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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  »

Filming Locations:


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of three occasions in his film career where John Gielgud played a pope. The other two were The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), where he played the fictional Pope Pius XIII, and Elizabeth (1998), where he played the real-life Pope Pius V. See more »


When the priest, disguised as a Sturmbahnführer, is eluding his pursuers, the film is shown reversed; medal ribbons and collar insignia are on the wrong sides. 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

Another Meddlesome Priest
31 March 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Remember Henry II's oblique wish about his former friend Thomas Becket which got carried out? Christopher Plummer tried more explicit methods to get rid of his meddlesome priest all without success.

Although Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, an Irish national attached to the Vatican staff, was providing aid to refugees of all kinds from the Nazis before, this film covers a period between September of 1943 and June 5, 1944 when Mark Clark and the Fifth American Army liberated Rome.

Gregory Peck plays the resourceful monsignor who's got a whole bag of tricks from the land of leprechauns to outwit the Nazis. He develops quite a network of people who house escaped prisoners. When Italy threw out Mussolini and switched sides in World War II, a whole lot of Allied prisoners were freed and roaming the countryside. You might remember the novel and film Von Ryan's Express which detailed that phenomenon. The word got out if you could make your way to the Vatican, Monsignor O'Flaherty could help.

What I like about The Scarlet and the Black is the fact that Peck's chief antagonist Christopher Plummer is shown as a three dimensional character. We see him as the ruthless Nazi who dogs Peck and his operation every step of the way. We also see him as father and husband who's enjoying Christmas in Rome with his family and also acting like any other tourist taking the family to see the sights of the Eternal City.

Peck and Plummer are a pair of well matched antagonists. Presiding over it all is John Gielgud as Pius XII. The criticisms I have of Pius occur before he reached the Papacy in 1939. At the point in time that The Scarlet and Black is taking place, there was very little he or anyone else as Pope could have done. He feared, probably with good reason, an Avignon captivity situation for the Papacy if he appeared to be overtly pro-Ally. And of course the Soviet Union which was his big fear was an Ally.

I would recommend watching this film about a good man who happened to be a priest who stepped up to the plate when no one would and fulfilled a great need. A whole lot of lives were saved because of him.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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