For Your Sunday Night at the Movies, “The Scarlet and the Black”

I have my pastor to thank for this post. That’s because during his homily today, he mentioned a movie about an Irish Catholic priest stationed in Rome who, while fulfilling the obligations of his office, also used his office to smuggle Jews, and Allied soldiers, out of harms way after the Nazis occupied Rome.

Based on a true story, given recent news incidents, this movie may be of interest to you. I’m not going to spoil anything by telling you how it ends. I will say this, I’m very thankful that it can viewed in its entirety on the Web via the Gloria.tv website.

A made for television movie that came out in 1983, it has an outstanding list of actors in the cast. Here is what I turned up on Google about the film,

Nazi jackboots echo in the Vatican as Hitler’s henchmen try to find out who has been smuggling Jews and English soldiers out of Rome. And the game is on in this unheralded 1983 thriller based on a true story. The film pits Irish priest Msgr. Hugh O’Flaherty (Gregory Peck) against Rome’s Gestapo chief Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler (Christopher Plummer). Peck plays the priest as a wily and witty man of conscience who is as quick with his fists and tongue as he is with his elusive feet. He is a kind of Scarlet Pimpernel. Disguised as a street vendor, a nun, or even a German officer, he steals past Kappler’s men again and again. Viewers may shout huzzas at the success of one of O’Flaherty’s stratagems.

Early on in the film, he and Kappler run into each other while leaving an opera house. After they exchange pleasantries — O’Flaherty’s have subtle double meanings, the second ones insulting — the priest asks Kappler to autograph an opera program. Flattered, Kappler obliges. Later O’Flaherty uses the autograph to forge Kappler’s signature on a document ordering the release of a prisoner. Plummer is excellent as Kappler, who is under pressure from Hitler himself to subjugate Rome and counter subversive activity. At home, he is a loving father and husband. At work, he is a ruthless. On occasion, guilt pricks his conscience. (Sir John Gielgud) portrays Pope Pius XII as a man of dignity, humanity, and ambiguity.

I’ll get you started with the first 14 minutes. But note this: you’ll want to watch it all the way to the epilogue.

http://www.gloria.tv/media/131711/embed/true

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00401320931083843046 K

    This is a great movie, with minimal anti-Pope slant. You're right about the great cast — who can't love Gregory Peck in this role, and Christopher Plummer as the evil Nazi is just practicing for his later role as a Klingon.But the book is even better — has more info, more subterfuge, more disguises, etc. We're using both book and film in our home school World History class this year. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Yes, the book, "The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican" has a preview available on Google Book. I intend to borrow it from a library one day.


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