'Pimpernel' Smith

1941

Action / Adventure / Comedy / Drama / Thriller / War

7
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 79%
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 1023

Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
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February 18, 2017 at 08:40 PM

Director

Cast

Leslie Howard as Professor Horatio Smith
Sebastian Cabot as Bit Role
Valerie Hobson as Shop Girl
720p 1080p
859.67 MB
1280*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
2hr 0 min
P/S 0 / 7
1.82 GB
1920*1080
English
NR
23.976 fps
2hr 0 min
P/S 2 / 6

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Igenlode Wordsmith 9 / 10

Unmissable starring role for Leslie Howard



On the face of it, I don't ask much of a film: only - only! - that it should make me laugh and cry and catch my breath, and stir my blood in equal measure. Strange, then, how rare this seems to be... and how few films earn the final accolade by almost forcing me to review them! I had not the slightest intention, this morning, of writing about "Pimpernel Smith". But now that I sit down afterwards and try to work, I find my attention wandering back to it again and again. Clearly, I must set down this review, or I shall never get anything done... and there can be few stronger tributes to the power of a film.

Leslie Howard, of course, makes or breaks the whole. As producer, director and starring actor, his name is scrawled - literally - on the film from its opening titles; indeed it gives us a chance to recognise the penmanship on the mysterious hand-written notes that recur! Unsurprisingly, in some ways this is very much a one-man vehicle. If Leslie Howard's charms escape you, the whole production is probably a dead loss - but for any fan of his earlier films, it is little short of unalloyed delight.

"Pimpernel Smith" takes much of its resonance from the subtle parallels with Baroness Orczy's story of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The latter is openly referred to only in the title, but acknowledged in a dozen ways, from the leading character who cloaks an incisive mind beneath a foolish mask to the young acolytes who aid and yet rashly put him at risk, the woman who is set to spy out the identity of a beloved one's potential saviour, and of course the closed frontiers and despotic arm of a new-fledged state - not Revolutionary France, but a Nazi Germany not yet at open war. Above all, the echoes lie in the ingenious guises and plans for escape, always one twist ahead of both the enemy and the viewers themselves. By the end of the film, I was suspecting the most innocent characters of being the nondescript Professor Smith in disguise... and I'm still not certain about the indignant lady on the Cook's Tour!

The references, however, are never obtrusive and always remain subtle; and of course perhaps the chief of these is the casting of Leslie Howard himself. Along with a humane and intelligent script, it was his outstanding depiction of the title role that raised the 1934 film of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" above the average. Even today, the association is immediate. Less than ten years after the original, the dual performance of their star must have been inescapable.

From vacuous fop to absent-minded professor... and yet it is to Howard's credit that his Professor Smith is not a carbon copy of Sir Percy Blakeney, but a distinct and undoubtedly charming character in his own right. For a moment, rapt in admiration of an Aphrodite, he is startlingly handsome. But for the most part, peering owlishly over a newspaper or buried beneath a deplorable hat, he is more the living spit of bespectacled Charles Hawtrey in some post-war "Carry On". He has developed the baggy amble to a fine art, and the knack of deprecation and inoffensive insolence almost without effort; and the role of gentle academic is not a pose, but the guiding principle behind all his unlikely impersonations, even that of the part of hero. The Professor, above all, is a man who hates destruction and waste.

Passionate screen kisses rarely move me; oddly enough, a handful of restrained moments of tenderness in this film did. It may be a carefully-scripted star vehicle, but few enough of those choose to celebrate the clever and the unassuming. I like Professor Smith very much indeed.

But even the quietest hero needs a villain as foil, and Francis L. Sullivan is also outstanding here as the elephantine von Graum, a Nazi general who turns out to be far less stupid than one might assume. It's hard not to suspect the character of being a lampoon on Goering, and from the start we are invited to laugh at him; but for all his girth and his struggles with "the English sense of humour", von Graum is brighter by far than most of his staff, and sometimes even one step ahead of the viewer, which makes it hard to be complacent on our heroes' behalf. He may rant and foam for lack of proof, but the net is tightening... and without the advantage of Orczy's predetermined plot, the unexpected twist at the end of this film could all too easily go either way. Unfortunately, heroism is not necessarily defined by survival...

In fact, in retrospect, I feel that the ending (which I won't reveal here) was perhaps the one weak point. Unlike the Basil Rathbone wartime pictures (there are echoes of "Pimpernel Smith" in the subsequent, not at all bad, "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon"), the anti-Nazi sentiments of the hero's set-piece speech are not dated or tendentious to modern ears. Indeed, Leslie Howard's shadowed intensity remains one of the most effective shots in the film. The only trouble is that it's so good that it becomes a hard scene to top, and the actual finale comes off as somewhat trite by comparison.

But that's with hindsight. At the time, the only thing of which I was fully conscious was that, already pre-disposed in that direction by "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "Pygmalion", I had just become a raving Leslie Howard fan! Every time I catch myself whistling 'Tavern in the Town' without thinking, over the next few days, I shall know why... and smile.

Reviewed by bkoganbing 9 / 10

They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There, --- Those Nazis Seek Him Everywhere

World War II brought Leslie Howard the opportunity to bring up to modern times one of his most beloved parts, that of The Scarlet Pimpernel. This time he's Horatio 'Pimpernel' Smith, archaeologists by day and rescuer of some of the finest intellectual minds in Germany who are marked for death by Adolph Hitler.

In The Scarlet Pimpernel Howard is a Georgian fop as his cover for the dashing, unknown, and elusive pimpernel. Substitute fop for tweedy as he's now an Oxford archeology professor and his cover is a beaut.

One of the Nazi Aryan racial vanities was that way back in the day there was an Aryan civilization. Being the archaeologist he is, Howard's cover is that he's in Germany on a dig, looking for evidence of that selfsame civilization. He even brings along several students as part of the cover.

In one scene Howard is wounded when he's disguised as a scarecrow and a Nazi guard shoots at it to make a point. That does lead to him being found out by his students, one of them being David Tomlinson, later the father in Mary Poppins. To a man, they all decide to stay and help him with his work.

Howard's a bachelor here so he doesn't have wife Merle Oberon and her family dirty laundry to compromise him as he did in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Here he's dealing with Mary Morris who is collaborating with the Nazis to keep her musician father, Peter Gawthorne alive.

Taking the place of Howard's relentless foe Chauvelin as played by Raymond Massey is Francis L. Sullivan as General Von Graum of the Gestapo. Sullivan is a favorite character actor of mine and a joy to watch in any film he does whether a good guy or the baddest of bad guys as he is here.

Leslie Howard directed this film himself and it's interesting to speculate had he survived World War II whether he would have done more work behind rather than in front of the camera. In directing Pimpernel Smith, he certainly had the advantage of knowing his character well.

And you shouldn't pass up an opportunity to get to know him too.

Reviewed by Igenlode Wordsmith 9 / 10

Last words in the film



On the face of it, I don't ask much of a film: only - only! - that it should make me laugh and cry and catch my breath, and stir my blood in equal measure. Strange, then, how rare this seems to be... and how few films earn the final accolade by almost forcing me to review them! I had not the slightest intention, this morning, of writing about "Pimpernel Smith". But now that I sit down afterwards and try to work, I find my attention wandering back to it again and again. Clearly, I must set down this review, or I shall never get anything done... and there can be few stronger tributes to the power of a film.

Leslie Howard, of course, makes or breaks the whole. As producer, director and starring actor, his name is scrawled - literally - on the film from its opening titles; indeed it gives us a chance to recognise the penmanship on the mysterious hand-written notes that recur! Unsurprisingly, in some ways this is very much a one-man vehicle. If Leslie Howard's charms escape you, the whole production is probably a dead loss - but for any fan of his earlier films, it is little short of unalloyed delight.

"Pimpernel Smith" takes much of its resonance from the subtle parallels with Baroness Orczy's story of the Scarlet Pimpernel. The latter is openly referred to only in the title, but acknowledged in a dozen ways, from the leading character who cloaks an incisive mind beneath a foolish mask to the young acolytes who aid and yet rashly put him at risk, the woman who is set to spy out the identity of a beloved one's potential saviour, and of course the closed frontiers and despotic arm of a new-fledged state - not Revolutionary France, but a Nazi Germany not yet at open war. Above all, the echoes lie in the ingenious guises and plans for escape, always one twist ahead of both the enemy and the viewers themselves. By the end of the film, I was suspecting the most innocent characters of being the nondescript Professor Smith in disguise... and I'm still not certain about the indignant lady on the Cook's Tour!

The references, however, are never obtrusive and always remain subtle; and of course perhaps the chief of these is the casting of Leslie Howard himself. Along with a humane and intelligent script, it was his outstanding depiction of the title role that raised the 1934 film of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" above the average. Even today, the association is immediate. Less than ten years after the original, the dual performance of their star must have been inescapable.

From vacuous fop to absent-minded professor... and yet it is to Howard's credit that his Professor Smith is not a carbon copy of Sir Percy Blakeney, but a distinct and undoubtedly charming character in his own right. For a moment, rapt in admiration of an Aphrodite, he is startlingly handsome. But for the most part, peering owlishly over a newspaper or buried beneath a deplorable hat, he is more the living spit of bespectacled Charles Hawtrey in some post-war "Carry On". He has developed the baggy amble to a fine art, and the knack of deprecation and inoffensive insolence almost without effort; and the role of gentle academic is not a pose, but the guiding principle behind all his unlikely impersonations, even that of the part of hero. The Professor, above all, is a man who hates destruction and waste.

Passionate screen kisses rarely move me; oddly enough, a handful of restrained moments of tenderness in this film did. It may be a carefully-scripted star vehicle, but few enough of those choose to celebrate the clever and the unassuming. I like Professor Smith very much indeed.

But even the quietest hero needs a villain as foil, and Francis L. Sullivan is also outstanding here as the elephantine von Graum, a Nazi general who turns out to be far less stupid than one might assume. It's hard not to suspect the character of being a lampoon on Goering, and from the start we are invited to laugh at him; but for all his girth and his struggles with "the English sense of humour", von Graum is brighter by far than most of his staff, and sometimes even one step ahead of the viewer, which makes it hard to be complacent on our heroes' behalf. He may rant and foam for lack of proof, but the net is tightening... and without the advantage of Orczy's predetermined plot, the unexpected twist at the end of this film could all too easily go either way. Unfortunately, heroism is not necessarily defined by survival...

In fact, in retrospect, I feel that the ending (which I won't reveal here) was perhaps the one weak point. Unlike the Basil Rathbone wartime pictures (there are echoes of "Pimpernel Smith" in the subsequent, not at all bad, "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon"), the anti-Nazi sentiments of the hero's set-piece speech are not dated or tendentious to modern ears. Indeed, Leslie Howard's shadowed intensity remains one of the most effective shots in the film. The only trouble is that it's so good that it becomes a hard scene to top, and the actual finale comes off as somewhat trite by comparison.

But that's with hindsight. At the time, the only thing of which I was fully conscious was that, already pre-disposed in that direction by "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "Pygmalion", I had just become a raving Leslie Howard fan! Every time I catch myself whistling 'Tavern in the Town' without thinking, over the next few days, I shall know why... and smile.

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