Review from the Vault: CALIGULA (1979)

CALIGULA (1979) 5/10 – a review form Salty

I reviewed this back in 2008 – I think it had just been re-released on DVD or Blu Ray – this was my first exposure to porn back in the 70s and it starred serious actors and was considered a serious film – how they got away with that I will never know 🙂

Limited plot and in my opinion an excuse to make a porn film and call it a serious movie. It has some stellar cast and I found the acting of these three sensational. Malcolm McDowell in a similar psychotic sexual role as A Clockwork Orange but in togas. Helen Mirren in a less than innocent role as she seems to portray of late. And Peter O’Toole as a sexual deviant.

 

Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell
Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell

 

Do not rent this film out unless you want to see hard-core porn! I found this film for the first time when I was 16 in a video store. OMG – it is scary full frontal, ejaculation and penetration shots. It is porn strung together with a story. I am astounded this film was even made with this cast. Peter O’Toole and Sir John Gielgud claimed to have been unaware hardcore sex footage was being shot for the film. Although this did not seem to stop Mr O’Toole getting quite fresh in a room filled with young guys and girls. Please explain Mr O’Toole? I do have to admit the end scene is great and his horse is beautiful. And OMG – the music – it deserves awards.

 

Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell
Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell

 

The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign – he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of England before meeting an appropriate end. There are various versions of the film, ranging from the heavily- truncated 90-minute version to the legendary 160-minute hardcore version which leaves nothing to the imagination (though the hardcore scenes were inserted later and do not involve the main cast members). I heavily suggest if you want to watch it you hire the original R rated version. It’s by far the shortest and will spare you the extended unnecessary porn. The back of my DVD stated 106 mins but when it got up to over 2hrs I realised I had the extended version in an old cover BOOOO.

 

Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell
Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell

 

Malcolm McDowell is impressive as the Emperor who descends into a complete nut job through his crazy attempts to uncover what corrupt asses the senate are. After some research it appears that McDowell’s portrayal is quite close to what is believed of the real Caligula – a violent sexual psychopath. Glad I live in the now! An ad in a 1976 issue of Variety, announcing that filming was to begin that day in Rome contained the words, “What better proof that I am God. I have a husband. And a wife. I am all that is and shall ever be.” However, when the film was finally released three years later, after numerous re-writes and re-edits, no mention of Caligula’s husband, let alone his much reported homosexual tendencies, was included in the final product. Although someone must have missed the ummmm male on male fisting scene (simulated) starring McDowell. After raping Proculus’ wife, Caligula was meant to sodomize Proculus himself. Malcolm McDowell refused to do it, and Tinto Brass (crazy director) instead suggested the off-screen fisting which is seen in the movie. Despite the controversy or probably because of the controversy the film was a hit at the box office when the number of theaters it played in is taken into account. However, because of its limited run, it was a financial disappointment when compared with the more successful films of the time, even though it broke records in the individual theaters it played in. It since has gone on to become Penthouse’s best selling video.

 

Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell
Caligula starring Malcolm McDowell

 

Trivia: 1) The film took nearly four years to make. 2) The full-scale Roman vessel, complete with 120 hand-carved oars, was the largest prop ever built at that time; it was over 175 feet long and 30 feet high. (look out Jame’s Cameron) 3) Maria Schneider (French model and actress) was originally supposed to play Drusilla and actually started shooting some scenes, but she changed her mind while filming a sex scene with Malcolm McDowell. Deeply disturbed by her skimpy toga and the graphic incest scenes, she walked off the set bad-mouthing the production. 4) After the film was released, Anneka Di Lorenzo (aka Marjorie Lee Thoresen, a 1975 Penthouse Pet of the Year), who played Messalina, sued Bob Guccione, saying that his handling of the film, mainly his adding of the hardcore sex inserts, had damaged her acting career by associating her with a hardcore porno film. She won her case, but was awarded only $4.06 in damages.


My suggestion would be don’t bother – unless you are now intrigued by the idea of some major talent in a porno. The debate of this film is art V porn. I am going to stick with porn. 5 out of 10.

 

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