Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

So, here is the long awaited review! Why did I watch The Scarlet Pimpernel? Well, I noticed a lot of my blogging friends really enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel. I didn't know very much about it (I did know that it was a precursor to Zorro -- by the way, I enjoyed the 50s Disney series of Zorro), but everyone that I had mentioned that I hadn't seen it to said that I would really enjoy it. So finally I got to watch it on Youtube. And now, my long awaited review.

UK DVD Box Art
During the Terror of Paris, many members of the aristocracy are sent to the guillotine, but a number of them are saved by someone called The Scarlet Pimpernel. The true identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is Sir Percival Blakeney, a man who pretends to be a fop (or in other words, a dandy) in order to conceal his identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel. He falls in love with an actress named Marguerite St. Just, the sister of a man that he defended in a fight. Marguerite's "friend", Citizen Chauvelin, wants to become the head of national security and is certain that the capture of the Scarlet Pimpernel will get him the position.

There are some familiar faces in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Sir Percy is played by Anthony Andrews, who can be seen in a couple of episodes of the fifth series of Upstairs Downstairs, Ivanhoe (1982), and even in The King's Speech. Marguerite was played by Jane Seymour, a very well known actress and who can also be seen in Somewhere in Time. Citizen Chauvelin was played by Ian McKellen, who can be seen in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. And for the Downton Abbey fans, the Prince Regent was played by Downton creator Julian Fellowes.

Sir Percy Blakeney with his eye glass
The acting is very well done! Anthony Andrews played Sir Percy very well. The way he acted as a fop was perfect! He had the voice down very well and his mannerisms. He also held his eyeglass up a lot, which I thought added to his character. There are a number of quotes from him that are great!
  • "You see, I'm a bit of a poet, and you did not know it!"
  • "My dear chap, I never would have dreamt of depriving you of your moment of triumph. Alas, a moment was all I could spare."
  • "Odd's fish, m'dear. The man cannot even tie his own cravet!"
These were only a few quotes, but he had a bunch of really good ones!

I had heard on the site IMDB that there were people who said that Jane Seymour couldn't act when she played Marguerite. Frankly, I don't know what they are talking about. I thought she did a great job! You felt sympathy for her when Sir Percy thought that she was the one who turned in Marquis de St. Cyr and his entire family (Spoiler Which, of course, she didn't do intentionally but was set up by Chauvelin End of Spoiler). She had a number of awesome gowns (which, of course, I will talk about later) and she looked very nice throughout the entire movie.

Citizen Chauvelin with his usual sour expression.
Citizen Chauvelin... The villain that tries to catch the Scarlet Pimpernel Spoiler and fails! End of Spoiler He was pretty much set up for Sir Percy to aim jokes at him. Chauvelin is the character that no one can like because he is so stiff (not to mention his morals by sending aristocrats to the guillotine; that's another issue all together), and Sir Percy is the loveable fop that everyone has to love! When Chauvelin and Sir Percy spar verbally, and Sir Percy has the perfect comeback for Chauvelin, you can't help but say "OOOH! Chauvelin just got told!"

I did have a small problem with some of the characters (don't hate me!). The French characters didn't sound French; they sounded English. I know there were a bunch that were French, but they didn't sound French. To me, they could have been all English. This is a very small issue and it wouldn't be enough to make me dislike the film, but it was something I noticed.

Sir Percy and Marguerite going on a picnic, but
being questioned.
The scenery was very nice -- grand houses and some country side scenes that were nice to look at. However, some scenes featured prisons and the guillotine. But the prison scenes were not too gritty, so you need not worry about that.

Lovely! Lovely costuming! I don't usually comment on men's costuming (since, let's face it, it all tends to be the same), but Sir Percy's outfits were perfect for his character; a lot of lace that would be perfect for a fop. Chauvelin were black throughout the entire movie and no decoration (perfect for a stiff character!). Marguerite had some particularly lovely dresses. Since the story takes place during the 1790s, the fashions were still Georgian, not yet Regency. I don't recall seeing women wearing side hoops that were popular earlier in the era; if that is the case, that would be accurate since side hoops went out of fashion later in the 1700s.

Overall: 4/5
Well sink me, I enjoyed it! It might not be my absolute favorite movie (don't get mad!), but I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very interesting storyline and the good characters were likable (definitely something you want to achieve in a movie or book). There is a number of great costumes (especially Marguerite's) to look at.

Content wise, the film is about PG I would say. There is some suggestive themes, but nothing is graphic. There is also talk of executions (since it was the Terror of Paris), and we do see the guillotine blade come down, but we don't see any blood or anything graphic like that.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is available on DVD (though I cannot seem to find it at a reasonable price on Amazon). It runs for 142 minutes and though unrated, I would say that the content is about PG equivalent.


  1. Heehee, I shan't get mad at you, certainly not. In fact I'm glad you rated it 4/5 and "enjoyed it a lot" but it's not your absolute favorite movie, because that's pretty much how I view it too and it's nice that I'm not the only one. :D

    Next you should watch Bleak House. *nods* ;-)

  2. You should try the version with Richard E. Grant and Elizabeth McGovern - I think it's even better!

  3. Hurrah!!! So glad you enjoyed it! It's simply awesome...but I'm sure you've gotten that from my blog. :)

    And Melody - :-P

  4. Yay! The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favourites - it's a bit campy at times, but so much fun! And I love love LOVE Anthony Andrews/Sir Percy!!

    Now you have to read the book! It gets off to a slow start, but the second half is wonderful - and sufficiently different from the movie for the ending to be a total surprise!

    Have you seen Lorna Doone (the 2000 BBC version). It's similar to the SP in some ways in that it blends romance and adventure.

  5. Melody,
    I was thinking about watching Bleak House over the summer. It's on Netflix's Instant Streaming, so I might give it a try.

    Thank you for featuring it on your blog! I never would have run across it if I didn't see it mentioned on so many blogs.

    The Editrix,
    I haven't seen Lorna Doone. I may have to watch it one day. Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. So glad you enjoyed it, Miss Elizabeth! It’s one of my favorite movies…and Marguerite’s dresses are SO stunning! I would really love to try one on. :D

  7. The French characters didn't sound French; they sounded English. I know there were a bunch that were French, but they didn't sound French. To me, they could have been all English. This is a very small issue and it wouldn't be enough to make me dislike the film, but it was something I noticed.

    This was a production shot in England and with an English cast. This happens in a lot of costumed British productions that are set in countries outside of the U.K. Although the characters are non-British, they are usually portrayed by British actors who do not bother to use an accent other than their own. Unless the characters are American.

  8. Hi, You don't have to publish this comment (because of mature content) but I would like an answer in some way please! I've heard that this movie features prostitutes, is this true? I'm trying to figure out, because I'd love to watch it! If there are prostitutes could you please give me the times it shows them? Thank you so much! Big fan of your blog! ~Naomi

    1. Naomi,
      I went ahead and published the comment just in case anyone else had any other input. From what I recall (it's been a long time since I've seen this movie), they weren't in this movie, but I've heard they were in the newer one with Richard E Grant (but I haven't seen the newer one, so I can't say for sure). The only scene that I can think of along similar lines (in that there was a suggestive nature to it) was between a character and his girlfriend (but you don't see anything). I'm going off of my memory, so if anyone else who has seen the movie more recently, feel free to comment.

      You might want to check over at The Day Dream, which is a Scarlet Pimpernel blog. They might be able to give you more info. Their URL is


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