Film: The Scarlet And The Black

The Scarlet And The Black is a 1983 movie starring Gregory Peck, Christopher Plummer, and John Gielgud about one of the lesser known heroes of World War II: Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (Peck), an Irish priest assigned to work for the Holy Office (i.e. the Inquisition) at the Vatican. He uses his diplomatic immunity (as the Nazis have sworn to respect Vatican sovereignty on Vatican territory) to run a large and complex network hiding and protecting escaped POWs from being recaptured by the SS. His foe in this is Herbert Kappler (Plummer), a ruthless SS commander who eventually decrees that O'Flaherty will be shot on sight if he crosses the white line in St. Peter's square that delineates where Vatican power ends....


  • Berserk Button: O'Flaherty gets one when Kappler asks him to transport his wife and children to safety, saying that you cannot just demand forgiveness. He still does it, however
  • Chekhov's Skill: The opening scenes show Hugh O'Flaherty teaching a boxing class. His skills as a boxer become very useful later on.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pope Pius XII has his moments, such as when a Nazi officer urges him to communicate in his communications to the outside world that the German army and in particular the SS have been acting correctly towards him and the Vatican. The Pope's witheringly dry response is to say that he will be sure to communicate that he was asked to say that.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Kappler and his family.
  • Good Shepherd: Hugh O'Flaherty and the priests and nuns that work under him
  • Hollywood Atheist: Kappler delivers a speech where he expresses viewpoints such as this towards the end when it looked like O'Flaherty wasn't going to help him get his family out of Rome. This is somewhat ironic, as the final text crawl notes that the real Kappler eventually converted to Catholicism while in prison
  • Indy Ploy: O'Flaherty develops one in order to get Lt. Manning out of prison
  • I Own This Town: Kappler uses this as a threat to try and intimidate O'Flaherty. It's undermined somewhat by the fact that while Kappler may "own" Rome he certainly does not "own" the Vatican - in fact, Heinrich Himmler himself warns Kappler against trying to violate Vatican neutrality. Naturally, this is where O'Flaherty runs his organisation.
    Colonel Kappler: "I... own... Rome. Not you. Not the Pope. Just because you wear a frock, it won't protect you."
  • The Jeeves: 'Alfred West' (in real life named John May) is the butler of the British ambassador D'Arcy Osborne. Refusing to help O'Flaherty directly, Osborne 'lends' West out to O'Flaherty in what seems like a dismissive gesture...until O'Flaherty realises that West is an absolute genius at getting anything from the black market as well as saving O'Flaherty's life on one occasion.
  • Master of Disguise: O'Flaherty turns out to be quite good at disguising himself in order to get around Rome unnoticed.
  • Oh Crap!: Kappler's reaction when he hears that Himmler is in Italy and wants to speak to him
    • And when Himmler personally tells Kappler that Hitler himself has explicitly forbidden ANY violation of Vatican sovereignty.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: One of O'Flaherty's disguises is as a nun.