The Scarlet and the Black
|The Scarlet and the Black|
|Directed by||Jerry London|
|Produced by||Bill McCutchen
Howard Alston (executive producer)
Alfio Sugaroni (associate producer)
|Written by||J.P. Gallagher (novel "The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican")
David Butler (screenplay)
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Editing by||Benjamin A. Weissman|
|Release date(s)||February 2, 1983|
|Running time||143 min.|
The Scarlet and the Black is a 1983 made for TV movie starring Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer. This production should not be confused with the 1993 British television mini series Scarlet and Black, which starred Ewan McGregor and Rachel Weisz.
Based on J. P. Gallagher's book The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican (published in 1967), this movie tells the story of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, a real life Irish Catholic priest who saved thousands of Jews and Allied refugee POWs in Nazi-occupied Rome. It was directed by Jerry London.
Plot synopsis 
In 1943, Nazi Germany completely occupies Rome. The Pope (John Gielgud) is approached by General Max Helm and SS Head of Police for Rome Colonel Herbert Kappler (Christopher Plummer). The Colonel expresses concern that escaped Allied prisoners may attempt to seek refuge in the Vatican, and requests permission to paint a white line across St. Peter's Square in order to mark the extent of Vatican sovereignty. The Pope grants his permission, but upon the departure of the SS officers looks out the window to see the white line had already begun being painted.
Kappler's main rival is Monsignor O'Flaherty (Gregory Peck), an Irish clergyman who runs an underground organization which provides safe haven and eventual escape to Jews, escaped POWs, and refugees in Nazi-occupied Rome. O'Flaherty is assisted in this enterprise by several other patriots such as Ms. Francesca Lombardo and other local Romans, including clergy. Kappler attempts to end their activities and destroy the group, but is increasingly frustrated by O'Flaherty's repeated successes, due to a combination of his clever plans, numerous disguises, and stressing the very limits of international law. Met with continuous failure, Kappler begins to develop a personal vendetta against O'Flaherty. Despite O'Flaherty's efforts, Kappler manages to recapture many escaped POWs, deport many Jews to death camps, and exploit and oppress the general population; a number of O'Flaherty's friends are also arrested or killed. O'Flaherty is himself the target of an assassination attempt instigated by Kappler, which fortunately fails due to the monsignor's boxing skills. Despite Kappler's efforts, however, the rescue organisation continues operating, and succeeds in saving many lives.
As the war progresses, the Allies succeed in landing in Italy and begin to overcome German resistance, eventually breaking through and heading towards Rome itself. Kappler worries for his family's safety from vengeful partisans, and, in a one-to-one meeting with O'Flaherty, asks him to save his family, appealing to the same values that motivated O'Flaherty to save so many others. The Monsignor, however, refuses, disbelieving that after all the Colonel has done and all the atrocities he is responsible for, he would expect mercy and forgiveness automatically, simply because he asked for it, and departs in disgust.
As the Allies enter Rome in June, 1944, Monsignor O'Flaherty joins in the celebrations of the liberation, and somberly toasts those who did not live to see it. Though the Pope has officially cautioned O'Flaherty about his activities, on the day of the liberation he bestows his personal blessing upon the Monsignor, who then goes into a chapel to pray.
Kappler is captured in 1945 and questioned by the Allies. In the course of his interrogation, he is informed that his wife and children were smuggled out of Italy and escaped unharmed into Switzerland. Upon being asked who helped them, Kappler realizes who it must have been, but responds simply that he does not know.
The film epilogue states that O'Flaherty was decorated by several Allied governments after the war. Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was frequently visited in prison by O'Flaherty, eventually becoming a Catholic and being baptized at his hands in 1959.
Historical Accuracy 
The character of General Max Helm was based entirely on the real life of SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, who served in 1944 as the Supreme SS and Police Leader of Italy. The film was unable to use Wolff's real name, since the SS General was still living when the film was in production; he died in 1984.
Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty was a real Irish priest and Vatican official, credited with saving 6,500 Jews and Allied war prisoners.
Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment, and did convert to Catholicism after several years, partly under the influence of his war-time opponent Hugh O'Flaherty, who often visited Kappler in prison, discussing religion and literature with him. He was eventually transferred to a prison hospital on account of poor health. It was there that he escaped imprisonment by being smuggled out in a suitcase by his wife (Kappler weighed less than 105 pounds at the time). He escaped to West Germany, where he eventually died at age 70 in 1978.
Movie Title 
The movie title The Scarlet and the Black is a reference not only to the black cassock and scarlet sash worn by Monsignores and bishops in the Catholic Church, but also to the dominant colors of Nazi Party regalia.
Awards for the movie 
In 1983 The Scarlet and the Black was nominated for an Emmy in the category Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special.
- Gregory Peck ... Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty
- Christopher Plummer ... SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler
- John Gielgud ... Pope Pius XII (as Sir John Gielgud)
- Raf Vallone ... Father Vittorio
- Kenneth Colley ... SS-Hauptsturmführer Hirsch (Erich Priebke) (as Ken Colley)
- Walter Gotell ... SS-Obergruppenführer Max Helm (Karl Wolff)
- Barbara Bouchet ... Minna Kappler
- Julian Holloway ... Alfred West (John May)
- Angelo Infanti ... Father Morosini
- Olga Karlatos ... Francesca Lombardo (Chetta Chevalier)
- Michael Byrne ... Reinhard Beck
- T.P. McKenna ... Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler
- Vernon Dobtcheff ... Count Langenthal
- John Terry ... Lt. Jack Manning
- Peter Burton ... Sir D'Arcy Osborne
- Phillip Hatton ... Lt. Harry Barnett
- Mark Lewis ... Cpl. Les Tate
- Fabiana Udenio ... Guila Lombardo
- Marne Maitland ... Papal Secretary
- Remo Remotti ... Rabbi Leoni
- Giovanni Crippa ... Simon Weiss
- Billy Boyle ... Paddy Doyle
- Itaco Nardulli ... Franz Kappler
- Cariddi Nardulli ... Liesel Kappler (as Carridi Nardulli)
- Alessandra Cozzo ... Emilia Lombardo
- William Berger ... U.S. Intelligence Officer (as Bill Berger)
- Edmund Purdom ... British Intelligence Officer / Epilogue Narrator (as Edmond Purdom)
- Gabriella D'Olive ... Mother Superior
- Cesarina Tacconi ... Pregnant Woman
- David Brandon ... SS officer
- Sergio Nicolai ... Firing Squad Officer
- Bruno Corazzari ... Coalman
- Stelio Candelli ... O'Flaherty's Secretary
- Francesco Carnelutti ... Cameriere Segreto