Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Scarlet Pimpernel, from then to now.

They seek him here
They Seek him there
Does Frenches seeks him everywhere
Is he in heaven? or is he in hell?
That damned, illusive, Pimpernel.

I ask of you, how many swashbucklers have a poem about them self which is actually from their first original appearance over a hundred years ago and have the purpose of mocking once uttered.

So with such an ancient old character, do he have like a secret underground fan base... not what I know about. in fact, as far as I know nobody knows who the Scarlet pimpernel is, ecxept for really dusty littérateur professors, and very cultivated people who also likes stuff like "Cyrano de Bergerac" "Romeo and Juliet" and "Les Miserables."
All of which are good stories in their own right, especially Cyrano which one of my favourite stories of all time, but it isn't exactly what a mainstream audience want to go watch.

And when talking the Scarlet Pimpernel, that is such a shame, as he truly is the first hero ever to sport the secret identity of a incompetent fobish prince cheesecake, also in front of the love of his life which is in this case his actual wife, to fool the enemy and go one heroic dangerous crusades under the alias of "The scarlet Pimpernel."

The Scarlet Pimpernel is really starting to become and old character, he was created in 1902 in a book by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, and it was quickly turned into a stage play.
She wrote several books with the figure, but only the first one have been adapted and is the one which is considered the classic.

The book is kind of written like a mystery novel, where Marguerite, the hero's wife is the actual main character and we see everything from her point of view as she unravel the mystery about her husband and eventually take matters into own hands.

so, summary.
The Scarlet Pimpernel concerns the French evolution where the French noble was taken prisoner and decapitated by the guillotine for their single crime of being French noble, and it was everyone. Men, women, children, people who was under suspicion of hiding or just being in contact with nobility, having a noble grand aunt. and this is real history folks.

Sir Percy Blakenly is a English nobleman, and therefore have quite a lot of French friends of nobility, so he decides to something about it as he collects a gang of friends around him and create the alias of the scarlet pimpernel, so he through disguised and planning can smuggle the French nobility out of the country and to England where they are safe.
The Scarlet Pimpernel have been marked French's enemy number one, so carefully planning even more cunning disguised are in other, at the same time as Percy must at all cost keep his identity secret.
It's the stuff of great adventure, and it is. great fun story, and I only got 3 bloody different adaptations to talk about. man that sucks, but oh well. lets get started.

The most famous adaptation if the scarlet pimpernel, and what is considered the definite version would be the Leslie Howard "the scarlet Pimpernel" from 1934.
It's a great fun movie, all though it's not as much an action movie, as it is an adventure movie of wits. actually its not an action movie at all, there are no stunts and no sword fighting. Percy is purely fighting with his wits using elaborate cunning plans, incredible disguises and impersonations plus fooling the entire French police was to think he is the most incompetent fobbish person in all of England and French.
It is differently my favourite scenes in the entire movie when ever Percy stands as himself, in his noble clothing just beside the French police, and talk with them with his fobbish voice.
The really interesting thing about these scenes is how much he is mocking the French police force, they don't know that they are being mocked as they just find him incredible annoying, but believe me, they are.
His disguises when being in French, like when he plays an old hag, or a stupid farmer is just delightful. to see what he planned on how it's set into work is just great fun. not to mention the movie climax which is purely a battle of wits between Percy and sir Chauvelin that goes on for around 5 minutes. and it is nothing but the two of them standing in a room constantly trying to outwit each other, it really proves you don't need great action and explosion to have tension, that scene have it fully.

as sequel "Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel" was made and released in 1937, it kind of sucked. what more can I say?
It's about Chauvelin trying to get revenge by kidnapping Percy's wife and Percy must pursue him. There are no fobbish persona, no great disguised, no elaborate plans. just boring suck about a man trying to get his wife back, we seen that a thousand times before, just tell it fun and well in a Pimpernel fashion and it would have been cool, but no.

Then there is the British television movie "The Scarlet Pimpernel" from 1982.
And what can I say about that? it's an extremely faithful remake of the 34 movie, which is both good and bad. It's good because this movie is just as good as the old one, it follows the same formula, Percy do pretty much the same things, and the actor playing Percy carries it out beautifully and fun, but it's not better than the Leslie Howard movie either, cause it's the same thing. Well, this movie have Gandalf as the villain, and Ian McKellen is always good in whatever he is in, in fact every actor in this is good. but what can I say I did not say about the 34 movie?
anyhow, if you like adventure and disguises, it's worth checking out.

A short British mini series of the scarlet Pimpernel was released in 1999. I have heard it should be really good. but I have no idea for myself as I was never able to get a hold on it.
What I have seen from it it seems okay, Percy don't seem to be as much fun as I am used to, but who am I to judge when I havn't seen the connection of his actions.

I'm sorry. but I am a musical person. I love a good musical.
you see, musical are like movies, there are really good musicals and there are many really bad musicals. and people tend to think all musicals are bad because that one thing they saw was a bad high school production.
As far as I am concerned, the Scarlet Pimpernel musical from 1997 is a really good musical.
It's bloody funny and adventurous. the music is big and great, the plot is as adventure as ever. they even have a good sword fight or two in there. mocking and disguises. it's just great. Percy is really written as one of the best comedian parts in the century and everything about it is just fun. just to show you how funny and awesome this musical is, check out this scene from the original production. Both what happens before and after the song.
Before Maugurite, Percy's wife who doesn't know that Percy is the Pimpernel rushes the the Pimpernels rescue to warn him that Chauvelin is on the way, and Percy takes the uppertunity to start questioning her.
After the song, the villain Chauvelin actually catches Percy red handed, so Percy must use his wits to get out of it.. which he does... quite brilliantly.

So, 1999 was the last time the pimpernel made an appearance, and that was only in a small mini series. that's over 10 years ago.
Is he dead and gone from the mainstream medium? I really don't know, but I sure don't hope so.
I am one of the few who are really for remakes and adaptations of this really old stuff, and especially the Scarlet Pimpernel I would so want to see have a shine in Hollywood.
If I myself could pick exactly what movie should have the green light in Hollywood, that would be it. and I am all for turning it into a swashbuckling adventure ala Pirates of The Caribbean, as long as you remain it fun.
Hell, with 45 minutes of extra screen time (The average movie in the 30's was only like 60 minutes) you can easily put in some sword fighting and elaborate chases scenes. I am all for it.

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