Synopsis by Bhob Stewart
Born in Dorsetshire, Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) fictionalized the region as Wessex in his short stories and novels. In 1973, stories from Thomas Hardy's collection Wessex Tales (1888) were adapted to television for a BBC-2 series (also titled Wessex Tales) that included a memorable contribution ("A Tragedy of Two Ambitions") scripted by acclaimed British dramatist Dennis Potter, who later adapted Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge for the BBC2 in 1978. The Scarlet Tunic is based on another story from Wessex Tales, "The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion," a 20-page tale of thwarted love, structured as a recollection by Phyllis as told to Hardy shortly before she died. For this $800,000-budgeted British period film, set in the early 19th century, the name Phyllis was changed to Frances (Emma Fielding), daughter of retired doctor Edward Groves (Jack Shepherd). Frances is engaged to her father's friend, dull Humphrey Gould (John Sessions), away on business. A German cavalry regiment is encamped on Groves' land, and one day, Frances meets handsome hussar Matthaus (Jean-Marc Barr), who's ready for action. He would like to either fight the French or return to Germany. The two have an immediate attraction. When the bored soldiers, including Matthaus, make plans to desert, Frances decides to leave with Matthaus. Unfortunately, Gould visits the Groves home on that very night, with resulting confrontations and conflicts. Former second-unit director and stunt coordinator Stuart St. Paul makes his feature directorial debut, with the screenplay (St. Paul, Mark Jenkins, Colin Clements) expanding on both the events and characters as penned by Hardy.
cavalry, desertion, engagement, regiment, soldier