movie (even though it was a bit "Hollywood-ified"), but I like the book even better. I never knew there was more than one book! Could some kind soul please give me a list of the names so I can get a hold of them somewhere?
From Books to Movies and Back Again

Marian said...

I LOVE this movie! Sir Percy is definitely one of my fictional heroes. I've read The Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado...they're both interesting books, but I think this film version is just as good, if not better.

Polka Dot said...

I've loved this movie forever. I've watched it SO many times. Sir Percy is awesome!

Rachel S. said...

I've only read the 1st Scarlet Pimpernel bk. of the same name. That was a while back right after finishing A Tale of Two Cities--when it was hard to stay out of the French Rev. mood! Anyway, I've only seen the 1930s Merle Oberon/Lesley Howard version, which I actually thought was pretty good, but it may not be to everyone's taste. What you say about Marguerite is interesting. From what I remember from the bk., she's kind of a frustrating character, kind of slow to realize and act on things, but she's still likable, just not as much as Sir Percy, o'course. Anyway, now I'm gonna have to see this version soon. It'd be cool to see Gandalf in such a different role and costume. LOL! The thing that bothered me about the 1930s movie, and it seems like this movie is the same way, is that it tells the audience from the very beginning about the true identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, whereas in the bk., the reader only finds out near the end, when Marguerite finds out. But I guess in the movies it'd be too obvious to the viewers, so they have to tell you from the start like that. Well, you'll see after reading the bk.! Cool how you've just "discovered" 2 great movies to love!

The Editrix said...

Marie - I agree!! Sir Percy is lightyears ahead of any modern superhero in my books. :-D And you pretty much summed up my feelings on Jane Seymour as Marguerite.

Mallory, thanks for the warning. And no, I haven't read The Count of Monte Cristo. I want to, though - I've heard good things about it. And now your recommendation makes me want to read it even more!

Hydra - you could try Wikipedia: link (scroll down for a list of the novels). And I'll have to check out the 1930s version sometime!

Polka Dot - I'll say. ;-)

Rachel - that's a good point, about having the audience aware of Sir Percy's being the Scarlet Pimpernel from the start (you're right, it's the same in this version, too). It would kill a lot of the suspense from the plot. And I know, I can't believe how lucky I am, discovering two new favourite films within the space of a few days. :-)

Well, well - lots of nice, long, fat comments, LOL! Thank you ladies, for taking the time to share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you. :-)

Marian said...

@Rachel: I totally agree--one of the things I loved about the book was that I didn't know right away who the Scarlet Pimpernel was. Unfortunately, the edition of the book which I bought gives away the spoiler on the back cover! :P Probably should get a different edition...

Mallory said...

For those of you who love The Scarlet Pimpernel as much as I do, you might want to try visiting
It's full of all things Scarlet Pimpernel and has a list of all the books as well as e-texts of all of them! I only have the first book, and have read several online from that website. I like to go to the website occassionally just to look at pictures and read some of the books!
Hope you all enjoy it!

Traxy said...

Ooh, lookie, it's Ivanhoe! :)

Alexandra said...

One of my ab-so-lute fa-vor-ite movies! Sir Percy is one of my top five favorite heroes too! And Anthony Andrews absolutely nails him. He's awesome. ;-)

If you haven't read the books, you need to! After seeing the film, you can just hear AA in Sir Percy. Lots of fun.

I can't believe you haven't seen it! And I'm happy you have... ;-)

BTW...I was just looking up some Scarlet Pimpernel pictures and then came here to check and lo-and-behold, a post on TSP... ;-)

The Editrix said...

Thanks, Mallory! I came across that site as I was writing this post - through google or wikipedia, I think. I had a quick look, but I must go back sometime and have a longer browse. :-)

Traxy - yes, I'm desperate to check out Anthony Andrews' Ivanhoe ASAP!!

Alexandra - I can't wait to read the books. :-D And I'm glad you liked the pics. . . did you go to the gallery I linked to? There are bigger versions of most of these pictures there.

Anonymous said...


The 80's version of "Pimperel" was the first one my family saw and because of that (plus Anthony's portrayal! It's just unbeatable!) it will likely always be our favorite. But... the newer series is fun. So long as you go into it knowing that it won't be exactly the same, without those high expectations, I think it's just as enjoyable, only in a diifferent way.

Whatever you decide, this version is a "classic."

The Editrix said...

Thanks for that, Anonymous. Yes, I think the 1980s version will always be my favourite - but I will give the 1999 series a try sometime.

Rebekah said...

The only Scarlet Pimpernel that I have seen was from the 1950's I think. I hadn't even really heard of this one until recently but now I really want to see it! I saw Anthony Andrews in a old version of David Copperfield - he played Steerforth. I wouldn't recommend that version (the acting wasn't that great - especially in the beginning - music was completely lacking, etc... nothing bad, just low quality.)

About the 1999 version... *I* have never seen it personally but my parents have and I thought I should warn you that they put some, well... icky things in it. My sisters and I have not been aloud to watch it for that reason. They said the acting was good but they added some really unnecessary things, that weren't even in the book, making parts of the film quite indecent. Just so your warned. :)

To the KING be all the glory!


"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

Rebekah said...

lol I just read my own comment... I sound sooo confusing!!! In case you couldn't understand my really strange grammar, what I meant was:

About the 1999 version... *I* have never seen it personally but my parents have and I thought I should warn you that the screenwriters put some, well... icky things in it. My sisters and I have not been aloud to watch it for that reason. My parents said the acting was good but the screenwriters/producers added some really unnecessary things, that weren't even in the book, making parts of the film quite indecent. Just so your warned. :)

Sorry about that...

To the KING be all the glory!


"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

Rhoya said...

Sir Percy Blakeney Is my favorite hero of all time, and after I read the Scarlet Pimpernel he even topped...(Dare I say it?) Mr. Darcy? Although Mr. Darcy is AMAZING, I think Percy is even more so! He is funny, smart, brave, witty, good-looking, rich, loving, tender, and has an amazing fashion sense...(what more can a girl want?!) And ANthony Andrews played Percival to the T!! He was EXACTLY how I imagined Percy, and he had the expression, voice, mannerism, humor etc. perfectly down! I've seen other versions, and let me tell you, they are horrible in comparison! (in the 1999 version, Percy is old, ugly, has black hair, and does not act the character as well...and Marguerite is not even Pretty!) and the 1930s version is ok, but nothing amazing....THe book is a little different, but the 1982 version is combining El Dorado & the original book so that is to be expected. The book is also wonderful, and I HIGHLY recommend it!

beast'sbelle said...

I love this version of "The Scarlet Pimpernel"! My family and I used to always watch this at another family's house, and we all loved quoting it. "Sink meh!!" :D

I started watching the 1999 version and decided to turn it off because of unnecessary objectionable content. I liked Anthony Andrews' portrayal much better anyway!

If you ever get a chance to see the live stage production of this, I would highly recommend it. It has about the same amount of content as the 1982 movie. And of course, the book is great too! :)

Thanks for commenting on Tess and Maggie's blog. I was hoping I wasn't too annoying with my incredibly long comments! :} Glad you enjoyed them.