30 October 2011 | bkoganbing
Still The Elusive Pimpernel
Barry K. Barnes continues in the fine foppish tradition that Leslie Howard set in The Scarlet Pimpernel. I suspect that Howard was over on this side of the pond on Broadway or in Hollywood or he probably would have done this sequel.
Even though his identity as Regency fop Sir Percy Blakeney is now known to one and all, in The Return Of The Scarlet Pimpernel Barnes is still operating a rescue service to one and all who have fallen afoul of the French Revolution. Things have gotten worse over in France though and the Reign Of Terror under Robespierre is now in high gear as the fanatical and psychotic Robespierre is guillotining everyone whom he even THINKS might be against him.
Francis Lister plays a far different Chauvelin than the revolutionary true believer that Raymond Massey did. Lister is trying to compete with Barnes in the wit department and making a not bad stab at it. Still he comes up way short every time.
He uses the same gambit to try to trap Barnes as in the first Pimpernel film. Lister has French actress Margharetta Scott go to Great Britain as an exile and she induces Barnes's wife Sophie Stewart who is French to follow her on a pretext. No going to France this time, some paid thugs just kidnap Stewart and spirit her back to France. So Barnes has to assemble his crew and work another rescue.
This time however there are rumblings of discontent against Robespierre and the Terror. Barnes enlists the aid of a prominent member of the National Assembly in his cause. James Mason plays that part in one of his earliest film roles and one that got him his first real notice with the movie-going public.
Barnes and Stewart are good substitutes for Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon from the original. I truly do miss Raymond Massey as Chauvelin as did others. The Return Of The Scarlet Pimpernel still holds up well as entertainment and a portrait of some terrible times in France.