'Pimpernel' is classic family fare

There's nothing elusive about the new The Scarlet Pimpernel (CBS, Tuesday, 8- 11 p.m.).m It is an out-and-out joy to behold.

This flamboyant film is based on the classic adventure stories by Baroness Emmuska Orczy about a British nobleman who rescued French aristocrats from the guillotine in the early days of the French Revolution. The film version many people remember was made in 1935 and starred Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon.

This remake, starring Anthony Andrews (Sebastian of ''Brideshead Revisited'') , Jane Seymour (most recently of ''East of Eden''), and Ian McKellan (host of PBS's ''Acting Shakespeare''), manages to preserve all of the kitschy fun of the original while creating a certain outrageous style of its own.

Directed with enormous panache by Clive Donner, written with subtle flair by William Bast, ''Pimpernel'' overflows with lush locations and costumes, a delightful musical score by Nick Bicat, and a great deal of intriguing, authentic ballroom dancing of the period, choreographed by Eleanor Fazan.

The centerpiece of this superb three-hour entertainment is Anthony Andrews, who plays the underground hero masquerading as a fop with the most outlandish case of foppishness this side of Beau Brummell. He speaks as if he had a silk sock in his mouth when slyly foiling the villains of the revolution, yet reverts to macho virility when courting his beloved, Marguerite. It is a virtuoso performance, which will undoubtedly be remembered when Emmy time comes around.

Both McKellan and Seymour, too, manage to maintain the farcical pace of the melodrama while seeming to play it straight. The honors for keeping it all under control must go to director Donner, who utilizes the actors as effectively as he does the stunning scenery and costumes.

''The Scarlet Pimpernel'' is fine entertainment for the whole family, full of chuckles and thrills, and laced with some fascinating information about the French Revolution.

The famous bit of doggerel from the book says: ''They seek him here, they seek him there,/ the Frenchies seek him everywhere./ The elusive Scarlet Pimpernel!'' Well, elusive he is no more - you'll find him camping it up with inspired eclat on CBS Tuesday night.

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