The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

During the French Revolution, a mysterious English nobleman known only as The Scarlet Pimpernel (a humble wayside flower), snatches French aristos from the jaws of the guillotine, while posing as the foppish Sir Percy Blakeney in society. Percy falls for and marries the beautiful actress Marguerite St. Just, but she is involved with Chauvelin and Robespierre, and Percy’s marriage to her may endanger the Pimpernel’s plans to save the little Dauphin.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1982 British romantic adventure film set during the French Revolution. It is based on the novels The Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, and stars Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy Blakeney/the Scarlet Pimpernel, the protagonist, Jane Seymour as Marguerite St. Just, the love interest, and Ian McKellen as Chauvelin, the antagonist.

In 1792 during the Reign of Terror, the Scarlet Pimpernel rescues French aristocrats while posing as the wealthy but foppish and seemingly empty-headed Sir Percival Blakeney. Percy marries the beautiful French actress Marguerite St. Just, but her previous relationship with Robespierre’s agent Paul Chauvelin may endanger the Pimpernel’s plans to save the young Dauphin, eldest son of the former King of France. The story differs from the book but is largely inspired by it.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) - Jane Seymour

About the Story

In 1792 during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, a secret league of brave Englishmen are rescuing French aristocrats from the guillotine. The leader of this secret society is a mysterious English nobleman known only as the Scarlet Pimpernel, whose signature sign is a humble wayside flower. In society he hides his identity by posing as the wealthy but foppish and seemingly empty-headed Sir Percy Blakeney (Anthony Andrews).

After rescuing the Count de Beaulieu and his family, Percy is introduced to the beautiful French actress Marguerite St. Just (Jane Seymour) through her brother, Armand (Malcolm Jamieson), whom he rescued from an attack. Percy is attracted to Marguerite, but she is in a relationship with Paul Chauvelin (Ian McKellen), an agent of Maximilien Robespierre. Due to the Scarlet Pimpernel’s past successes, Chauvelin is assigned to discover his identity and capture him.

After Percy and his associates smuggle another aristocrat out of the city while picnicking with Marguerite, Chauvelin deduces that the Scarlet Pimpernel must be an English nobleman, and tries to coerce the Count de Tournay (Denis Lill) to spy on the English court for the Republic. Later, Marguerite and Chauvelin have an argument over the executions and he angrily departs. Percy reveals his identity to Armand and convinces him to use his connections to Chauvelin to investigate the French prison holding the Dauphin, son of the former King of France. Soon after, the Scarlet Pimpernel and his associates rescue de Tournay’s family.

Following a passionate courtship, Percy marries Marguerite, but soon their happiness is interrupted when he discovers that she apparently signed the arrest warrant of the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family, the man responsible for the previous attack on Armand. This leads to beheadings of the entire St. Cyr family. Believing that she was seeking revenge and is still in league with Chauvelin, Percy becomes distrustful of his new wife. Unaware of her husband’s knowledge of her extorted role in the deaths of the St. Cyr family, Marguerite unhappily notices his growing disdain for her and for married life. Armand advises Percy to tell Marguerite about his suspicions so that she may defend herself, but Percy refuses, even though he admits he will love her until the day he dies.

Soon after, Chauvelin discovers that Armand is in league with the Scarlet Pimpernel, and summons him back to Paris. Blackmailing Marguerite by threatening her brother’s life, Chauvelin coerces her into discovering the vigilante’s identity. After finding that the Scarlet Pimpernel is to rendezvous at midnight, Marguerite tells Chauvelin.

However, she immediately warns the Scarlet Pimpernel—actually her husband, unbeknownst to her—and adds that Chauvelin betrayed her trust and faked her signature. Percy’s faith in his wife is restored. Having been thwarted from encountering them, Chauvelin angrily leaves for Paris. Percy and his associates also depart for France to save Armand and the Dauphin. Marguerite notices that Percy’s family crest bears a scarlet pimpernel, and quickly deduces his identity.

The Scarlet Pimpernel Movie Poster (1982)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

Directed by: Clive Donner
Starring: Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, Ian McKellen, James Villiers, Eleanor David, Malcolm Jamieson, Ann Firbank, Timothy Carlton
Screenplay by: William Bast
Production Design by: Tony Curtis
Cinematography by: Dennis C. Lewiston
Film Editing by: Peter Tanner
Costume Design by: Phyllis Dalton
Set Decoration by: Carolyn Scott
Music by: Nick Bicât
Distributed by: CBS
Release Date: November 9, 1982