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Paris is Burning! Under the Iron Fist of Robespierre hundreds are executed, by the swift and bloodstained guillotine. Through these acts of injustice a new heroism is born - The League of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Barry K. Barnes,
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This is one of several intriguing British films of its era that's been in obscurity for decades, and which most of us must have given up all hope of ever seeing. Three cheers then for Renown Pictures Ltd, who've unearthed a print and brought it out on DVD recently.
It's a very loose adaptation of the play LORD CAMBER'S LADIES, which had been filmed in 1932 and produced, though not directed, by Alfred Hitchcock. This version focuses on ten years in the life of the eponymous heroine; how she is jilted by unfaithful fiancé Gerald Ryton, finds she is penniless after her wealthy father dies broke, discovers her vocation as a nurse, then is betrayed by Gerald for a second time. Later, she's appointed to nurse Lady Camber, who has heart disease and whom it turns out is married to Gerald, who inherited the title off his uncle. Before long , Shirley is accused of murder...
Unashamedly melodramatic, and not afraid to tug on the heartstrings at times, the film holds the interest more than a summary might suggest. The beautiful Dinah Sheridan demonstrates a quiet inner strength as Shirley, and Derek Farr gives one of his stronger performances, making the shallow, opportunistic Ryton a recognisable human character, rather than the stage villain some other actors would have offered. Margaretta Scott is good too, as the kind of authoritative hospital matron whom has long disappeared from British hospitals, and not for the better it seems. Charlie Hawtrey as an army officer was unusual casting though.
More attention could have been devoted to the court scene, which is somewhat rushed, and resolved by one of those theatrical "Yes, I did it!" outbursts, which the writers of the Perry Mason TV series were so fond of. The film is an enjoyable one of its kind however, and it seems it was granted the rare accolade for a Butchers' production of playing as the main feature. The current IMDb rating seems ridiculous; have all those who voted actually seen it?
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