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MASSACRE IN ROME depicts one of the worst atrocities of the War which took place in Nazi occupied Rome sparking a searing political outrage: did the Vatican, then led by Pope Pius XII (referred to by some as Hitler's Pope), kowtow to Nazism? After Italian Partisans killed 33 German soldiers by exploding a roadside bomb, Hitler ordered the immediate execution of 10 Roman citizens for each dead soldier. When the Vatican withdrew from the matter, a deadly confrontation ensued between a priest, (Mastroianni) and a Nazi Officer named Kapler (Burton at his best) who had been ordered to administer what would become one of the most heinous war crimes: the massacre of 335 civilians.
Director Cosmatos and writer Robert Katz crank up the tension in this nerve-wracking dramatisation of Katz's own, highly contentious, 1967 best-seller Death in Rome in which he blamed Pope Pius XII for the massacre; and for which the author was sued, upon the film's release, by the Pope's heirs and sentenced to jail.
Controversy around the film, and the real-life events that inspired it, continue to this day.