There's so much talent involved in The Elusive Pimpernel that one can't help but be a little disappointed with the result. Not that Pimpernel is a failure, by any means; it's just that one expects more than one gets. The blame clearly rests with the producing/writing/directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a pair that turned out a number of exceptional films in their career but just couldn't turn the trick this time out. The chief problem is that they just seem a little tired; an adventure film such as this simply has to soar, and Pimpernel never really gets airborne at all. It comes close -- in the stage racing sequence, for example -- but never quite makes it. This is an even greater shame as there are elements of Pimpernel that are quite good. David Niven, in the title role, has all the foppishness one could wish for, but he's also appropriately dashing and suave. True, he lacks the matinee idol looks that are an unwritten requirement for the part, but he otherwise acquits himself quite well. Cyril Cusack is a believable personification of oily evil, and Margaret Leighton looks lovely and is a more than adequate Marguerite. There's some eye-filling scenery and colorful costumes, made quite eye-popping by Christopher Challis' extremely handsome Technicolor lensing. If it lacks fire and spark, Pimpernel still is a pleasant diversion.
by Craig Butler review