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Film / The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

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The Scarlet Pimpernel is a 1982 TV movie based on the Scarlet Pimpernel novels by Baroness Orczy, particularly the first, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the fourth, Eldorado. It stars Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy, Jane Seymour as Marguerite, and Ian McKellen as Chauvelin.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: This version spends a lot of time on Percy and Marguerite meeting and fall in love, including Percy rescuing Armand from some thugs sent to beat him up.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In this version Marguerite was entirely innocent of the execution of the Marquis and his family; when she indignantly rebuffs Chauvelin's suggestion that she could have the Marquis arrested for treason in revenge for having her brother beaten up, he does it anyway and puts her name on the arrest warrant. In the original story, she did indeed denounce the Marquis (with an understandable motive), but she didn't realize it would lead to the deaths of him and his family.
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  • Adaptational Villainy: As above; Chauvelin writing Marguarite's name on the arrest warrant, something he did not do in the original.
  • Agent Peacock: Sir Percy.
  • Batman Gambit: The Scarlet Pimpernel is fond of these.
  • Blue Blood
  • Burn Baby Burn: One of the Pimpernel's associates tries to burn his instructions to prevent Marguerite reading them, and Baron de Batz twice attempts to dispose of compromising documents in fireplaces, with varying degrees of success.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Armand, following a nightmare that he and Marguerite will become victims of the Revolution.
  • Clark Kenting
  • Color Character Title
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sir Percy
  • The Dandy: Sir Percy flambuoyantly plays up his preoccupation with clothes and fashion.
  • Dating Catwoman: Subverted In-Universe. Sir Percy, leader of the aristocrats' proverbial Secret Service, marries a French republican. He distances himself from his wife when he is given a false rumour about her contributing to the execution of the Marquis de St. Cyr. (In the original story, she did indeed contribute, but unwittingly.)
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  • Decapitation Presentation: Used several times, which is fitting as it's about the Reign of Terror. Played for laughs in one scene when the Pimpernel is smuggling aristocrats out in coffins, but also has coffins with beheaded aristocrats too. When he gets stopped by a guard who asks him to open the coffins, he throws the severed head to the guard, who promptly lets him go without checking the other two coffins with the live people inside.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: A ruse often used by the Pimpernel and his associates.
  • Flynning: During the duel between Chauvelin and the Pimpernel.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Sir Percy
  • Green-Eyed Monster: There are occasions when Chauvelin's actions, although they can be justified as service to the Revolution, seem more strongly motivated by a desire to make Marguerite suffer for choosing that idiot Blakeney over him.
  • Heel Realization: Marguerite's brother starts out as Chauvelin's assistant before having one of these and letting the Scarlet Pimpernel recruit him as an inside agent.
  • Hero Secret Service: The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Historical Domain Characters: Robespierre; the Prince of Wales; the Dauphin...
  • I Have Your Wife: The French have Marguerite's brother.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: Demonstrated by the Scarlet Pimpernel in the climactic duel.
  • It's Personal: Chauvelin, whose resentment of Percy is fuelled by jealousy over Marguerite.
  • Lady of Adventure: Marguerite
  • Love at First Sight: Percy is clearly smitten with Marguerite the moment he sees her, and she seems to reciprocate.
  • Master of Disguise: The Pimpernel himself.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Marguerite names this trope exactly when she figures out who the Scarlet Pimpernel is.
    • So does Armand, earlier, waking up from a nightmare which hammers home the devastating consequences of his role as Chauvelin's assistant.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Chauvelin believes he has the Pimpernel and his men hemmed in to the point where he can send the Pimpernel outside for execution by firing squad. However, Percy reveals that he's been in control of the situation for quite some time. While he tells Chauvelin that he was allowing things to progress to be polite, it's implied that he's really buying time for the Dauphin to get as much of a head start as possible in a way that allows him to have some fun winding up Chauvelin.
    Percy: My dear chap! I never would have dreamt of depriving you of your moment of triumph. Alas, a moment was all I could spare.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity
  • Produce Pelting: The crowd around the guillotine throw vegetables at the aristos.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In this version, Chauvelin was courting Marguerite before she met Sir Percy. However, she was already struggling with how far off their original plan Chauvelin and the Revolution have gone when she met Percy. While meeting Percy seems to give her an extra incentive to move on from Chauvelin, Chauvelin himself never quite understands or accepts just how upset with the direction of the Revolution Marguerite has become. He therefore blames Percy entirely for losing Marguerite.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Percy purposefully makes Marguerite's married life with him a living hell; he justifies this by his understandable belief that she murdered the Marquis de St. Cyr and his family, but since the Revolution there's this new thing called divorce, hey? Worse, once he's learned of Marguerite's innocence and reconciled with her, Percy still arranges his own fake execution to humiliate Chauvelin, which predictably devastates Marguerite.
  • Pseudo Crisis: It seems many times that the Pimpernel or the people he's rescuing are on the verge of capture, but many of these "crises" were actually built into his rescue plans.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
  • Most of the plans that aren't Batman Gambits.
    • One egregious example is when Percy rescues the De Tournay family, disguised as an old woman with a supposedly plague-infected grandson. Five minutes after they ride through the gates, Sir Andrew rides up, pretending to be chasing the "woman", and actually outing "her" to the sargeant as the Scarlet Pimpernel, demanding that the gates be opened to him too.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job
  • Running Gag: Sir Percy mocking Chauvelin's dress sense. Which turns out to have a plot-relevant punchline.
  • Sadistic Choice: Chauvelin gives one to Marguerite — your brother or your husband.
  • Sand Bridge at Low Tide: The film ends up on one (Mont Saint-Michel), partly in an effort to create a Closed Circle where Sir Percy can confront Chauvelin without his men as backup.
  • Secret Keeper: The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel all know his Secret Identity.
  • Sexless Marriage: Marguerite and her husband, for a while.
  • Signature Item Clue: Marguerite, after initially complying with Chauvelin's demands, interferes by warning the Scarlet Pimpernel of danger in the library. Chauvelin discovers this when he finds her earring there.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Used in one of the Pimpernel's aristocrat rescues to delay discovery of the escape.
  • Spiteful Spit: A prisoner, about to be guillotined, spits in the face of Chauvelin's assistant (Chauvelin himself being elsewhere at the time).
  • Swashbuckler: Particularly at the climax.
  • Sword Cane: Sir Percy has one.
  • Two Aliases, One Character
  • Upper-Class Twit: Sir Percy.
  • Verbal Tic: Percy's "Sink me!" and to a lesser extent "odd fish".
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: A dramatic sequence revolves around Chauvelin knowing that the Pimpernel will be in a particular place at midnight. In the book, it's a less troperiffic one o'clock.
  • You Just Told Me: When the Baron de Batz warns Armand that Chauvelin knows he works with the Scarlet Pimpernel, Armand pretends not to know what he is talking about at first. The Baron then tricks Armand into giving himself away, and the latter abandons the charade.
    Armand: If I knew the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and I do not, he would laugh in my face! He must know you want the boy for yourself.
    Baron de Batz: I?
    Armand: So that you can collect the gold that awaits you in Vienna, when you deliver the heir to the French throne to your Austrian friends, hmm?
    Baron de Batz: And did the Scarlet Pimpernel tell you that?
    Armand: Of course not! He’s not even in Pari... (beat) Thank you for your word of warning, Baron. And now, if you will excuse me, I don’t like to keep Mlle Longé waiting. (exit)
    Baron de Batz: Mmmm.


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