Monday, March 12, 2012


Sir Percy Blakeney is back as the foppish British dandy who moonlights as the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, a daring rescuer of French aristocrats during the Revolution. Leslie Howard played him in the original film; he’s a hard act to follow, and Barry K. Barnes doesn't even seem to be trying, but he's adequate, just like the rest of the cast and the movie around him. This sequel begins with a nice cross-cutting sequence contrasting the ghoulish cheering at the guillotine in Paris with the more reserved high spirits at a game of cricket in England at which Sir Percy plays quite well. His wife Marguerite (Sophie Stewart) is pregnant and wants him to avoid his heroic activities for a time, but Chauvelin is under pressure from Robespierre to trap the Pimpernel, and Marguerite is kidnapped to bring Sir Percy out in the open. Robespierre, chief architect of the Terror, goes power-mad, threatening even those closest to him. Luckily, at least one of Robespierre’s chums has become a double agent and is secretly aiding Sir Percy. The plot this time around is more convoluted but also more interesting, and the supporting cast, including James Mason in an early role, is very good. This is a lower-budgeted affair than the 1934 film, but the shadowy, claustrophobic sets add to the dangerous atmosphere. There's a clever bit involving the "damned elusive Pimpernel" verse from the first movie, and Barnes gets in an amusing bit when he disguises himself as an elderly deaf war hero. One of Percy's disguises makes him look like a big-nosed Donald Sutherland. Not up the standards of the first film, but highly watchable. [DVD]

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