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3.5 18
Director: Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione, Giancarlo Lui

Cast: Malcolm McDowell


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This lavish big-budget epic was the pinnacle of a uniquely Italian subgenre, the historical hardcore gore/porn extravaganza. The star-studded cast, perhaps lured by the high-profile involvement of producer Bob Guccione and screenwriter Gore Vidal, includes such luminaries as John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, and Helen Mirren. Director Tinto Brass, whose similar treatment


This lavish big-budget epic was the pinnacle of a uniquely Italian subgenre, the historical hardcore gore/porn extravaganza. The star-studded cast, perhaps lured by the high-profile involvement of producer Bob Guccione and screenwriter Gore Vidal, includes such luminaries as John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, and Helen Mirren. Director Tinto Brass, whose similar treatment of Nazi Germany in Salon Kitty won him the job, did his best with the mammoth enterprise, but numerous production problems and re-edits took their toll on the finished product. When Caligula works best, it works because of Malcolm McDowell, whose crazed portrayal of the title Emperor is the embodiment of villainous corruption. McDowell raises his performance level to match the gaudy spectacle around him, which led to charges of overacting, but there are moments when he is absolutely riveting. Some of the cast doesn't fare as well, as O'Toole makes a particularly unsubtle Tiberius. The sex is graphic and steamy, particularly a feverish lesbian interlude between Penthouse Pets Lori Wagner and Marjorie Thorsen (using the pseudonym "Anneka di Lorenzo"), and the various carnival freaks used as atmosphere imbue the film with a grotesque, Fellini-like opulence. There are many memorable scenes and a magnificent score by Paul Clemente, but the heady brew of historical epic, hardcore sex, and gory violence proved overwhelming to many viewers. Still, Gore Vidal's script is surprisingly accurate, and manages to be entertainingly vulgar while bringing a rather loathsome slice of human history to vivid life, warts and all. The more explicit scenes were directed by Bob Guccione and Giancarlo Lui, causing both Vidal and Brass to remove their names from the credits.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Caligula could very well be the most difficult big-budget film ever made; "difficult" in the sense that despite possessing grand production values and a-list lead actors, it works hard to alienate the audience by burying them in a stream of unsympathetic characters, grotesque violence, and explicit sex. This would be a tough agenda to follow even if Caligula was a tight, confident piece of work. Unfortunately, it is not. The film was reedited several times by different editors before release (portions were also reshot or expanded) and the result is a jumbled mess where scenes appear out of logical order (note the continuity problems), other moments are clumsily redubbed to fit the new chronology and the pace lags throughout. Thus, Caligula is unlikely to hold the attention of a mainstream audience. However, devotees of the bizarre might find Caligula worth checking out, simply because of its sheer outrageousness. No film has ever tried to combine historical drama with such extreme content and the end result is perversely fascinating in segments. More importantly, Malcolm McDowell gives a gutsy, all-stops-out performance in the title role, creating a character that is riveting despite his thoroughly unsympathetic nature and holding the production together through sheer force-of-will. Caligula is guaranteed to alienate a large segment of the viewing public but a select few will be fascinated by its lavishly perverse style and the bombast of McDowell's performance.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Image Entertainment

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Malcolm McDowell Caligula
Teresa Ann Savoy Drusilla
Helen Mirren Cesonia
Peter O'Toole Tiberius
John Gielgud Nerva
John Steiner Longino
Paolo Bonacelli Cherea
Giancarlo Badessi Claudio
Adriana Asti Ennia
Leopoldo Trieste Caricle
Guido Mannari Macrone
Mirella D'Angelo Livia
Osiride Pevarello Giant
Lori Wagner Agrippina
Anneka Di Lorenzo Actor

Technical Credits
Tinto Brass Director,Cinematographer
Bob Guccione Director,Producer
Giancarlo Lui Director
Giuseppe Banchelli Makeup
Nino Baragli Editor
Paul Clemente Score Composer
Danilo Donati Art Director,Production Designer
Silvano Ippoliti Cinematographer
Tito LeDuc Choreography
Franco Rossellini Producer
Piernico Solinas Asst. Director
Gore Vidal Screenwriter

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Caligula
1. Caligula & Drusilla [2:56]
2. Main Title [2:11]
3. Tiberius Caesar [8:57]
4. A True Moralist [7:21]
5. Nerva's Escape [5:37]
6. The Ring [6:14]
7. A New Era [6:25]
8. The Arrest of Macro [6:51]
9. Fate of a Traitor [2:17]
10. A Wedding Gift [3:20]
11. Treason [8:22]
12. Newborn [9:11]
13. Roaming the Streets [6:59]
14. God on Earth [3:35]
15. The Imperial Brothel [5:49]
16. Caligula the Conqueror [5:06]
17. Assassination [8:58]
18. End Credits [1:29]


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3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Alric More than 1 year ago
It's hard to view this film divorced from its controversy. To see spliced-in pornographic acts performed in a film so sumptuously photographed blurs our aesthetics; or it did mine, anyway. Still, it is never boring. Along with the nearly constant atrocities stemming from a complete abuse of power, it has stunning visuals going for it. After watching "Caligula: The Imperial Edition")[Blu-ray], and feting on all the extras, I've concluded that, despite its many flaws, it is indeed a good film. By all accounts, it should have been a GREAT film, but as often is the case with ambitious visions, conflicts led to too many unsatisfactory compromises. Regardless, it has its merits.

To sum it up, Malcolm McDowell plays Caligula as cruel, irreverent, and mirthfully insane. John Gielgud plays with erect Shakespearean dignity Tiberius' only friend, the wise Nerva, contemptuous of the inevitable scenario of Rome's further decline at Caligula's ascendancy. Peter O'Toole portrays Tiberius as sardonically embittered by the trappings of power, his face scabby and scalp clumpy from the ravages of syphilis. Once Tiberius dies -- all of the actors with major theater credentials exit relatively early -- Caligula has the playground of Rome all to himself.

I never saw the remastered DVD Special Edition released a couple of years ago, so I'm unable to compare this Blu-ray to it. But I can state with certainty that it's far superior to the initial DVD issued back in the 1990s. Art director and costume designer Danilo Donati gave cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti a lively palette and grand designs to work with, and it's illuminated here. The age of the print is apparent at times, but the hi-def transfer revives the lost vibrancy of the draped luxury and pillared architecture. And aside from the brighter picture, there's a cornucopia tucked away in the special features.

The extras include two versions of "The Making of Caligula"; interviews (about 30 minutes each) with director Tinto Brass, actor John Steiner (who portrayed Longinus), and Penthouse pet Lori Wagner (who in hindsight realizes she was in way over her head); three audio commentaries (McDowell, Helen Mirren, and on-set writer Ernest Volkman); an alternate pre-release version of the film; and the usual odds and ends (deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, and so on). This edition comes with a 15-page booklet detailing the film's troubled production, in which the essayist R. J. Buffalo concludes passionately that a full restoration to its original vision is in order. It's a hell-freezes-over probability. From the bonus features, it's obvious that two immutable creative forces were in direct conflict. Gore Vidal, who wrote the original screenplay, eventually disavowed the film when director Brass altered how Caligula himself was presented. It must have come down to an interpretation of the script, because Vidal's earlier version is included in the extras, and a lot of the dialogue was retained, some of it word for word. So on the one hand, you have Brass wanting a sexually explicit romp; on the other you have Vidal's depiction of Caligula as derisive of the ruling class, and abuses power as mockery. So the result is schizophrenic montage. In my judgment, Vidal's vision edges out ahead slightly, as by the time you get to all that explicit sex, they're not festivities you'd want to be invited to. So the question remains, to whose vision should a final edit be restored?
joseph392016 More than 1 year ago
A Perfect Movie Tell Of How Absolute Power Can Corrupt You Absolutely.
Zoticus More than 1 year ago
This is probably all the Caligula you would ever want.  All it really lacks is English subtitles and/or closed captioning.  Excellent work by Image Entertainment.  The film itself is most valuable as a conversation piece.  My 5 star review is for the whole package and the work put into it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw this movie back when it first came out... what a joke it was. My friends & I had a toga party & a wild sex ride. It was the bizzare truth of what the USA has become today.
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JeffreyMO More than 1 year ago
I rated this funny because of the dated scenes and soundtrack. A boring movie, this is one to see if you are into shock factor comedy.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Caligula is one of the most outrageously famous and entertaining movies from the late 70's. And even today it holds up very well, but the R-rated version is extremely inferior to the original X-rated cut.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If some times you like and enjoy bad smells, spoiled food, constant noise and miserable weather this Caligula DVD is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not for the faint of heart or prudish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the severely-edited version of Caligula. I do not believe that this version is to be purchased unless you are all too delicate for the genuine version.