The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

# 03772 IMDb

The Scarlet and the Black (1983

By Jerry London

Drama, History, War (2h 23min)

USA USA, UK UK, Italy Italy

Fine! Rated 7.7 after 2,241 votes on 18-Oct-18.

1 win & 2 nominations


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 Nazi's 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.

Popular faces

Jerry London (director) Gregory Peck Christopher Plummer John Gielgud Raf Vallone Kenneth Colley Walter Gotell Barbara Bouchet


From the same director


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 (Father Morosini), Olga Karlatos (Francesca Lombardo), Michael Byrne (Reinhard Beck), T.P. McKenna (Reichsf├╝hrer Heinrich Himmler), Vernon Dobtcheff (Count Langenthal), John Terry (Lt. Jack Manning), Peter Burton (Sir D'Arcy Osborne), Phillip Hatton (Lt. Harry Barnett), Mark Lewis (Cpl. Les Tate), Fabiana Udenio (Guila Lombardo), Marne Maitland (Papal Secretary), Remo Remotti (Rabbi Leoni), Giovanni Crippa (Simon Weiss), Billy Boyle (Paddy Doyle), Itaco Nardulli (Franz Kappler), Cariddi Nardulli (Liesel Kappler (as Carridi Nardulli)), Alessandra Cozzo (Emilia Lombardo)...


J.P. Gallagher (book "The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican"), David Butler (written by)

Produced by

Howard P. Alston (executive producer in charge of production), Bill McCutchen (producer), Alfio Sugaroni (associate producer)


IMDb Comment

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).

Memorable quotes

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!


General Max Helm, Herbert Kappler's superior officer depicted in the film, is based on the real life character of 'Karl Wolff', Supreme SS Commander for Italy and third in command of the entire SS. Karl Wolff survived the war, was found not guilty of war crimes, and lived to an old age, dying in 1984.


1 win & 2 nominations 
Emmy Awards

Other titles

Escarlata y negro (Spain, Venezuela) • Im Wendekreis des Kreuzes (West Germany) • Le pourpre et le noir (France) • Mies punaisissa ja mies mustissa (Finland) • O Escarlate e o Negro (Brazil) • Scarlatto e nero (Italy) • The Vatican Pimpernel ((undefined))



Iceland:16 / Portugal:M/12 / Singapore:PG / UK:PG / West Germany:12



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