Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1955)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

'The Hostage', written by Ralph Gordon Bettinson, directed by Michael McCarthy; originally transmitted on ITV (London) 28/9/1955

Sir Percy Blakeney arrives at the court of the Prince of Wales, where the Prince greets him warmly. The Countess la Villiere introduces her companion, the new representative of the French Republic, M. Chauvelin. The officious Chauvelin requests that British subjects stop interfering in France's private affairs - in particular, the activities of an Englishman known as The Scarlet Pimpernel. Amused, the Prince dismisses the idea of English interference as absurd. At a discreet interval, Sir Percy and his confederate, Lord Anthony Dewhurst, plan a mission to Paris to rescue Baroness Suzanne de Fleury.

In Paris, Sir Percy acquires a coach and a coachman's outfit as disguise. At the place of rescue, Dewhurst crashes the coach into the military escort and Sir Percy tricks the Captain of the guards into transferring his captive, Suzanne, to Sir Percy's undamaged coach and effects her escape.

Later, a grateful Suzanne explains that she cannot return with them to England because Chauvelin is holding her young son hostage. She is also being used as bait in Chauvelin's trap to catch others still loyal to the former King. Chauvelin has threatened to execute her son, and time is running out. In the guise of the Pimpernel, Sir Percy promises to rescue her son.

Sir Percy and Dewhurst are visiting Chauvelin's headquarters when the Captain of the guard enters to report the Baroness's escape. Chauvelin recognises the work of the Pimpernel. To Sir Percy's surprise, the Captain ushers in a coachman, who says he can identify the Pimpernel. Sir Percy and Dewhurst quickly construct a scene in which Sir Percy distracts the coachman (half-blinding him with a face-full of snuff) to avoid detection.

Later, Sir Percy bribes the coachman to stay hidden while he disguises himself as the coachman to pay a visit to Chauvelin. Late at night in Chauvelin's office, Chauvelin comes upon the apparently semi-conscious coachman (the disguised Sir Percy), who tells him that the Pimpernel attacked him and that he overheard their plans to rescue Suzanne's son. An enraged Chauvelin decides to set a trap for the Pimpernel.

En route to the secret location where the boy is being held, Chauvelin's party is joined by two of the Pimpernel's confederates, disguised as soldiers. On arrival there is a furious fight between Chauvelin's guards and the Pimpernel's men, and the boy is rescued. Reunited, mother and son are despatched to safety in England.