Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

Sink me, I've finally seen it! And now I can understand why everyone loves Sir Percy Blakeney so much. 

Please note: major spoilers ahead. If you have not seen The Scarlet Pimpernel and do not wish to know what happens in the film, you may want to stop reading here.

For years, I have avidly avoided anything that had anything to do with the French Revolution. The bloody beheadings and the killing terror never held any appeal for me. Who could ever find something to enjoy during that time? It was always my least favorite part of history. I've never relished seeing innocent death and gory scenes in movies. So, naturally, when I discovered that The Scarlet Pimpernel was set during the French Revolution, I wrote it off as a movie that I wouldn't want to watch. 

You may be screaming, "Why?!? Why didn't you want to watch it?!?" And now after viewing the film, I would have to agree with your screams. 

What possessed me to give The Scarlet Pimpernel a second chance and watch it? Well, wonderful world of bloggers and blogs, it was you. In the many blogs that I follow, more than once Sir Percy's name came up as the name of a well loved hero. When I first saw it, I scratched my head. Sir Percy Blakeney? I hadn't heard his name before. Who was he? I was familiar with all the other heroes, such as Mr. Knightley, Gilbert Blythe, Arthur Clennam, and Mr. Darcy. But Sir Percy Blakeney? Interested, I read more. Sufferin' cats! He's the Scarlet Pimpernel!

Contrary to my previous views of the French Revolution, I was not turned off when I learned of Sir Percy's identity. Oh, no. Rather quite the opposite. I had to see if this Scarlet Pimpernel was worthy or not of everyone's praise. So, I looked the movie up on youtube. I watched probably an hour's worth of the Scarlet Pimpernel and decided. Yes, he was worthy. And now I just had to see the whole movie.

And, of course, I couldn't watch it without my family. My mother and father had seen it many years ago, and they were both eager to see it again. In fact, they quote it quite often ("Oh, the English and their stupid sense of fair play!"). My sisters (Beth Grace and Jessa Bri) were excited to see it, too, so after hearing my praise of the movie, they ordered it from our state electronic library system. My brother was easy to convince into watching it. I showed him the scene in which Sir Percy and Paul Chauvelin meet ("Why look you here, sir, at this limp cravat!"), and he spent the next forty consecutive hours quoting the Scarlet Pimpernel even though he had not yet seen the film.

The movie took a full two weeks to arrive at our home library. It was agony waiting that long. But  somehow, we managed. 

When the opening scene of the movie came on, we were all ready for it. As the plot unfolded and the characters became more real, every moment added to my opinion of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Yes, I confess, I did glance away at some of the guillotine scenes, and I obviously and mentally cringed when profanity crossed the screen. But the daring antics of Sir Percy kept  me on the edge of my seat! His costumes were, at the same time, unbelievably and outlandishly unique! The way he risked his own life to save the condemned lives of others, some of them people that he didn't even know, was greatly commendable. 

Then the conflict thickened. The evil Chauvelin obtained the letter Percy sent Armand St. Just and discovered that his own assistant was working for the Scarlet Pimpernel! And there were only 40 or so minutes left to watch! What was going to happen? I'll tell you what happened. The disc we were watching cracked up. 

Yes, it cracked up. I suppose the movie had been lovingly watched and handled a few too many times and was becoming too scratched for proper viewing. Oddly enough, the sound still worked and we were able to hear everything that was going on, but the picture was no longer clear. We could only see stuttering images and pixels and static. Disappointed, we listened and imagined the last 40 minutes. 

We were thankful that my dad had seen the movie before, and he obligingly filled us in on what there was to see, if we could see it. The ball at which Marguerite plays a double agent and alternately helps Chauvelin and the Scarlet Pimpernel; the foolish decision of Armand; the moment at which Marguerite discovers who the real Scarlet Pimpernel is; the escape of the young French heir; the epic duel between Percy and Chauvelin. It all sounded so wonderful! And I'm certain it looked wonderful, too.

Needless to say, my sisters ordered another copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel and we must now wait another two weeks to actually see the end of the film. 

However, you will understand me when I say that I am not Sir Percy's biggest fan. You may credit it to missing 40 minutes of seeing him onscreen, if you wish. I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I cannot say that, due to profanity and my usual dislike for the French Revolution, it has become my absolute favorite movie. Sink me, I do apologize to Percy's avid fans. But can you count me in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel? Odd's fish, m'dear, I ask you: how could I be counted otherwise? :)

1 comment:

  1. It would seem, m'dear, that the Elusive Pimpernel has eluded you in the end. I hope that the new DVD speeds on its way!