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Caligula (1979)

Caligola (original title)
Unrated | | Drama, History | 15 February 1980 (USA)
Details the graphic and shocking, yet undeniably tragic story of Rome's most infamous Caesar, Gaius Germanicus Caligula.

Director:

Tinto Brass

Writers:

Gore Vidal (adapted from an original screenplay by), Masolino D'Amico
Reviews
Popularity
754 ( 117)
2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Malcolm McDowell ... Caligula
Teresa Ann Savoy ... Drusilla
Guido Mannari Guido Mannari ... Macro
John Gielgud ... Nerva
Peter O'Toole ... Tiberius
Giancarlo Badessi Giancarlo Badessi ... Claudius
Bruno Brive Bruno Brive ... Gemellus
Adriana Asti ... Ennia
Leopoldo Trieste ... Charicles
Paolo Bonacelli ... Chaerea
John Steiner ... Longinus
Mirella D'Angelo ... Livia (as Mirella Dangelo)
Helen Mirren ... Caesonia
Rick Parets Rick Parets ... Mnester (as Richard Parets)
Paula Mitchell Paula Mitchell ... Subura Singer
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Photos

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Storyline

The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula (Malcolm McDowell), 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, organizes elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of Britain before meeting an appropriate end. There are various versions of this movie, ranging from the heavily truncated one hour and thirty-minute version to the legendary two hour and forty-minute hardcore version which leaves nothing to the imagination (though the hardcore scenes were inserted later and did not involve the main cast members). Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

What would you have done if you had been given absolute power of life and death over everybody else in the whole world? See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

While filming the scene where Caligula's army tries to invade Britain, Malcolm McDowell asked Director Tinto Brass why the soldiers weren't wearing armor. The director's reply was, "Cock and arse". See more »

Goofs

The credits say "Cast in Order of Appearence," but due to the heavy editing after the "director's cut", they are completely wrong in subsequent versions. Some characters credited in the beginning appear around the end, and vice versa. For example, Proculus is introduced early in the film, yet he is the last billed. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Caligula: I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am a God.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits are shown over a bleeding coin. See more »

Alternate Versions

The censored version of this film has been released of a few occasions in Australia. In March 1981, a censored, R rated release to cinemas was made by Roadshow. Roadshow Home Video subsequently released the same film version to video in September 1984. This version ran for 146 minutes (PAL). It was again re-released by a 'no name' video label in the late 1990's. The censored DVD version appeared in December 2004, released by Warner Vision. The uncut version has only been released on one occasion in Australia. This was the fully uncut, X rated 156 minute PAL version. It was released in January 1985 by 'Palace X Video' - a version that is now an extremely rare collector's item. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Comix Scrutinizer: Spaced #1 (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

Spartacus
(uncredited)
Written by Aram Khachaturyan
Conducted by Bruno Nicolai
See more »

User Reviews

 
The Ben-Hur of Porn: Gratuitous Sex, Violence, & Weirdness
23 April 2005 | by gftbiloxiSee all my reviews

Some describe CALIGULIA as "the" most controversial film of its era. While this is debatable, it is certainly one of the most embarrassing: virtually every big name associated with the film made an effort to distance themselves from it. Author Gore Vidal actually sued (with mixed results) to have his name removed from the film, and when the stars saw the film their reactions varied from loudly voiced disgust to strategic silence. What they wanted, of course, was for it to go away.

For a while it looked like it might. CALIGULA was a major box-office and critical flop (producer Guccione had to rent theatres in order to get it screened at all), and although the film was released on VHS to the home market so many censorship issues were raised that it was re-edited, and the edited version was the only one widely available for more than a decade. But now CALIGULIA is on DVD, available in both edited "R" and original "Unrated" versions. And no doubt John Gielgud is glad he didn't live to see it happen.

The only way to describe CALIGULIA is to say it is something like DEEP THROAT meets David Lynch's DUNE by way of Fellini having an off day. Vidal's script fell into the hands of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, who used Vidal's reputation to bankroll the project and lure the big name stars--and then threw out most of Vidal's script and brought in soft-porn director Tinto Brass. Then, when Guccione felt Brass' work wasn't explicit enough, he and Giancarlo Lui photographed hardcore material on the sly.

Viewers watching the edited version may wonder what all the fuss is about, but those viewing the original cut will quickly realize that it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. There is a tremendous amount of nudity, and that remains in the edited version, but the original comes complete with XXX scenes: there is very explicit gay, lesbian, and straight sex, kinky sex, and a grand orgy complete with dancing Roman guards thrown in for good measure. The film is also incredibly violent and bloody, with rape, torture, and mutilation the order of the day. In one particularly disturbing scene, a man is slowly stabbed to death, a woman urinates on his corpse, and his genitals are cut off and thrown to the dogs.

In a documentary that accompanies the DVD release, Guccione states he wanted the film to reflect the reality of pagan Rome. If so, he missed the mark. We know very little about Caligula--and what little we know is questionable at best. That aside, orgies and casual sex were not a commonplace of Roman society, where adultery was an offense punishable by death. And certainly ancient Rome NEVER looked like the strange, slightly Oriental, oddly space-age sets and costumes offered by the designers.

On the plus side, those sets and costumes are often fantastically beautiful, and although the cinematography is commonplace it at least does them justice; the score is also very, very good. The most successful member of the cast is Helen Mirren, who manages to engage our interests and sympathies as the Empress Caesonia; Gielgud and O'Toole also escape in reasonably good form. The same cannot be said for McDowell, but in justice to him he doesn't have much to work with.

The movie does possess a dark fascination, but ultimately it is an oddity, more interesting for its design and flat-out weirdness than for content. Some of the bodies on display (including McDowell's and Mirren's) are extremely beautiful, and some of the sex scenes work very well as pornography... but then again, some of them are so distasteful they might drive you to abstinence, and the bloody and grotesque nature of the film undercuts its eroticism. If you're up to it, it is worth seeing once, but once is likely to be enough.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Italy

Language:

Italian | English

Release Date:

15 February 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Caligula See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$17,500,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (R-rated) | (recut) | (re-release) | (original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (original release)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.95 : 1
See full technical specs »

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