Rare Costume Adventure TV Series from the 1950s comes to DVD
Robert Huggins | Suburban Philadelphia, PA United States | 03/29/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel" was one of the earliest costume adventure series that was produced in England for domestic viewing, as well as for export to the United States and other countries. It was produced by Harry Alan Towers' "Towers of London" production company and starred Marius Goring in the title role; Goring was also the star of a "Scarlet Pimpernel" radio show in England in the early 1950s. Look for British character actors Patrick Troughton and Anthony Newlands appearing as regulars in the series, as well as Alexander Gauge, who would go on to greater fame as "Friar Tuck" in the hit series "The Adventures of Robin Hood." One of the biggest surprises of this DVD is the first credited screen appearance of Peter O'Toole in the episode "A Tale of Two Pigtails." O'Toole has a small, but funny, role as a bumbling French soldier.
As a child, I remember seeing this series in the early 1960s and the only thing that I could recall about it was the opening title sequence that featured the ominous blade of a guillotine being released. Viewing the show roughly 45 years later, "The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel" is a lot of fun to watch, but one wishes that the series had been filmed in color to better display the elaborate period costuming. The series had a limited production run of just 18 episodes and, consequently, never wears out its welcome; the stories are consistently entertaining, and Goring makes for an appealing hero. Despite the fact that Alpha Video does not use restored prints for the vast majority of its numerous vintage TV releases, the prints used for this release are in comparatively good shape for a series that was produced in the mid-1950s; they are certainly better than what I had anticipated. Surprisingly, Alpha has released half of the series' episodes to date; four more episodes are found on Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Vol. 2 (not previewed by me as of this writing), while a ninth, Christmas-themed episode is found on Alpha's Christmas Adventure Classics.
Given its limited production run and comparative rarity over the years, "The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel" doesn't evoke the strong memories of some of the other historical costume adventure series of the mid to late 1950s. But those who appreciate shows like "The Adventures of Robin Hood," "The Buccaneers," and "The Adventures of Sir Lancelot," among others, will find much to like about this show; it's an easy recommendation to fans of those shows.