187 of 196 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2005
Having read most of the reviews here and on other websites, there seems to be 3 main groups of people checking out this DVD set.
1. Those who love the books and want to see an adaptation of the books.
2. Those who loved the 1982 version (with Andrews and Seymour) and want to see more of that.
3. Those interested in seeing the work of Grant, Shaw, Vibert or McGovern.
Group 1 is generally sorely disappointed. This version changes the main character of Percy in ways that will be highly discomforting: he uses minimal disquises, he kills people willy-nilly, he uses Bond-esque gadgets instead of wit and cunning, small things like that. Not to mention, some well loved league members are killed off for no reason. To see a hilarious list of grievances from Group 1 go to: [...]
Group 2 is generally disappointed too. That whole love affair/courtship thing between Percy and Marguerite is missing here. #1 of this DVD starts right off with Percy giving Marguerite the cold shoulder after their marriage. Group 2 is also upset by the change in Percy (that no disguises and murdering bit). And then Elizabeth McGovern is not as beautiful (or animated or witty) as Jane Seymour and many in Group 2 are bothered by that. Group 2 absolutely ADORES Anthony Andrews as Percy, and Grant isn't Andrews.
Group 3 generally really like this DVD set -- especially if they are not burdened by preconceptions of this famous literary story. However, Group 3 is likely to be a little lost in the beginning. Note: Percy and Marguerite were madly in love with each other before getting married (you won't believe this when you see the first DVD, but it's true). On the wedding night, he receives information that she has betrayed some aristocrats. But he doesn't talk with her to find out what really happened. That's why their marriage is in need of counseling at the beginning of DVD #1.
When you read the reviews (many from folks in Group 1 and 2), you'll get the impression the acting drags and the screenplay is boring. This is NOT the case (well, not in #1 and #3). Personnally I enjoy the tongue-in-cheek take on the Scarlet Pimpernel; the fact that this Pimpernel kills loads of people(!) and walks around in English clothing(!) is hilarious. Richard Grant has a lot of fun with his role; I like him more and more each time I see these DVDs. Also Shaw and Vibert plus numerous supporting cast give excellent performances (Shaw in particular is my favorite), the costumes and settings are GREAT, and the script is well-moving and entertaining (especially in #1 and #3 at least).
57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2004
The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of those books any child, or teenager should read. It has all the ingredients adventure, a hero in disguise, an evil villain, a great heroine and action and adventure.
I really like this version. I thought that no one could surpass Anthony Andrews , but , as usual I was wrong. Richard E. Grant is utterly perfect. He can be a stupid snob while he is Sir Percy and a great, sensible hero when he is the Pimpernel. His performance is elegant, wit and funny.
Elizabeth Mac Govern plays a real Marguerite. Not a stupid, simple woman as others have done before. She was a great actress before her marriage. She has a past and that is why I like her. A real heroine who matches the heroe, not one who is crying all the time and waiting for him to save her.
Martin Shaw is the best Chauvelin. He is a villain, with that dark secret that makes him more human. But also his wicked sense of humor keeps the high level in the film.
And plus, add a great score. A wonderful music with a catchy melody and you have a great serie. BBC always keeping its standars. Let's hope they will going up.
51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2002
This may well be my favorite version of the Scarlet Pimpernel. I had always adored the 1934 version with Leslie Howard. Richard Grant does not merely reprise Howard, he rethinks the character of the Pimpernel.
The Howard version, done at a time when England was under attack by Germany, is solidly patriotic. Howard's Pimpernel is a patriot and a humanitarian. Richard Grant's Pimpernel obviously enjoys the thrill seeking, living on the edge of destruction. As someone else said, an adrenalin junkie. Rescuing aristos from the guillotine is an extreme sport for him.
Lady Blakeney is played as an older character, about mid thirties, rather than 25, as in the book, which is delightful. She is more experienced, less an ingenue, and her mistakes arise from desperation, not pique. When they relax together, she and Sir Percy obviously enjoy one another, physically and mentally.
Which brings me to the character of Chauvelin. His character is given more depth. There's hints about his character that need to be explored in more depth (could we have another movie or two, please?. He reminded me of Raphael Sabatini's Scaramouche, a middle class character who was drawn into the Revolution without a full understanding of what he was helping to set in motion. However, make no mistake, Chauvelin is looking out for himself first and foremost.
France of the Revolution is shown to be a madhouse, where the Guillotine is an icon, sculpture of the heads of the fallen becoming decorations in a coffeehouse. It is both horridly decadent and fascinatingly stylish.
All combined I would give these movies 4 1/2 shiney stars.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2001
If you absolutely love the 1934 version starring Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon, or the 1982 version starring Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour, you might absolutely hate this version. I say "might", because your opinions of this version will definitely be colored by your attachment to the other versions and their leads. I came to this video, having only seen the 1934 version a long time ago, and I watched all three versions within one week.
First, the reviewers are right in identifying both the merits and faults of this version. This is a way-out adaptation of the story, so much so, that you might not recognize the story as the original one written by Baroness Orczy. Having said this, I have to add that the way-out factor consists not so much of added scenes and characters (which the 1982 version has), but of the change in the character of the Pimpernel and the emphasis on him as a man-of-action, rather than a fop or a devoted husband. There are also some major characters (in the series) bumped off either in the first episode or in subsequent episodes.
If you are going to watch this, watch it as a historical romp updated for the 1990s and as a cross between the original Pimpernel and the action movies and commando movies so popular today.
Also keep in mind that the romance factor (crucial in the book and in earlier versions) is reduced to practically zero, thanks to the screenplay and the palpable lack of chemistry between the leads (not to mention the miscasting of Marguerite). The most passion Sir Percy displays for his wife is when he is trying to outrun the mob to get to her. [The prison scene, starting with him descending the steps down to this frantic race is one of my favorite clips in this movie].
As for Marguerite, she displays more feeling for her brother than for her husband or her former lover. Which former lover? Ah, you have to watch the movie to find that out, as well as the peculiar interpretation of her past in this version.
Watch for Ronan Vibert's Robespierre and for Grant's varied smiles which convey different meanings. His best film is said to be WITHNAIL AND I, which I will certainly look out for.
Yes, this version has a lot of things wrong with French history - but so does the 1982 version. This is *not* the film to watch to find out more about the revolution, even though it may be a cult favorite in AP History classes. My problems are not so much with the history as introduced in this version (the film after all is about a fictional character, to begin with), or with the departures from the story - but with the lack of romantic passion (crucial in the original story), and the many unexplained puzzles (such as a) why would Sir Percy trust an actress of dubious morals, b) why would no Parisian notice men walking around in masks, and c) who informed on a French sympathizer who was guillotined).
Great photography and music, interesting take on the story, pity about the lack of chemistry between Grant and McGovern and the many implausibilities in this version.
62 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2005
I am a big Percy Blakeney/Scarlet Pimpernel fan and have read Orczy's book at least 3 times. Based on the strength of a customer review on this webpage, I purchased the boxed DVD edition, featuring Richard E. Grant & Elizabeth McGovern. The scripts were written by Richard Carpenter.
I was VERY DISAPPOINTED by this screen version of the story. I do NOT recommend it to any true Percy fan.
I have viewed 3 movie versions of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and this one is by far the worst. Perhaps screen-writer Carpenter never read the book; perhaps he simply decided to take ENORMOUS LICENSE with the characters. In either event, the script eliminated much of what was delightful about Orczy's Percy and turned Marguerite into a mild-mannered wimp without the wit or resources to save herself from her own stupid decisions. Even worse, Marguerite was constantly in need of being rescued by her husband or, ironically, her former lover/the series villain, Chauvelin.
Here are some reasons for my conclusions:
Percy Blakeney, whom Orczy described in her book as the "master of disguise" never ONCE dons a disguise in this movie series (unless you consider wrapping a black scarf around the lower face a disguise). And **HELLO!!** wouldn't the French be a tad bit suspicious of 3 black-cloaked, black-masked figures strutting around the streets of Paris in broad daylight? (The French certainly arrested other characters for less!) These scenes were so contrived, they were painful. And yes, while it was certainly clever to have Percy escape ala James-Bond gadgetry -- this contrivance negated Orczy's portrayal of Percy as a man whose WIT was his first and primary weapon for defense and escape. In fact, I found Percy (in this DVD collection) to be more fond of slicing and dicing enemies, than of using his unmatched cunning to save himself and his compatriots. This twist on Percy was truly, truly disappointing -- the author must be turning in her grave.
As for the romance in Orczy's story... Neither the actor nor the screen-writer were EVER able to convince me that Percy was the kind of man whom a woman (or a nation) could adore. Richard E. Grant portrayed Percy as cold & verbally abusive to Marguerite. Percy ridicules her publically several times -- and Marguerite's dialogue is written so that she never quite "gives" as good as she gets.
But Marguerite's dialogue is not the point. THE POINT is that Percy, in the book, was a tormented man who loved a wife whome he feared he could not trust. Never once did Grant's acting convey such breadth; his verbal sniping (as written and acted) was cruel and self-aggrandizing. Even when Percy is supposed to be "play-acting" this ridicule of Marguerite in DVD #3 to set up a plot element later in the story, the contempt in the dialogue, as delivered by Grant, felt very REAL.
Screen-writer Carpenter's rendition of the so-called "romance" in this movie version touches the very uncomfortable theme of emotional abuse, especially through Grant's interpretation of the dialogue. Rather than delivering his lines with subtlety (a nod to his hidden feelings of affection for his wife), Grant's Percy most often comes across as a high-handed male autocrat who expects Marguerite to submit meekly to his rule. While this type of husband/wife relationship may have been historically accurate in 18th Century Britain, I do not believe that the Percy of Orczy's book would have handled himself in this way. Indeed, Percy was supposed to be the consummate gentleman underneath all the frippery. And he was supposed to be genuinely in love with his wife.
One of the rare, potentially romantic moments in DVD #1 was completely bungled by both leading actors. Grant's one-liner about Marguerite being his "life" is delivered with such unbelievable dispassion that it borders on mockery. (And please: Marguerite's dimwitted mutterings about unrequited love at this crucial point in the plot -- when Percy is accusing her of complicity in a French family's murder -- was INSULTING to every woman of intelligence in the audience! I just wanted to throttle actress McGovern AND the screenwriter.) Yes, yes, the original book hinged on this ongoing misunderstanding in the Blakeneys' marriage, but the dialogue could have been written and acted much better.
But if you don't consider the lack of plausible romantic elements a good reason to avoid this series, read on. The problems with this verison of Orczy's Pimpernel go far beyond the love story.
For starters, Percy is often unsympathetic as a human being: in addition to sniping at his wife and behaving in court like a smart-alecky prig, he shows a dearth of compassion at the death of his loyal lieutenant, Lord Anthony Dewhurst. When Dewhurst is murdered by Chauvelin (in cold blood, I might add), Grant (and the scriptwriter) devote exactly 3 seconds to grief in DVD #1. Grant cavalierly delivers the following dialogue: "Well, Tony knew the risks." (And this Pimpernel is supposed to be a hero whom a nation adores? Whom 20+ young British hotbloods would give up their LIVES for?! Sorry. Didn't buy it.)
If Percy's casting was bad, Marguerite's was even worse. In the book, Orczy's Marguerite was a flamboyant French actress, full of life and passion & hopelessly in love with a husband who, she believes in despair, no longer loves her.
In this DVD collection, Elizabeth McGovern most often appears as a frumpy hausfrau rather than a sparkling coquette. McGovern played Marguerite without wit or common sense, & Carpenter's script didn't help. For example: Marguerite (a bourgeois who should have known better) tries to pass herself off at the gates of Paris as a seamstress. Five seconds later, her lily-white, uncallused hands are inspected by the captain of the guard, and she is hauled off to prison. Carpenter didn't even let Marguerite's character -- the consummate actress -- PROTEST this treatment, much less run, struggle, or attempt to bluff her way out of her predicament. Marguerite simply walks off between her guards!! (::groan::)
In DVD #2, she sits meekly in a convent, waiting for Madame Guillotine's troops to discover her and drag her away. In DVD #3, she spies on 2 characters, learning the double-identity of the villain. The villain leaves, but the sidekick remains; several minutes later, Marguerite returns from a chat with Percy to rummage through the villain's belongings. At this point, neither the actress nor the screenwriter allow Marguerite the common sense to first SEARCH THE AREA FOR THE SIDEKICK to make sure that her snooping goes unobserved. Naturally, this plot contrivance leads to Marguerite's capture later. ::double groan::
I could go on and on about the characterization of Marguerite as a stupid female, but I'm sure you get the point.
And now you're probably wondering if there is ANYTHING to commend you to this series. Well, yes, to be fair, there is: Martin Shaw, who was cast as Chauvelin.
Shaw portrayed Chauvelin as a real human being with passions, prejudices, longings and yes, moments of real malice. He also had occasional moments of nobility. He gave the only consistent performance of real depth in this series. Even in the scenes where Percy completely humiliated Chauvelin, either by word or by sword, Chauvelin somehow remained sympathetic, which, by contrast, left Percy either looking over-the-top arrogant or a tad bit cruel.
In general, the worst storyline of this series is on DVD #2. MADAME GUILLOTINE has enough plot contrivances to gag an ox. The 3rd DVD, THE KIDNAPPED KING, is by far the best of the series -- but, sadly, that isn't saying much.
If you're a glutton for punishment and you really MUST purchase this series, I recommend that you amuse yourself by watching the REALLY BAD ACTING of the extras in the crowd scenes (especially on DVD #1).
However, if you want to watch a REALLY GOOD version of the Scarlet Pimpernel, one that is faithful to Orczy's novel, view the 1980s version that stars Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. Andrews is comical AND heroic -- a man to fall in love with. Seymour is a spunky, resourceful heroine that will make audiences cheer.
You might also enjoy the Leslie Howard version, with beautiful Merle Oberon as Marguerite, which was released in 1935. Both actors do a credible job with Orczy's characters, and the script is faithful to her book.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2004
Initially, I couldn't be more thrilled when I heard that there were three new Pimpernel movies out there. I had worn my Anthony Andrews tape almost completely out, all the while hoping that someday, somewhere, someone would get the idea to bring the Pimpernel back. Well, they did. And this is the result. The casting, for the most part, is questionable. Sir Percy is supposed to be dashing and handsome, witty and absolutely hilarious. Richard E. Grant isn't any of these. He's a good actor when he's cast right. Here, he simply isn't. To be fair, he does have a few good moments, but they would have played so much better had it been someone else in the role. Elizabeth McGovern, as Marguerite, is fair. She's pretty, but a few years too old. She has, at least, some of the charm that the role requires. Perhaps the best casting comes in the form of the two villains. Martin Shaw as Chauvelin and Ronan Vibert as Robespierre are excellent. They convey total believeability in their roles. An added diminishment to the overall production is the choices the screenwriters made in adapting the stories. There's adventure and intrigue in places, but sometimes (as in Book Two, "Mademoiselle Guillotine") the story drags.
The attention paid to reconstructing the period must be commended. In this version, far more than any other version (yes, even the 1982 one, alas) the viewer gets a real sense of what it was like to live back then. There's the decadence of the English aristocracy and then there's the dirty, dangerous life in revolutionary France. Overall, this mini-series should have been much, much better.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2000
Whenever people review a movie based on a book, they seperate into two distinct groups. 1- Those who love the book and are disappointed and 2- Those who have not read the book and love the movie. I will try to write a review that will help everyone.
I am a Scarlet Pimpernel fan. I was happy to hear about the new videos and bought the set. I must say that as a fan, I was let down. As a movie fan, I found them to be tolerable. The pros and cons of the movies:
SP Fan- The plot was of course mangled but one comes to accept that as a given in any SP adaptation. Ms. McGovern was not as vile an actress as I expected. The villains are well played. However, I found the utter change in the tone of the books to be distressing. In the books, the SP would come up with a brilliant and usually non-violent rescue. In the movie, they kick down doors, hack through anyone who gets in their way and generally make like a SWAT team. Once again, Marguerite and Chauvelin are made out to be ex-lovers, never in the book by the way. This is not giving away key plot points: Lord Tony is quickly killed! Lord Tony who survived a dozen SP books killed and forgotten about!
Non-SP- Okay historic adventure. The costumes are good, the acting is solid. Robespierre is especially good. Too violent. The "get a room" factor is high. Worth a rent, not a buy.
SP- Better than the first anyway. The arguments between our favorite married couple are cute. Again, not true to the tone of the books. The villainess is quite good though. How did Marguerite's hair grow back so quickly? Would they really have allowed her a wig in prison? I think not!
Non-SP- Interesting relationships. The priest's plight was truly moving. I loved the part where Sir Percy pretends to be his arch-enemy! Still, there are better films in this genre.
SP- The best of the lot and probably the only one worth buying. The writing becomes very predictable and I guessed a key suprise three minutes into the movie. Still, the vallains are good. I must agree with the review below that Sir Percy would never kill anyone like he did in this one. Too contrived an ending.
Non-SP- The best of the lot. Some good suprises, some cliches but overall moderately enjoyable. Check out Errol Flynn for better examples of swashbuckling.
In conclusion, Lord Tony's death distressed me greatly. The writer obviously wanted to prove that he was not afraid to kill main characters. He had already killed a league member at the beginning! Was he not satisfied? Lord Tony is the son of a Duke for heaven's sake! Do you actually believe the French could murder him in broad daylight in public in front of 200 witnesses and get away with it? It would cause a diplomatic nightmare. Anyway, since they knew he was not the SP, why did they not ransom him back? They are low on cash, remember. That's the way with these movies. They make changes and then do not support them with facts and aftermath.
SP- 1 star None-SP- 3 stars
Evening out to 2 stars
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2001
Okay, keep an open mind if you will, and watch this version, but if you want to see a film of the Scarlet Pimpernel that does it justice, SEE THE ANTHONY ANDREWS VERSION! He is utterly perfect as Sir Percy, and nobody beats Ian McKellan's Chauvelin. I have not been able to see him in anything else without thinking of this film. This latest version was alright, but nothing beats the dashing romantic adventurism of the Anthony Andrews version. He is by far the best Percy Blakeney.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Richard E. Grant is a marvelous actor and I have no fault with him or most of the cast for these made for TV films.
My major complaint with these films is that they are ALL lacking the most important element of the Scarlet Pimpernel's career. His ability to do a disguise better than anyone alive! As the first true super hero ever writtten it is an esential part of his character! And NOT ONCE do they use this key ability of his! Well they do have him wear a cape and have nifty devices sewn into his clothes but IMHO you just cannot leave out his diguise abilities!
My other complaint is the casting of Elizabeth McGovern as Margaritte..she was very dull and not at all the exciting or intelligent person she is supposed to be. Look at Jane Seymour in the 1982 version for the best Margaritte as well as some excellent disguises done by Anthony Andrews as the excellent SP himself.
I enjoy this new version well enough, mostly becasue REG and the actor who plays Chauvelin are both sooooo good. But as a whole the 1982 version and the recent Broadway Musical capture the most important aspects of TSP and are worth seeing if you have the chance! I believe the musical is no longer running but the soundtracks (2 of them)are worth getting they tell the story quite well and are delightful!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2004
While the movies in this boxed set are not the best Scarlet Pimpernel movies ever made, this is still a very good series of made for TV movies in its own right. Richard E. Grant is well cast as the Pimpernel while Elizabeth McGovern dazzles as Marguerite. The acting and direction is just short of excellent. The problem I have is that the scripts do not have too many good lines and they appear to have been written by hacks. This is a shame since the Pimpernel series was a most well-written series of novels. Still, the movies in this boxed DVD set are better than most of what you will find on TV these days.