The Scarlet and the Black
|The Scarlet and the Black|
|Directed by||Jerry London|
|Produced by||Bill McCutchen|
|Written by||J.P. Gallagher (novel)|
|Screenplay by||David Butler|
|Based on||The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican|
|Music by||Ennio Morricone|
|Edited by||Benjamin A. Weissman|
|Distributed by||Columbia Broadcasting System|
|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 miniseries 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.
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.
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 when the SS officers leave, he looks out the window to see the white line had already begun to be 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. Colonel 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 could expect mercy and forgiveness automatically, simply because he asked for it, and walks away 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. Although 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.
- Gregory Peck as Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty
- Christopher Plummer as SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler
- John Gielgud as Pope Pius XII (as Sir John Gielgud)
- Raf Vallone as Father Vittorio
- Kenneth Colley as SS-Hauptsturmführer Hirsch (Erich Priebke) (as Ken Colley)
- Walter Gotell as SS-Obergruppenführer Max Helm (Karl Wolff)
- Barbara Bouchet as Minna Kappler
- Julian Holloway as Alfred West (John May)
- Angelo Infanti as Father Morosini
- Olga Karlatos as Francesca Lombardo (Chetta Chevalier)
- Michael Byrne as Reinhard Beck
- T. P. McKenna as Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler
- Vernon Dobtcheff as Count Langenthal
- John Terry as Lt. Jack Manning
- Peter Burton as Sir D'Arcy Osborne
- Phillip Hatton as Lt. Harry Barnett
- Mark Lewis as Cpl. Les Tate
- Fabiana Udenio as Guila Lombardo
- Marne Maitland as Papal Secretary
- Remo Remotti as Rabbi Leoni
- Giovanni Crippa as Simon Weiss
- Billy Boyle as Paddy Doyle
- Itaco Nardulli as Franz Kappler
- Cariddi Nardulli as Liesel Kappler (as Carridi Nardulli)
- Alessandra Cozzo as Emilia Lombardo
- William Berger as U.S. Intelligence Officer (as Bill Berger)
- Edmund Purdom as British Intelligence Officer / Epilogue Narrator (as Edmond Purdom)
- Gabriella D'Olive as Mother Superior
- Cesarina Tacconi as Pregnant Woman
- David Brandon as SS officer
- Sergio Nicolai as Firing Squad Officer
- Bruno Corazzari as Coalman
- Stelio Candelli as O'Flaherty's Secretary
- Francesco Carnelutti as Cameriere Segreto
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.
Actor Christopher Plummer was 53 years old during the production of the film. Herbert Kappler was only 36 when he served as SS Security Chief in Rome.
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 in 1959, partly under the influence of his war-time opponent Hugh O'Flaherty, who visited Kappler in prison every month, 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.
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.
- The Scarlet and the Black at the Internet Movie Database
- The Scarlet and the Black at AllMovie
- The Scarlet and the Black at the TCM Movie Database
- Planet Review Blog for The Scarlet and the Black