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The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

Vatican efforts, lead by Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, to save Allied POWs and downed Allied airmen as the Nazis invade Rome.




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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Pope Pius XII (as Sir John Gielgud)
Father Vittorio
Capt. Hirsch (as Ken Colley)
Gen. Max Helm
Minna Kappler
Angelo Infanti ...
Father Morosini
Olga Karlatos ...
Francesca Lombardo
Reinhard Beck
Count Langenthal
Lt. Jack Manning
Sir D'Arcy Osborne


Fr. Hugh O'Flaherty is a Vatican official in 1943-45 who has been hiding downed pilots, escaped prisoners of war, and Italian Resistance families. His diplomatic status in a Catholic country prevents Colonel Kappler from openly arresting him, but O'Flaherty's activities become so large that the Nazis decide to assassinate him the next time he leaves the Vatican. O'Flaherty continues his work in a variety of disguises. Based on a true story. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

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Drama | History | War


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Release Date:

2 February 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Vatican Pimpernel  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film's closing epilogue states: "After the liberation, Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty was honored by Italy, Canada and Australia, given the U.S. Medal of Freedom and made a Commander of the British Empire [CBE]. Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. In the long years that followed in his Italian prison, Kappler had only one visitor. Every month, year in and year out, O'Flaherty came to see him. In 1959, the former head of the dreaded Gestapo in Rome was baptised into the Catholic faith at the hand of the Irish priest." See more »


When Hugh O'Flaherty escapes from the Gestapo by disguising himself as a coal hauler, the SS officer who stops to question him wears rank insignia on the wrong side of the uniform collar. See more »


Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty: Colonel, do I get the idea that you're tryin' to put a crimp in my social life?
Col. Herbert Kappler: Damn you and damn your social life, priest!
See more »


References Massacre in Rome (1973) See more »

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User Reviews

The story of a brave Catholic monsignor serving in the Holy See who saved Jews and Allied soldiers during WWII.
1 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The film focuses on the dangerous situation faced by the Holy See in standing up to Nazi oppression. The Vatican, after all, has no military power and after the forcible confiscation of the Papal States by Italian nationalists during the pontificate of Pius IX near the close of the 19th century, he and at least two of his successors considered themselves as prisoners in the Vatican of the secular Italian state. Ignoring the warnings of the Popes against supranationalism in encyclicals like Non Abbiamo Biscogno and Mit Brenender Sorge, Italy and Germany persisted in pursuing social orders based on Fascism and Nazism. Yet despite the difficulties, many Catholics and religious like Msgr. Flaherty performed their Christian duties heroically by saving some of the persecuted Jews.

John Gielgud makes a very convincing Pope Pius XII. Sir John aged very gracefully giving him that perpetual angelic half smile on that kind face. Contrast this to the fact that we remember him well as the blackguard Casca in Julius Caesar (with James Mason and Marlon Brando). As Pius XII, Gielgud portrays the late Pope as torn between his duty to ensure the safety of the Church and Catholics and the necessity of actively participating in rescuing the Jews of Europe lest that provoke the Nazis towards more brutalities. The recently released Actes et Documents du Saint Siege relatiffs a la Guerre Mondiale Seconde (Acts and Documents of the Holy See relative to WWII or ADSS) reveal that the Holy See saw a relation between increased persecution of both Jews and Catholics, especially the religious orders, every time Pius XII spoke against the Nazis. It also disclosed that Jewish leaders, both in and out of Nazi Germany, advised the Pope to speak and act more discreetly because of this.

Gregory Peck is, as usual, dignified, likable and very convincing as a brave Catholic monsignor. An interesting political sidelight in the movie concerned Flaherty saving some British Tommies stranded behind enemy lines in Italy. One of them obviously not one fond of the Irish, upon hearing Flaherty's Celtic brogue exclaimed that he was Irish. Flaherty's response was to the effect, that he may not like what the British were doing in Ireland but it was still his Christian duty to help them. Remember, at the time Southern Ireland was still under British rule under very repressive conditions (cf. Leon Uris' book, Trinity).

If you liked movies of this genre you should also see Portrait : A Man Whose Name was John which starred Raymond Burr as the Papal Nuncio in Turkey, Msgr. Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII who used his position and his chancery to save thousands of Jews escaping from Nazi-occupied Hungary. Other Hollywood films which treated the Church kindly if not sympathetically are: The Shoes of the Fisherman (Anthony Quinn) and The Cardinal (Tom Tryon).

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