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The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel

On Blu-Ray: 
Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The French Revolution has risen up and the aristocracy are being beheaded in mass. It’s a dangerous time to be an aristocrat as a once righteous cause has turned into witch hunt where no one is safe from accusation and possible death. Fortunately there is a hero among the people known as The Scarlet Pimpernel.

I was a little taken aback and sucker punched when I found out that The Scarlet Pimpernel was the inspiration for Zorro. It’s plain as day after you’ve watched this film. The similarities are astonishing. What was even more surprising is that it is said to also be the inspiration for the character of Bruce Wayne. I can see that too. So who or what is The Scarlet Pimpernel?

Sir Percy Blakeney is an English aristocrat who travels from his home in England to his home in Paris. He’s known for his extravagant clothes, which he often boasts about, as well as his pompous behavior, often referring to his host country in demeaning terms and flaunting his luxurious and lazy behavior in contrast with the hard working revolutionaries and their cause. His dialogue delivery is laughable, like an English version of William Shatner. It would be hard to mistake Blakeney as The Pimpernel, but that’s exactly who he is.

The Pimpernel is a ghost, a mysterious rebel who rescues the innocent from losing their heads, and makes a mockery of all the revolution has become. He knows no fear, is everywhere and nowhere, and with sword in hand faces his enemies with swift justice. (Sound familiar?)

At first I thought that Anthony Andrews was the worst actor I’d ever seen. His turn as Blakeney is laughable at best when he’s putting on airs in front of the public, but when he’s no longer hiding behind his façade he’s actually pretty good. You just have to wait around long enough for the switch to happen. Its also easy enough to enjoy the role of Marguerite St. Just, Blakeney’s  love interest, as she’s played by the lovely Jane Seymour, who also puts in an admiral performance. As the protagonist we have Ian McKellen as Chauvelin, a tool for the council who is also in love with Marguerite and is after the head of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Aside from the action the story is also a twisted love story where Blakeney is forced to play two roles, one of the proper husband and aristocrat and the other of the rebel. Seymour’s character is caught in the middle of Blakeney’s deception, being tumbled around his strange and often concealed world. Meanwhile McKellen’s character hasn’t stopped the pursuit for Marguerite’s affections and often times becomes angry and threatens her with his power. Sure, it is a little soap opera like, but if you loved Zorro, you’re sure to love The Scarlet Pimpernel.  

AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
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