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Archive for January, 2010

I’ve now finished watching the BBC adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, which was shown as two three-part seasons during 1999 and 2000, and has just been repeated here on BBC4. I started off intending to write just one posting about both seasons, but it is getting rather long, as I keep thinking of more to say, so I’ll make this one just about series one, and come back for part two in the next few days.

I gather this adaptation is controversial among diehard fans of the original books by Baroness Emmuska Orczy, for being “untrue” to the novels. However, I think it is a brilliant piece of television in its own right. Richard E Grant gives a dazzling performance as Sir Percy Blakeney/the Pimpernel, while Elizabeth McGovern and Martin Shaw are great too as Marguerite and  Chauvelin. I do also like the 1982 film starring Anthony Andrews, but this version  may just be my favourite. Although I enjoyed the books as a teenager, I haven’t reread them in many years – but the atmosphere of dashing romance, glamour and danger remains with me. I think that swashbuckling spirit is re-created in this series, however much the plot details are changed, together with a sense of the darkness underlying it all.

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As a long-time reader of Thomas Hardy, I’ve been hoping to see the acclaimed early 1970s TV mini-series Wessex Tales, which is said to be coming out on DVD, though it doesn’t seem to have been issued yet.

In the meantime, I was interested to get hold of a DVD of The Scarlet Tunic, a feature film loosely based on another of of Hardy’s great short stories, The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion – here’s a link to an etext at the Gaslight site just in case anyone wants to read the story. Emma Fielding, who was so good in Cranford over Christmas, is good here too as the heroine, Frances Groves (she’s Phyllis Groves in the story, giving her more of a traditional shepherdess-type name). Jean-Marc Barr gives a passionate performance as  the German officer who falls in love with her, Matthaus Singer (his surname is Tina in the original story). To be honest, I don’t think it is a completely successful film, because at times it tips too far over into farce or melodrama – but I still found it well worth seeing.

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