Thursday, January 15, 2015

Worthwhile Movie #10 - The Scarlet and the Black

It's been a year since I have mentioned any movies. Mostly because we never have time for them, but also because when we do, my husband and I watch something we already love like Babette's Feast or Henry V.

Recently we watched The Scarlet and the Black, a 1983 made-for-TV movie about a Vatican priest who hides allied fliers (and others) from the Nazis. It's based on the true story of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty from the book which was originally titled The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.

Gregory Peck plays O'Flaherty and Christopher Plummer (of Sound of Music fame) plays Col. Kappler, the S.S. official who is out to stop him. The film does a wonderful job of showing how these two try to outwit each other.

This is a long movie (2 1/2 hours) and the music is a little wonky, but it's well worth it for the powerful story of heroism and undeserved grace. I would suggest renting rather than buying it since the ending can only be astounding once.

Be forewarned. This is a heavy movie. Although mild by today's standards, there is some shooting, one brief torture scene and mild profanities (taking the Virgin Mary's name in vain, which I actually thought was quite funny coming from a priest).
Part of my fascination with this film was seeing how the Catholic church played a part in Nazi resistance. The book A Higher Call mentions that the Catholic Church took a strong stand against Nazism at the beginning of the war. The film Amen claims that the official Catholic Church did nothing. This film shows that some Catholic individuals were actively involved in saving fugitives from the Germans, but that the Pope did not want to take a controversial stand.

Which of these is the true picture? Anyone know any books that deal with this subject?

P.S. Following Erin's suggestion in the comments, I read the article which led me down a rabbit trail of various books. Three books that turned up are The Pope's Jews ($8 on Kindle) and POPE PIUS XII AND WORLD WAR II: THE DOCUMENTED TRUTH: A Compilation of International Evidence Revealing the Wartime Acts of the Vatican. ($3 on Kindle). Three Popes and the Jews sounds like a comprehensive work, but it's only available in expensive hardcover.


Erin said...

You've really spurred my interest in watching this, have always meant to.
As for books, I don't know of any but probably is some. However this document explains the need for silence and what work the Pope actually did do

Beth said...

We recently just re-watched this and had our kids sit down an watch it with us. A very profound and touching story.

Farm Girl said...

I have always wanted to watch this movie I just never have. You know you bring up a pretty interesting topic. I know what I have heard, but I realized I never really had any proof about what happened with the Pope at the time and the Nazis. It is something to look into deeper. I have given my book away that had the history of all of the popes or I would look it up for you. Now you have me curious. Very nice review.

Anonymous said...

I remember watching this more than a decade ago. Your second sentence struck a chord with me. These days of streaming movies it seems more difficult to find a good one to watch. I'm eager to re-watch it again. Thanks for the review, Hope!

~ Carol in Oregon

Unknown said...

Thank you!