ORIGINAL UNCUT VERSION
DIRECTORS: Tinto Brass (Principle) & Bob Guccione & Glo Luiiancar (Additional Footage)
May contain spoilers!
I was left literally speechless after watching this. What is it? Is it a porn film? Is it a period drama? Is it an art house extravaganza? Well, for certain, it is the one of the most obscene movies that I have ever seen and I would not consider myself to be a prude.
But this film goes out of it’s way to either offend the pants off you or act as a perverse show reel for Penthouse, featuring every sexual act imaginable, whether it be sensual or depraved. Women urinating on corpses, castrations, rape, fisting, orgies, not to mention something featuring a swing and a dead fish!
This is an experience and one which will probably never leave you. It is just wall to wall sex for two and a half hours masquerading as an art house drama. It was at the point where Caligula (Malcolm McDowell) is being comforted by his wife (Helen Mirren) and sister Drusilla (Teresa Ann Savoy) in the form of a threesome, like you do, in which two of his female servants decide after watching the three of them through a spy hole, to have a bit themselves. This lesbian sex scene was the most conventional encounter of the whole film, feeling like it could have been lifted straight out of the pages of Penthouse Magazine itself and it was so out of place, I wondered if this was a sort of intermission!
But whilst the depravity stains the film, it is not all “bad”. The staging is epic and this is no doubt, one of the the grandest and most epic pornos that I and you will ever see, with some pretty good, wide angled and naturalistic cinematography, supported by great set and costume designs and considering, some pretty decent performances from the cast, which also boasts Peter O’Toole as Tiberius and (Sir) John Gielgud) as Nerva.
If toned down by about 5000%, this would have made an average Roman film, but considering that out of the 156 minute running time, I would say that only 30 minutes would constitute an actual story and out of that, only about 10 minutes was remotely historical accurate, the technical successes of the film were squandered on what is essentially a depraved, censorship challenging porno, more interested in making headlines than telling a real story, sex or no sex.
But the amount of sex which permeated through the ancient city of Rome, at least as portrayed in this film, was so pronounced that it actually managed to make Caligula, a man universally accepted and as a raving lunatic, a vile one at that, comes across as sympathetic, seeming to fit in to a world swollen with deprivation.
In conclusion, Caligula is a film which courts controversy, coming at the height of the X-rating era, where X-rated films where intended to be mature in tone, but became perverted into pornography which essentially high-jacked the rating. But I love films like this as they are an endless topic for debate but is this any good?
It could have been so much better if it had held back a bit. There is plenty of room for sex and violence as so many period movies have proven in the four decades since Caligula’s release but at it’s heart, this had all the potential to be a memorable epic in it’s own right. Instead, it has become a sex film and that is actually a bit unfair.