Sometimes a film cements itself in one’s memory no matter its film making or the era from which it stems. One such film for me is the 80s The Scarlet Pimpernel. A movie I don’t think I expected to be among my forever favorites.
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) Film Review
France is rampant with arrests and death during the French Revolution. Authorities overthrow wealthy families with centuries old roots in the aristocracy. But one man, an Englishman known to them only by his calling card, a Scarlet Pimpernel, opposes their tyranny. Together with a league of trusted comrades, he rescues as many guillotine bound victims as possible.
When he’s not rescuing French citizens, he steps in and saves a random stranger from a beating. This leads Sir. Percival Blakeny (Anthony Edwards) to meet Marguerite St. Just (Jane Seymour). From the moment he first sets eyes on the beautiful actress, Percy is smitten. From then on, he and Marguerite become inseparable, but not without the complication of her former beau, Chauvelin (Ian McKellen). He’s a man not to be trifled with; he’s not only jealous of Marguerite and Percy, but also a government official who seeks the Scarlet Pimpernel.
My love of period drama is sometimes on condition. Something I suspect is true for all of us since all stories are subjective. Typically, any period drama that is from the 70s or 80s (and on occasion the 90s) isn’t one I can take seriously. Those I’ve seen feature too many cringe-y scenes, acting or staging (seriously, what is with the “stage-y” look of the 80s period drama?). Two films I make exceptions for is the 80s BBC Jane Eyre and this, a TV production of the classic Baroness Orczy novel.
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My teenage years were full of re-watches of this classic adaptation. It along with Anne of Green Gables, and later A&E’s Pride & Prejudice, made up some of the “staples” of my teenage cinematic life. In more recent years, this DVD sat laden with dust. Recently, my mom mentioned it again, so we settled in and enjoyed a re-watch. What I discover is that while the film making may be terribly outdated, this is a story that continues to sweep me away. A feeling I suspect won’t change anytime soon.
The cast in this film is brilliant. Everyone beginning with its lead, who you may recognize from Marple or one of the David Copperfield adaptations, is wonderful; Jane Seymour is gorgeous and passionate as Marguerite; and then there’s Ian McKellen as the big baddie, Chauvelin. Ironically, during my most recent re-watch, I only just realized who plays this character. Though Ian is a well-known British talent (for many roles), I primarily know him from the X-Men franchise. No matter what he’s been in, he’s brilliant in this role alongside the entirety of this cast.
Andrews strikes the right balance between pompous and ridiculous, and serious. I love that we see two very different sides to a iconic character. It’s this kind of characterization that’s always most interesting. He’s never unlikable no matter the faces he wears or the “act” he puts on, which is another check-mark for the best type of character. The romance is also swoon-y and lovely. There are so many nuances, and “almost” moments that make us root wholeheartedly for a happy end between the lovers.
If you’re anything like me and you enjoy a good swashbuckler now and again, The Scarlet Pimpernel satisfies this and then some. It’s adventurous, historical, elegant and of course, romantic. For me, it’s one of those “classic” films that will never go out of style.
Content: there is one brief scene of a couple lying in bed together. A few sword-fights, and some scenes that depict the guillotine. Overall, the film contains nothing graphic.'Sink Me!' Who remembers and still loves the classic 1982 adaptation of this swashbuckler? PS: yes, there's #romance! The Scarlet Pimpernel - Romance and Revolutionary Adventure! Click To Tweet
Photos: London Film Productions / CBS / Image Entertainment