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Caligula (1980)

February. 01,1980
| Drama History Romance

The perversion behind imperial Rome, the epic story of Rome's mad Emporer. All the details of his cruel, bizarre reign are revealed right here: His unholy sexual passion for his sister, his marriage to Rome's most infamous prostitute, his fiendishly inventive means of disposing those who would oppose him, and more.


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For those who doubt that Caligula was a pornographic film: a well-known porn site has the entire movie listed among its other pornographic videos. Though Caligula was a notorious politician, the graphic sexual scenes splattered throughout this film detract attention from the historical merit of what could have been, whether fact or fiction, the profile of a famous, though notorious, figure. The duties and reactions of Caligula's political circle were even unclear. Fortunately for the cinematic world, the careers of Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole and Malcom McDowell seem undamaged by this artistic train wreck. They maintain their strength as acting greats, even though the movie was frightfully lacking in any redeeming qualities.


Foremost this movie is an old memory as my parents rented it on a Betamax tape in 1984 to watch it with my grandparents during a Saturday night ! As it was very unusual for my brother and I to go to bed like this, i think we asked them the day after how was the movie and they got really upset and don't want to talk about it ! For sure i recorded the data for later and as an adult, it was a duty to look for it ! Honestly it's very hardcore, graphic and i can't fathom my parents watching it with their family as as this time in France no porn movies were aired to the TV ! The great idea of Guccione was to sell it as a Peplum and not like an adult movie ! For a naive audience (like my family), they see a cover with a roman coin so it's very innocent ! This movie is such a classic that every antiquity hot scene looks like it ! The girls, and especially Anneka, are beautiful and are really skilled experts : all the sexual combination are done and it's totally exciting (especially the lesbian, orgy scenes)! I don't know if it's the most expensive porn movie ever but at least, the production is sumptuous and the sets looks like the best Hollywood movies (and have also some big names in it!). For me, it's thus a really must see movie !


As a teen, I remember all of the controversy surrounding this film being pulled from theaters and cut-back/edited-down from a XXX rating to X, then, finally to R...but, by then, no one wanted to see it.In 1979, I was thirteen and really didn't understand any of this. But, I did understand that film makers can make a gory movie; and, film makers can make a pornographic movie...but, if a film maker makes a gory-pornographic movie, everyone in America (at least, if not the world) pisses themselves, forgets who they are, and, cries themselves to sleep!?!? I read about this in the newspaper, and, saw reports of it on TV!I finally saw this movie in 1987, and, I was amazed at the quality of this production that media made me feel and believe is such a terrible movie on every level. The props are great and extravagant; costumes look authentic (when characters are actually wearing them); the script (by Gore Vidal) is accurate according to what I've read of Gaius Caligula, and, of other Roman Caesars, such as Nero; and, mainly and most importantly...only Bob Guccione and a handful of others actually had the guts to make such a film.The acting, by such heavyweights as the great Peter O'Toole as the crazed, rotting-faced syphilis-carrying Tiberius Caesar; the Award-Winning John Gielgud as Nerva (not the Roman Emperor of the same name much later in history); the classy and ever-beautiful Helen Mirren as Caesonia; the One-Hit-Wonder and beautiful Teresa Ann Savoy as Drusilla; and, of course, the 'almost-always-villainous' yet 'definitely-always-talented' Malcolm McDowell as the cruel and megalomaniacal Caligula Caesar.I don't condone or condemn anything about this movie as it's based upon historical records (just like "Mark of the Devil" 1970). This movie contains a lot of grotesquely-horrible scenes of torture; murder; execution; etc. As well as scenes of graphic sex, both hetero-and homosexual; rape; orgiastic sex; and, even hints at animal-contact...BUT - how can anyone possibly and fully understand the Roman Empire, or, "ANY" ancient culture or nation lead by a tyrant, if they so choose to, unless it is presented in the way that this film is - the way it really was...graphic and without any inhibitions whatsoever!?!? There's really nothing in this movie that people haven't read about in a newspaper or a book; or, heard about on the news. In fact, all of that is usually much worse than what happens in this movie. If you're prudish, this movie is not for you. There's very little sanitizing of history going on here!Some of the reviews of this movie are entirely understandable if those people are appalled; but, they'd probably complain, anyway, if all of this "Extreme Nastiness" (Malcolm McDowell in "A Clockwork Orange") wasn't there...because, it wouldn't be realistic to the Romans. It's no different than making a graphic film of the early Native Americans cutting-out of the hearts of enemies; or, the Incas eating someone's heart; or, even the French during the inquisition cutting-off sexual organs and burning them when someone was accused of witchcraft (these are all factual). The meaning of 'primitive' means exactly that; and, in primitive times with primitive cultures, this/that sort of thing(s) happened.Imagine some clown making a "G" rated movie about Joseph Stalin; Adolph Hitler; Pol Pot; Saddam Hussein; or, any other tyrannical leader!?!? That would be propaganda and BS with an agenda! This movie has no agenda, only reality of that period in that empire...actual-actuality!This movie is graphically-detailed in most every way imaginable that applies to an ancient culture. It's repugnant, deplorable, perverted, pathetic, and, deviant in every which-way possible according to the people of today who either refuse that such things once occurred; or, they're just more likely to only believe and understand it in private, and, that's where the word 'hypocrite' comes from, boys and girls.Every negative adjective likely applies here...but, despite what people think, if people even 'think' anymore, this movie is historical, and, to hide parts of history, even the smallest parts, is lying.I give this historically-accurate movie '8 Stars' for everything - accuracy to written history (screenplay); props; acting; casting; believability (if you choose to be realistic); and, all else dealing with production...and, as I wrote before...someone with the balls to even make this.However, I give it a BIG "0" (A GIANT GOOSE EGG) as a 'date movie.' Don't show a date, especially a first-date (or, a dummy who's naive of history), this movie as they may think quite oddly of that, and, of you. The same goes for Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salo" (1975), which is not as graphic, but, more disgusting in a fecally way than "Caligula.""Gladiator" is a great movie set in Roman times and it's violent and very popular. "Deep Throat" is probably the most well-known and popular pornographic movie ever made. However, if you mixed these two movies into one, popularity turns to controversy, and, you pretty-much have another "Caligula."I'm betting there isn't a history teacher/professor on the planet who hasn't seen this, and, every other movie I've mentioned in this review.


I watched the 160 minute version, which may have been a mistake on my part (or not?) because it had all of the pornography that wasn't in the original script added to it. If the film had had more direction, if it truly had buckled down and focused on Caligula and simply had the sex as an *element* of the film and not an overall theme --though that may have been difficult as the Romans were more liberal than many at the time, even more so than the neighboring Greeks when it came to sex in some aspects--and while that may paint the background, I do not think it was really necessary to be a part of nearly every single scene. Naked slaves and worker bees I can understand, and of course Caligula's reign did have a very promiscuous color to it, but there were, in my opinion, much more pressing matters that the film only touched upon that could have served as more entertaining. Him naming his horse as senator was obviously a joke and with Malcolm McDowell's wonderful acting you are left guessing how many of his actions are due to mental instability and how many of them are as a means to belittle the system that he rules over.Don't take this the wrong way, readers, but I never thought I would have ever rooted for a brother-sister couple like I did with McDowell's Caligula and Savoy's Drusilla. Their chemistry was beautiful and lovely, their sibling bond plunged into erotic and romantic waters which never ebbed up until the very end. Again, it is very, very weird to me that I *felt* for them during their time on screen and wished them to be happily married (shivers) but somehow McDowell always seems to make the most taboo into a "Eh, why not? It can't hurt". I recommend you watch a fairly well-edited version instead of the full 160 minute slog. Too much porn ruined the story telling. Goddamn Guccione. There's no way a film like this could ever be made again with the same Shakespearean seriousness, stifling awkwardness, and on- screen lasciviousness that for the latter may be a good thing in the end.