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If you pick this for striking scenes of violence,you'd do better to go
elsewhere. What remains in my mind after watching it are the
performances - especially Richard Burton and Peter Vaughn as soldiers
resigned to taking and giving orders they'd rather not take and give -
and the methodical way in which the reprisals are ordered, arranged and
then carried out.
Every time I hear of some brutal crime, I wonder how it ever began, how people could commit such acts.
But this film gave me an understanding of the process whereby one act/decision leads to another, which leads to another... until there's no stopping it, even if anybody wanted to.
I like this movie because of its accuracy and the excellent acting of
the main cast, and also of the supporting characters. The film is very
dry though, and slow, and presumably not meant as pure entertainment.
It is, in my view, a more or less accurate depiction of what happened,
not a star vehicle for the brilliant actors Richard Burton (Lt. Col.
Herbert Kappler) and Marcello Mastroianni (Father Pietro Antonelli).
John Steiner is also superb as Col. Dollmann.
This is not a film for thrill-seekers. It is a film for those who enjoy good acting, direction and historical accuracy. The main actors were serious artists, and I am sure they were very happy to participate in this well-crafted, very structured and chilling account of the German occupation of Rome. I give it 8 out of 10 stars, and that's me being conservative.
People watch war movies for action, but rarely to be reminded of their humanity, and this film touches more to the latter. There's not much action, but there is a lot of character in this fact-based drama. Burton plays the same historical character that Christopher Plummer impersonated in the televison drama THE SCARLET AND THE BLACK, Col. Herbert Kapler, an art-loving, but genocidal, Nazi officer, who carried out the massacre. The real Kapler also authorized the execution of the priest that Rosselini's OPEN CITY was based on. Both films are worthy companions to this one, and together all three convey what Rome was like during the days of Nazi occupation.
After sticking it out to the grim & dreadful closing 15 minutes of this
co-Italian production, I felt the need for a stiff brandy. Not knowing
anything of the film nor of the incident that led to the final atrocity
I was kept riveted after the first half hour since the often chequered
and frustrated direction of the account often leaves the conclusion in
doubt and one hoping the worst will be thwarted at the last moment.When
32 of a company of marching German soldiers are wiped out by a small
bunch of Italian underground in a wet deserted street which results in
a furious local Commandant(McKern) demanding immediate and exaggerated
retaliation but is reminded by his subordinate(R Burton) that with the
Americans beating at the city gates, he lacked the proper authority,it
being more politically prudent to "go through channels". Burton has a
tenuous understanding with a local priest Fr Antonelli(Mastroianni)who
represents the large Christian population & the Vatican who gets
personally involved in a struggle to cool what becomes a strategic
battle between the various ranking officials who refuse permission or
don't wish to know, his pleading & reasoning with Burton as one born to
obey orders and caught in the middle of a thankless and unwanted
military situation is ordered to compile a reduced list of hostages and
then arrange the execution squad. It is a matter of history that Pope
Pius,ruler of the Vatican & representative of everything Catholicism
stood for, if not a collaborator with the Nazis was at least partisan,
so Fr Antonelli finding the hostage situation finally becoming a
growing reality desperately seeks his intervention to prevent the
accelerating executions only to be met with a polite & devious refusal.
There are a few moments of amusement in watching the growing
frustrating of McKern repeatedly defeated by ranking responses to his
demands but the suspense is held until the point where Burton rigid to
his code, rebukes the inevitable damnation of his soul in openly
defying Fr Antonelli & as a man out on his own stonefacedly proceeds
with his "final solution" without official knowledge of the civil
authority. How the final contrived business is planned with the utmost
secrecy and perpetrated even to the extent of destroying all evidence
of the atrocity and the grim,details of every last moment takes a
pretty strong stomach.....the notorious sequence from Kubrick's "Paths
of Glory" springs to mind. One final nasty shock remains for Burton who
has promised the priest he will fire the first shot. The whole
"business", like Lidice is historical truth... Hitler clearly saw the
assassination of one high ranking official significant enough to wipe
out an entire village & its population- the significance here was a
mere 30 odd footsloggers of minor importance. One point did bother me
about why these officials really cared about protocol and did not
simply go out & seize the first unwitting hostages they found and not
stand on ceremony about details. But this is a true story we are told.
A few old faces like Anthony Steel & Peter Vaughan pop up briefly whilst the acting is generally quite acceptable with Burton almost as stone faced and cold as in "Villain" . What was his reason for taking so unsympathetic a part? Nevertheless, as one reviewer has remarked it has the look of a cheap production and a good deal is shot in semi-darkness. Definitely not for children under 14!
The crumbs of comfort come with the closing credits when we are audibly reminded of the War Trials' sentences of death or imprisonment for these men, Only Kesselring got off lightly as the top authority to issue the proper orders. Fr Antonelli finally demonstrated the bravery of Sidney Carton in his horror of this massacre in Rome.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I checked the 'contains spoiler'-box, for I am not commenting on this
movie in order to promote it, but as a review for people that have seen
I rated it with 10 points, for there's not a single scene, clue or camera handling that could want me to rate it lower. People reviewing it and commenting on it's 'speed' or 'dryness' have obviously not taken into consideration that this movie is (by now) 33 years old - an era wherein the fast-flashing-quickly-changing scenes run for victory. Phew! Everything coincided in this film. The matter was displayed in a pure and open way and it gives the viewer an up-close look at the then situation (from both sides). It was heart-breaking realistic. No heroism. Not Hollywood. A plain great movie about the occupation of Rome.
Another thing that struck me, was the appearance of the personage of Kappler. Although played by two completely different people, Kappler could be easily recognized. Played by Christopher Plummer in The Scarlet and the Black, the figure of Kappler leaves a vivid memory in the mind, after watching both movies. Where The Scarlet and the Black focused on position of the Vatican (and it's priests), this movie turns that around. Historically accurate, incomprehensible when it comes to army hierarchies, leaving the viewer behind with his/her thoughts, thoughts about an episode of the second world war - when it's not being read.
Burton performs sublime.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Daddy Cosmatos made relatively few movies, each time quite in the
decade's note, i.e., following the trend of the times; he benefited
from a choice cast for the flick we are discussing now. Rappresaglia,
played by Burton, Mastroianni, and scored by Morricone, with a
copiously bad script and a dreadful assortment of rubbish lines and
tirades, abhorrently stilted, so that the characters permanently
exchange risible lines and strident precepts.
Burton, Mastroianni are among the ablest actors Cosmatos ever worked with; in the '80s, he went on with Stallone, whom he directed in a cult thriller, COBRA.
Burton was an experienced player of WW 2 officers, and here he delivers a standard performance of a placid, gloomy, bored, tired Nazi, suffering from sloth, devoured by his manifest sloth; while Mastroianni was deemed slick enough to look priestly. In a supporting role you can notice Mme. Sandrelli's daughter from Brass' THE KEY, here 10 yrs before that role of cheated wife.
Burton, the jaded officer, and Mastroianni, the courageous priest, have several scenes together. Some more knowledgeable say that the gloomy and bored, morose Nazi is downplayed, depicted as a nicer and more approachable guy than he ever really was, while the priest is boosted.
See the priest going into the clerical palaces of Vatican, with their ostentatious display of luxe ....
'You will be called to account before the tribunal of God.' Yet Burton was not easygoing with scripts he didn't like. On the other hand, though, during the '70s (--and of course also the '80s as long as he was alive--) his career reached an unconceivable degree of misery and deprecation, Burton, another of the humiliated great actors (sort of like Harris, O'Toole, Finlay, Stamp, Rourke--), becoming a sort of B actor; and he was, unfortunately, not the guy to rescue a movie or a script, he mainly let it sink.
An average WW 2 drama, badly written, rhetorical, tendentious, directed by a hack, yet interesting, MASSACRE IN ROME has the advantage of a firstclass cast. Go see Mastroianni in a frock and Burton in his Nazi outfit.
I presume that so many asked so much from Pope Pius the 12th because so many were in fact expecting so much from the Christ' vicar; this is the only way of making sense of so many exigencies.
First, this is an excellent film. It is a World War II occupation drama
about a reprisal against a reprisal.
The German occupation force, of course, are the ogres here.
In the seventies, those in charge of productions, those who were the true censors on the drawing board, were the "preachiest" batch of movie makers ever. They insisted that even ogres were three dimensional characters.
If Charles Manson lived a hundred years earlier, these movie makers would have made him look "introspective".
Which is just one of the reasons why the seventies was the worst decade in American movie making.
However, this film didn't go down that path. It didn't "whitewash" the vicious nature of the beast. True, Burton gave his usual thespian performance, but he didn't placate the "seventies" movement by downplaying the rotten nature of the man he portrayed.
This is a very touching movie, down to the wire. It has many assets. It is, as I said, an excellent movie.
It is flawed in story telling, though. It's difficult to watch without yawning. True, Burton is a great actor, but he excels in boredom. He could make "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings" a snoozefest. He would have been the greatest hypnotist of all time, if he wanted to.
But that's Burton. And I don't mean to put him down. It's his style. He portrays his characters perfectly, perhaps too perfectly, with all their boring attributes.
The pace of the film is off. When it should be fast, it lulls into Shakespearean style dialog. When it should slow down to let us know what is happening, it blurts out with confusing cutaways that we cannot follow without a program.
Still, in the overall analysis, the magnitude of the story, including its factual nature, far outweighs the nitpicks against it.
This isn't an "exciting" movie, and the director makes no attempt to make it exciting, so you do have to trudge through it, but it is very intelligent. View it when you want a good think piece.
(55%) For those looking for a cheap, sleazy, Italian 70's exploitation movie then look elsewhere, because this, despite it being both Italian and made in the 1970's with the word massacre in its title, really isn't anything that could be even considered among that genre in any shape or form. Instead it's a very talky, very drawn out drama documenting a terrible Nazi atrocity towards random civilians of Rome at the end of the second world war. I myself knew very little of the terrible things that happened to the people of Rome before seeing this film, so it did enlighten me, which is something you don't often get with many films based on fact or otherwise. And as the film does go into a lot of detail regarding the events leading up to the massacre meaning you do feel that by the end most stones are left turned, and there's not really anything left to say. The film is a bit too slow burn as at times the plot feels like it's really not getting anywhere, but once it does heat up it shows how such an awful real life event could ever be orchestrated using nothing more than cold hearted controlled brutality.
One of the first movies of George Pan Cosmatos, "Massacre In Rome" is a
chilling story of German reprisal for the death of 32 German soldiers
in a IED explosion in Rome in 1944. It is decided that for each dead
German, 10 Italians must be executed.
Cosmatos was an excellent craftsman, and it shows here. The movie is cold and distanced: both protagonists, disillusioned German officer (Burton) and Italian priest (Mastroianni) are faced with the inescapable fate: Burton must follow his orders and carry on with the execution, while Mastroianni's attempt to make the Pope stop the Germans fails, because the Pope is not willing to get involved.
"Massacre In Rome" has one excellent scene: the briefing where Burton explains to his officers how the executions will be carried out. A really chilling sequence, thanks to Burton's maestry. The somewhat cheesy action sequences somewhat lower the vote. It would easily be a 8.
A fine ensemble cast headlines this worthy but dull WW2 drama that
tells of human conflict in Nazi-occupied Rome in 1944. When a group of
local partisans successfully manage to ambush a Nazi platoon and kill a
number of soldiers, the Nazi powers decide to retaliate by executing
ten Italians for every soldier killed. It sounds like a powerful,
intriguing story and it is, but I can't help wonder whether it would
have worked better as a documentary.
There's tension in the film, but it's limited to brief interludes as we follow the resistance fighters planning to blow up the Nazi march. Unfortunately, in between these affecting moments are lengthy dialogue sequences between the Nazi officials, sequences which add little to the production. There's plenty of attempts to humanise the historical characters, but I didn't care for any of the scenes involving Marcello Mastroianni's priest; they just felt long-winded and self-consciously arty. Similarly, the climax showing the aftermath of the attack and the Nazis' ultimate revenge is hard-hitting indeed, but takes so long to come about that I didn't care much after all.
The casting is fine; the producers assembled numerous heavyweights to play the Nazi officers, including Richard Burton, Peter Vaughan and Leo McKern, and as an Italian production this features many notable faces from Italian cinema, such as John Steiner and Renzo Palmer. There's little to fault in the direction of George Pan Cosmatos either; the director is best known for his later work in action cinema (including RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II and COBRA) but he cut his teeth on work like this. It's just a shame the film couldn't have been a little pacier.
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