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Dinosaurs In Literature, History and Art: Mystery of the Pterosaur Figurine in the 1983 Period Movie; "The Scarlet and the Black" ...Page 88

by Chris Parker
Copyright 2009


Video captures by J Pratt. This scene occurs at about the 1 hr 52 minute mark of the Italian television film "The Scarlet and the Black" featuring (among other notable actors) Christopher Plummer as the commander of the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Rome in World War II (after the fall of Mussolini).

I have difficulty believing that the set and location designers, after striving to ensure authentic locations and art for the settings of the film, decided that for this one scene they really needed to create a life-sized gold-plated pterodactyl statue to glare at Plummer's character from next to a fireplace!

Photo:Two Views (video captures) from the Movie; "The Scarlet and the Black"

You should find two attached jpgs, one of which presents the statue at the closest zoom of the filming camera, and one of which presents the statue from a master shot at another slightly different angle. The resolution is not very good, unfortunately; if you can rent the film at Blockbuster or Netflix, you may be able to obtain a better screen grab. (It certainly looks even more impressive on a high-def television!)

You may recognize this as something you already have better pictures of, but if not then it likely still exists somewhere in Rome in an artistic collection.

J. Pratt

Photo: "Scarlet" ptero compared with alleged dead (non-crested) pterosaur from the 1950's

As you can see from the photos and comparisons shown here,Jason is on to something. Is is definitely a statue/figure of a pterosaur, probably a crested pterosaur like pterodactylus or a pterodactyl with head spike. The question then is, why is it near the fireplace in a period movie about Nazi's and the Catholic church?

Is it meant as a joke? I assure you that there are few if any modern gold-plated or bronze statues of pterodactyls. As Jason wondered, is it a reproduction of an anncient Roman piece? Possibly Egyptian, or Greek? We'd ask the set dresser where he got the piece, but he died a few years ago.

Does anyone recognize the style or the piece? Does anyone have the movie in high definition on DVD? Maybe we can obtain a better look at this "pterosaur"

Information About "The Scarlet and the Black"

The Scarlet and the Black is a 1983 made for TV movie starring Gregory Peck and Christopher Plummer. This production should not be confused with the 1993 British television mini series The Scarlet and the Black, which starred Ewan McGregor and Rachel Weisz.

Based on J. P. Gallagher's book The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican (published in 1967), this movie tells the story of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, a real life Irish Catholic priest who saved thousands of Jews and Allied POWs from Nazi occupied Rome.

Plot synopsis

In 1943, German-occupied Rome witnessed many atrocities of the Gestapo under the command of Colonel Herbert Kappler. Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, an Irish priest, was assigned to the Vatican under the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. Despite official Vatican neutrality and significant risk to his position within the church and personal safety, O'Flaherty organizes an enormous network of civilians to save Jewish refugees and Allied POWs from the Nazis.

Colonel Kappler discovers that O'Flaherty is giving shelter to Allied prisoners and orders a white line be drawn around the Vatican compound, later placing German guards along the perimeter and checking identification of those entering to try to stop the inflow of POW's who O'Flaherty has been helping.

The film portrays the brutal tactics of the Gestapo who torture and execute a priest found to be actively assisting the resistance fighters. Kappler makes it his aim not only to stop O'Flaherty's efforts, but also to have him assassinated.

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