Massacre in Rome (1973)

PG | 103 or 105 mins | Drama | October 1973

Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this Italian-U.S. co-production was Death in Rome . The Italian title, Rappresaglia translates into English as “reprisal.” Although there is a copyright statement for Fiduciary Film Associates on the film, it was not registered for copyright. There were no production charts for the film, but a DV article indicates it was still in production in early Jan 1973. The NYT review mistakenly lists running time as 145 minutes. Massacre in Rome closes with a scroll of the names of the 330 victims of the Ardeatine massacre over a freeze-frame image of “Father Pietro Antonelli” lying dead on the cave floor. A voice-over narration describes the fate of those involved in carrying out the reprisal: Italian police chief Pietro Caruso was tried and executed. Of the German officers tried and sentenced to execution or life in prison, all were released by 1962 with the exception of Col. Herbert Kappler, who was still imprisoned at the time of the film’s production. According to an Aug 1977 Time article, Kappler, suffering from cancer, escaped from a Roman hospital with the assistance of his wife. Kappler died the following year at home in Germany. In 1983 CBS television broadcast The Scarlet and the Black , a made-for-television film featuring Kappler, who was played by Christopher Plummer, and his association with Catholic priest Father Hugh O'Flaherty, played by Gregory Peck.
       An Aug 1971 DV item noted that Tom Rowe was to write the script. According to a May 1972 DV news item, Jack Hawkins ... More Less

The working title of this Italian-U.S. co-production was Death in Rome . The Italian title, Rappresaglia translates into English as “reprisal.” Although there is a copyright statement for Fiduciary Film Associates on the film, it was not registered for copyright. There were no production charts for the film, but a DV article indicates it was still in production in early Jan 1973. The NYT review mistakenly lists running time as 145 minutes. Massacre in Rome closes with a scroll of the names of the 330 victims of the Ardeatine massacre over a freeze-frame image of “Father Pietro Antonelli” lying dead on the cave floor. A voice-over narration describes the fate of those involved in carrying out the reprisal: Italian police chief Pietro Caruso was tried and executed. Of the German officers tried and sentenced to execution or life in prison, all were released by 1962 with the exception of Col. Herbert Kappler, who was still imprisoned at the time of the film’s production. According to an Aug 1977 Time article, Kappler, suffering from cancer, escaped from a Roman hospital with the assistance of his wife. Kappler died the following year at home in Germany. In 1983 CBS television broadcast The Scarlet and the Black , a made-for-television film featuring Kappler, who was played by Christopher Plummer, and his association with Catholic priest Father Hugh O'Flaherty, played by Gregory Peck.
       An Aug 1971 DV item noted that Tom Rowe was to write the script. According to a May 1972 DV news item, Jack Hawkins was set for a co-starring role. An Aug 1972 DV news item indicated that M-G-M considered involvement in the film’s production. A Jan 1973 Var article on the film stated that Robert Katz, author of the book Death in Rome on which the film was based, turned over the screenplay adaptation to Everett Hart, who died in Rome on Jan. 1, 1973. According to the article, Hart’s involvement set up the partnership between producer Carlo Ponti and U.S. company Fiduciary Trust and Philip Mengal, who provided funding for the film. Massacre in Rome was shot in Italy. Richard Burton won the Best Actor award at Taormina Film Festival.
       A month after the film’s release, a Nov 1973 HR article indicated that Massacre in Rome had been denounced by the Vatican. As in Katz’s book, the film alleged that Pope Pius XII was aware of the massacre before it occurred and refused to intervene. The Vatican Radio news declared that the pope was never aware of the retaliation. That same month, Mrs. Elena Rossinani, the niece of Pope Pius XII, filed a libel suit against Ponti, Katz and director and co-writer George Pan Cosmatos, charging the filmmakers with having “offended the memory of the Supreme Pope Pontiff XII.” Katz insisted that while the Vatican had released numerous documents about that time period, none directly refuted his claim.
       As noted in a May 1974 HR news item, Katz testified in court that he did not intend to defame the pope with either his book or the film production. In addition, Katz stated that he had requested Vatican cooperation, but had been refused. A Dec 1975 Var news item reported that after a twenty-two month trial Katz, Ponti and Cosmatos were found guilty of defamation. Katz received a suspended fourteen month jail sentence. Ponti and Cosmatos each received a suspended seven month sentence. Katz indicated that he would appeal the verdict, but the resolution of any appeal has not been determined.
       The Ardeatine Massacre occurred on 23 Mar 1944. The character of Father Antonelli was invented by the screenwriters, but, as indicated above, the Italian police, German Gestapo and SS officers were all based on actual people. As shown in the film, the Ardeatine caves, also known as the Fosse Ardeatine caves, were selected for their distance from Rome and for being composed primarily of lime, which assists in controlling the decomposition of human remains. After the executions, figures of which range between 330 or 335 victims, the cave entrance was blown up and sealed. The bodies remained there until after the war, when they were exhumed and given proper burials. As shown in the film, Kappler and the Gestapo received authorization to add Jews to the reprisal list. They made up seventy or eighty of the victims. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Nov 1973
p. 4639.
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1971.
---
Daily Variety
19 May 1972.
---
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1972.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1973
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1973
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Jan 1974
Section I, p. 15.
New York Times
25 Oct 1973
p. 59.
Time
29 Aug 1977.
---
Variety
17 Dec 1975.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
In association with A. Seymour Cooper and Everett Hart
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus published and rec by
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Death in Rome by Robert Katz (New York and London, 1967).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Death in Rome
Rappresaglia
Release Date:
October 1973
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 17 October 1973
New York opening: 24 October 1973
Production Date:
began September 1972 in Rome
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
103 or 105
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Rome in Mar 1944, Gestapo police chief Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler and his aid Col. Dollmann confront Father Pietro Antonelli, the director of the Institute for Art Restoration, for presenting them with a forgery. That evening Antonelli’s superior, Father Pancrazio, telephones to urge Antonelli to cooperate with the Gestapo regarding the painting as Pancrazio and the pope are in sensitive negotiations with the Germans to defend the neutral city of Rome from the expected Allied invasion. Dismayed by the continual Italian accommodation of the Germans, Antonelli asks two of his assistants, Paolo and Elena, their opinions and Paolo avers that the people are disgusted with more than two decades of a fascist dictatorship and the informal German occupation. The next day, German SS commandant of Rome Gen. Kurt Maelzer summons Kappler, Italian police chief, Questore Pietro Caruso and Minister of the Interior Buffarino Guidi to discuss plans for the next day’s twenty-fifth anniversary of fascist rule. Kappler insists there must be no outward demonstration as it might incite the public. Although Caruso downplays any suggestion of political partisan groups in Rome, Kappler says that despite its official status, the city is not neutral but rife with numerous active political groups including German forces. When Buffarino Guidi complains that an SS company marches by his office daily, Kappler reveals that he assigned the daily display as a show of strength after the pope expressed concern that Rome was not properly policed. Maelzer agrees that no official anniversary celebrations take place, but insists that the SS company make its customary march. Meanwhile a group of partisans, including Paolo and Elena, ... +


In Rome in Mar 1944, Gestapo police chief Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler and his aid Col. Dollmann confront Father Pietro Antonelli, the director of the Institute for Art Restoration, for presenting them with a forgery. That evening Antonelli’s superior, Father Pancrazio, telephones to urge Antonelli to cooperate with the Gestapo regarding the painting as Pancrazio and the pope are in sensitive negotiations with the Germans to defend the neutral city of Rome from the expected Allied invasion. Dismayed by the continual Italian accommodation of the Germans, Antonelli asks two of his assistants, Paolo and Elena, their opinions and Paolo avers that the people are disgusted with more than two decades of a fascist dictatorship and the informal German occupation. The next day, German SS commandant of Rome Gen. Kurt Maelzer summons Kappler, Italian police chief, Questore Pietro Caruso and Minister of the Interior Buffarino Guidi to discuss plans for the next day’s twenty-fifth anniversary of fascist rule. Kappler insists there must be no outward demonstration as it might incite the public. Although Caruso downplays any suggestion of political partisan groups in Rome, Kappler says that despite its official status, the city is not neutral but rife with numerous active political groups including German forces. When Buffarino Guidi complains that an SS company marches by his office daily, Kappler reveals that he assigned the daily display as a show of strength after the pope expressed concern that Rome was not properly policed. Maelzer agrees that no official anniversary celebrations take place, but insists that the SS company make its customary march. Meanwhile a group of partisans, including Paolo and Elena, meet to discuss a plan to attack the SS company the next day as a statement against both the Germans and the fascist rule of Italian ruler Benito Mussolini. The next morning, Antonelli receives a note from Kappler suggesting that he bring the authentic painting directly to him at Gestapo headquarters. As the partisans begin making their way to Via Rasella where they will attack the SS company, Kappler meets Antonelli to accept the painting. After a brief discussion about the value of art during a devastating world war, the men agree that, intellectually, they have much in common, but Kappler warns the priest that he should not be blinded to reality by his religion. Meanwhile, on Via Rasella, the partisans, loitering in various positions, grow anxious when the SS guard does not arrive at their usual time. After waiting nearly an hour, they begin to consider calling off the attack when they hear the guard approaching. Paolo sets the fuse on the bomb inside a trash bin and as the company marches by it explodes, killing most of the soldiers. Soon after, Kappler and Maelzer receive a report of the attack and both men go to Via Rasella. Infuriated by the carnage, Maelzer initially orders all the buildings on Via Rasella blown up and fifty Italians rounded up and executed for each German soldier killed. Kappler overrides Maelzer, reminding the general that they must consider Germany’s reputation. Later while Maelzer contacts Berlin for instructions, Antonelli learns of the attack and upon finding Paolo and Elena at the Institute realizes their involvement. Desperate to have the reprisal executions immediately, Maelzer is initially elated when told that Adolf Hitler has agreed with his recommendation, but Kappler again intervenes, insisting that reprisals promote only outrage and negative repercussions. Frustrated, Maelzer contacts Luftwaffe Field Marshal General Albert Kesselring, in charge of the German defense of Italy, to seek his approval for the executions. Kesselring in turn contacts Berlin, stating that after his high losses in the recent Anzio campaign he is not particularly troubled about the thirty-two dead soldiers on Via Rasella. Meanwhile, partisan members meet in small groups to listen to the radio in vain for news of the attack. The partisan leaders wonder uneasily if the Germans will follow the Hague Convention and demand the surrender of those involved but declare that none will capitulate. When some members protest that not surrendering will allow, under the Convention rules, the Germans to make reprisals and lead to the death of innocent people, the leaders remind them that Germans have killed innocents throughout five years of war. Late that evening, after Kesselring informs Maelzer that orders will be forwarded from Berlin, Maelzer, his officers and Caruso meet. Maelzer informs them that Berlin has decided that within twenty-four hours ten Italians are to be executed for each murdered German soldier. When Kappler states that the total number exceeds all of the condemned prisoners of war and political captives held in Rome, Maelzer orders Caruso to assist by compiling a list of eighty individuals. The police chief balks, demanding a letter of authority relieving him of responsibility. While Kappler immediately sets about drawing together his portion of the list, including getting authorization to add Roman Jews, Dollmann privately visits Father Pancrazio. Explaining that he believes the massacre is a grave mistake that will infuriate the Roman citizenry and unite the various resistance factions, Dollmann urges the priest to seek the pope’s intervention. Meanwhile, the anxious Caruso visits Buffarino-Guidi for help in gathering names for his list, but Buffarino-Guidi refuses. After Kappler turns down Antonelli’s request to stop the reprisals, the priest returns to the Institute and, finding that Elena and Paolo have disappeared, seeks out Father Pancrazio. Learning that Pancrazio has gone to the Vatican, Antonelli hastens there and learns from Pancrazio that he will suggest that the pope ask for the executions to be postponed and offer a Mass for the dead Germans. With his list almost complete, Kappler is shocked when Wehrmacht officer Col. Hausler informs him that he and his men refuse to take on the mass execution as they are not trained for it and it is the responsibility of the SS. After approving the Ardeatine caves outside of the city as the location for the execution, Kappler informs Maelzer of Hausler’s refusal, and the general orders Kappler, his men and the SS officers to conduct the killings. Informed that another soldier wounded in the bombing has died, Kappler wearily seeks ten more names to add to the list. Meanwhile, well after nightfall, Pancrazio meets with Antonelli to inform him that the pope has many considerations in the matter of the reprisals, not the least of which is the German defense of Rome against anti-religious communism. Appalled when Pancrazio admits the pope will make no statement until after the killings, Antonelli departs. As those on the final list are rounded up and driven to the Ardeatine caves at dawn, Antonelli goes to Kappler, hoping to convince him that the pope will intercede. Having already received a copy of the pope’s intended post-execution statement, Kappler advises Antonelli to accept the inevitable and departs for the execution site. Spotting a map of the Ardeatine caves on Kappler’s wall, Antonelli hurriedly bicycles there. As Caruso reluctantly turns in his list, he is informed that as he is too late, guards from the prison were taken to fill the quota. At the caves, Kappler and the other officers begin the executions, killing five men at a time. When one officer insists that he cannot proceed, Kappler leads him into the cave to demonstrate the method of shooting the kneeling victim in the back of the head. As he places his gun barrel at the base of his victim’s neck, the man turns to look at him and Kappler is shocked to discover that he is Antonelli. Stunned, Kappler hesitates, but after the two men briefly stare into each other's eyes, Antonelli turns away and Kappler kills him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.