39 user 7 critic

The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

Not Rated | | Drama, History, War | TV Movie 2 February 1983
Vatican efforts, led by Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, to save Allied P.O.W.s and downed Allied airmen as the Nazis invade Rome.


Jerry London


J.P. Gallagher (book), David Butler
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Gregory Peck ... Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty
Christopher Plummer ... Col. Herbert Kappler
John Gielgud ... Pope Pius XII (as Sir John Gielgud)
Raf Vallone ... Father Vittorio
Kenneth Colley ... Capt. Hirsch (as Ken Colley)
Walter Gotell ... Gen. Max Helm
Barbara Bouchet ... Minna Kappler
Julian Holloway ... Alfred West
Angelo Infanti Angelo Infanti ... Father Morosini
Olga Karlatos Olga Karlatos ... Francesca Lombardo
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


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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Gregory Peck stars as the man who led thousands in a daring escape to freedom - right under the nose of the Gestapo.


Drama | History | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


The 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 baptized into the Catholic faith at the hand of the Irish priest." See more »


In at least four scenes, Herbert Kappler wears a black SS parade tunic instead of his usual office gray uniform. By 1943, when the film is set, the SS had completely phased the black SS tunic out of service and this uniform would not have been worn at even the most formal of functions. See more »


Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty: I want you all to pass the word, I'll be near the steps of St. Peters, if anyone needs me, every afternoon from 3 till 5.
Alfred West: That might be a bit dodgy, sir. You could be setting yourself up as a target.
Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty: Ah don't worry, my boy. I'll only be a target for the pigeons.
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Alternate Versions

An edited version of approximately 110 minutes (120 minutes when broadcast with adverts) is sometimes shown on TV in the UK. See more »


References Massacre in Rome (1973) See more »

User Reviews

Based on real events about priest Hugh O'Flaherty who hides fugitives against Gestapo Colonel Herbert Kappler
5 May 2010 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

The priest Hugh O'Flaherty (Gregory Peck) turns into the rescuer of the persecuted by Nazis. The Monsignore clandestinely within the shield of the Vatican's diplomatic immunity to shelter allied military from the Gestapo Chief Herbert Kappler (Christopher Plummer) . Then O'Flaherty masquerades as nun, seller, or Nazi officer in order to outwit the German plans in occupied Rome. At the ending the scene where bad guy , Plummer, and good priest ,Peck, finally confront each other is a high point.

This story is inspired on actual facts and based on the nonfiction novel titled ¨The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican¨ by J.P.Gallaher. This interesting story drags in some place but is well realized and contains good cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno and excellent musical score by Ennio Morricone. It's a lavish production by Bill McCutchen , an ITC-RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana Co-production for world distribution, well filmed by Jerry London entirely on location in Rome.

The real events are the following : In the early years of World War II, O'Flaherty (Gregory Peck)toured prisoner of war camps in Italy and tried to find out about prisoners who had been reported missing in action.When Italy changed sides in 1943, thousands of British POWs were released. Some of them (John Terry), remembering visits by O'Flaherty , reached Rome and asked him for help. O'Flaherty did not wait for permission from his superiors. He recruited the help of other priests (Raf Vallone, Angelo Infanti), and a Swiss count (Vernon Dobtcheff). He also kept contact with Sir D'Arcy Osborne (Peter Burton), British Ambassador to the Vatican. O'Flaherty and his allies concealed 4,000 escapees − Allied soldiers and Jews − in flats, farms and convents. One of the hideouts was beside the local SS headquarters. O'Flaherty coordinated all this and when he was visiting outside the Vatican, he wore various disguises.The German occupiers of Rome commanded by Col. Herbert Kappler (Christopher Plummer) under orders of Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler (T. P. McKenna) tried to stop him and eventually they found out that the leader of the network was a priest.His efforts put him at odds with the Pope Pius XII (John Gielgud) and SS attempts to assassinate him failed. They found out his identity, but could not arrest him inside the Vatican. When the German ambassador revealed this to O'Flaherty, he began to meet his contacts on the stairs of the St. Peter's Basilica.Several others, including priests, nuns and lay people, worked in secret with Msgr. O'Flaherty, and even hid refugees in their own private homes around Rome. Another person who contributed significantly to this operation was the Malta-born widow Chetta Chevalier (Olga Karlatos), who hid some refugees in her house with her sons (Fabiana Udenio), and was lucky to escape detection. When the Allies arrived in Rome in June 1944, 3,925 of the escapees were still alive. O'Flaherty demanded that German prisoners be treated properly as well. He took a plane to South Africa to meet Italian POWs and to Jerusalem to visit Jewish refugees. Of the 9,700 Jews in Rome, 1,007 had been shipped to Auschwitz. The rest were hidden, 5,000 of them by the official Church − 3,000 in Castel Gandolfo, 200 or 400 as "members" of the Palatine Guard and some 1,500 in monasteries, convents and colleges. The remaining 3,700 were hidden in private homes. After liberation Monsignor O'Flaherty was honored by Italy, Canada and Australia given the US medal of Freedom and made a Commander of the British Empire. 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 baptized into the Catholic faith at the hand of the Irish priest.

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USA | UK | Italy


English | German | Italian

Release Date:

2 February 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Vatican Pimpernel See more »

Filming Locations:

Rome, Lazio, Italy See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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