St. Ives (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Poor Richard E Grant. What does the guy have to do to get some respect? After a distinguished acting history playing good guys and bad, in both comedy and drama, a career which has seen him move effortlessly through such diverse projects as Warlock, Twelfth Night, The Age of Innocence, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Hudson Hawk, this is how he is described on the video box:

 .... the prison camp's British major (Richard E Grant, Spice World)

There you go. Sing the song of his life, oh ye minstrels, and let it be known hither and yon, in hill and dale, yea, even in Chip and Dale, that this is the man who was in Spice World. 

His mom would be so proud to see his life summarized thus. 

Especially if she saw Hudson Hawk.


Well, anyway, St. Ives is a real treat for you Americans if you enjoy the witty badinage and flashing swords of early 19th century romances, because this is an elegantly witty movie which never made it across the Atlantic. The story comes from a lesser-known work by Robert Louis Stevenson, which has been successfully transferred into a witty movie in which the humor still works a century and a half after it was written. The film's creators wisely focused in on the wit inherent in both the general plot line and the dialogue, and downplayed the romance and swordplay and ludicrous coincidences to the point where those elements merely provide a suitable accompaniment to the fun. Well done! If the film is merely an insignificant bagatelle, still it is a delightful one.

Use Barry Lyndon as your barometer. If you liked that, this is probably your kind of film, although this movie is less significant, more lighthearted, and the humor is broader than Kubrick's. (And, of course, the director uses a bright pallette and indoor lighting, unlike Kubrick's natural-tone look) 


Cecile Pallas was topless n a love scene.
 St Ives is the son of an aristocratic family, but his mother and father were beheaded in the revolution, and he is now an officer in Napoleon's army. Although he is a good warrior, his inherent rascality gives his commanding officers no end of frustration, since St Ives spends most of his time seducing women, insulting pompous bureaucrats, and fighting duels with the people he offends along the way. He has to fight so many duels, in fact, that he scarcely can find time for romance. Luckily, there is a solution. It seems that officers cannot challenge him to duels if he is a common soldier, so he concocts a plan to get demoted to private, and thence to get laid.

Through the usual silly plot twists in all 19th century novels, he ends up a prisoner of war in Scotland. and finds that his aristocratic French grandfather lives there in exile, 20 miles from the prison. (Hey, it could happen) Ah, well, if you are familiar with the conventions of these novels, you can imagine the expected elements. An evil long-lost brother who doesn't wish to be disinherited by the newcomer, a beautiful  English lady and her daughter, an escape from prison, mistaken identities, misinterpreted intentions, a return to France, everyone in England and France constantly running into someone they know, blah, blah, blah. As I mentioned earlier, the director and screenwriter were smart enough to realize that the plot was preposterous, and concentrated on the fun instead.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features

The performers handled the humor deftly. Jean-Marc Barr performed in perfect English, with a surprising gift for the nuances of the dialogue. In addition, the colors are vivid, the photography is generally splendid, and the DVD transfer is perfect.

An excellent movie of its type. 

The Critics Vote

  • no review on line

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.3 
  • With their dollars ... never distributed in the USA
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Top notch film of its type, but not to everyone's taste. 

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