Caligula

Caligula

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

Cast: Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione, Giancarlo Lui, Malcolm McDowell

     
 

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Few movies of its scale and scope have as bad a reputation as Caligula, the would-be epic in which Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione brought together screenwriter Gore Vidal, a cast including Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud and Helen Mirren, and a lavish production estimated to have cost over $17 million in a misguided fusion of sex and

Overview

Few movies of its scale and scope have as bad a reputation as Caligula, the would-be epic in which Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione brought together screenwriter Gore Vidal, a cast including Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud and Helen Mirren, and a lavish production estimated to have cost over $17 million in a misguided fusion of sex and historical spectacle. Vidal and director Tinto Brass clashed so vehemently with Guccione (largely because of the publisher's meddling with the script, the direction and the editing) that they both requested their names be removed from the film's credits, and many movie buffs have wondered over the years just what the picture was intended to be before egos and opinions sent everything haywire. That's a question that can't truly be answered with much clarity, but the folks at Image Entertainment have attempted to at least collect as much of the data as possible in their three-DVD "Imperial Edition" of Caligula. Caligula: The Imperial Edition features two different cuts of the film -- the uncensored and unrated version that was released to theaters in late 1979, as well as a previously unseen "pre-release version" whose editing conforms more closely to the narrative of Vidal's original screenplay. The alternate version does indeed make more sense than the theatrical cut, though that's not to say its rhythms are any livelier or that the movie seems to be a significantly lesser waste of talent and materiel. Still, if you want to see this film, Image's presentation is truly handsome; both versions of the film have been given new widescreen transfers in the original aspect ratio of 2.00:1, letterboxed on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors, and the massive scope of Danilo Donati's production design and the rich colors of Silvano Ippoliti's cinematography are evident even on the small screen. Both versions of the film are in English, with no subtitles or multiple language options. For the theatrical version of the film on disc one, viewers can choose between the original monophonic audio mix (mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo) and a new surround mix in Dolby Digital 5.1, while the unreleased alternate cut features audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Disc one also includes three trailers for the film (though what purports to be the original theatrical trailer carries a green-band MPAA introduction and an R rating, even though it was released unrated), while disc two features a handful of alternate and deleted scenes, though they come from ragged work prints and most have no sound. Disc two's alternate cut of the film also boasts no fewer than three commentary tracks. Helen Mirren seems to regard the experience as a grand adventure (she compares its ups and downs to an acid trip at one point), and she offers the wittiest and most charming commentary (charm being something the film sorely needs), while Malcolm McDowell's chat finds the actor sounding just a bit defensive about his work but relishing some hilarious tales about Gielgud and O'Toole and his less-than-rosy opinions about Guccione. The third commentary is actually a telephone interview with Ernest Volkman, who was a writer for Penthouse assigned to cover the production, and he has some interesting stories about the making of the film and his former boss. Disc three is devoted exclusively to bonus materials, and easily the most entertaining item is "The Making of Caligula," an hour-long documentary made to promote the film which offers a hilariously fulsome chronicle of the movie's long and elaborate production, with both Vidal and Guccione putting their egos on prominent display. (It also includes a priceless aside from Mirren, who describes the picture by saying "it has an irresistible mixture of art and genitals.") A ten minute condensed version is also included. Image also conducted exclusive on-screen interviews with director Tinto Brass, actor John Steiner and Penthouse model Lori Wagner, all of whom offer differing opinions on what went right and wrong during the production of Caligula and what they've been doing since. Four massive galleries of production stills and a copious collection of behind-the-scenes footage have also been included. Pop disc three into your computer's DVD-ROM drive and you can access still more information in the form of a series of PDF files. Two complete drafts of Gore Vidal's screenplay are available (one 190 pages, the other 138), as well as a novelization of the film by William Howard. Notes from Caligula's original pressbook also appear, as does a 1980 Penthouse interview with Bob Guccione, in which he describes his perspective on the film's troubled production; two vintage Penthouse photo layouts featuring Lori Wagner and Anneka Di Lorenzo; and twenty-three pages from the magazine's February 1980 special issue on the movie. Cast and crew biographies and a short essay on the real Caligula round out the PDF materials. And finally, an accompanying booklet features an essay by R.J. Buffalo, who does a fine job of tracing Caligula's complex production history and the details behind the many variant versions in circulation. It's hard to imagine anyone but the most malignly obsessed fan would want or need this much Caligula, but this is easily the most thorough and exacting exploration of the movie that has surfaced to date, and if you want the full story behind this fabled cinematic train wreck, the pieces are all here waiting for you to assemble them.

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:
10/02/2007
UPC:
0014381875720
Original Release:
1979
Rating:
NR
Source:
Image Entertainment
Time:
2:36:00

Special Features

New high-definition transfer of the unrated, uncensored feature film; Alternate pre-release version of the film, never seen before; Revealing new full-length audio commentaries with stars Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren; Candid new video interview features with director Tinto Brass and actors John Steiner and Lori Wagner; Startling audio commentary with on-set writer Ernest Volkman; "The Making of Caligula" documentary (two versions); Hours of deleted and alternate scenes and behind-the-scenes footage; Hundreds of astonishing, never-before-seen photographs from the set; Theatrical trailers; DVD-ROM extras including Gore Vidal's original screenplay, three Penthouse magazine features, an interview with Bob Guccione and more; Collectible packaging with new liner notes booklet

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: Feature Film
1. Caligula & Drusilla [3:34]
2. Main Title [2:12]
3. Tiberius Caesar [10:35]
4. A True Moralist [12:55]
5. Nerva's Escape [7:44]
6. The Ring [6:15]
7. A New Eara [7:16]
8. The Arrest of Macro [10:16]
9. Choosing a Wife [5:58]
10. Fate of a Traitor [2:27]
11. A Wedding Gift [7:29]
12. Comfort From the Storm [7:05]
13. Treason [13:09]
14. An Honest Man [5:50]
15. Newborn [10:45]
16. Roaming the Streets [9:13]
17. God on Earth [3:34]
18. The Imperial Brothel [11:02]
19. Caligula the Conqueror [10:40]
20. Assassination [6:18]
21. End Credits [1:28]
Disc #2 -- Caligula: Alternate Version
1. Main Title [3:12]
2. Tiberius Caesar [12:22]
3. A True Moralist [11:00]
4. Nerva's Escape [5:52]
5. The Ring [8:09]
6. A New Era [7:11]
7. The Arrest of Macro [8:18]
8. Caligula & Drusilla [3:25]
9. Choosing a Wife [7:49]
10. Fate of a Traitor [2:27]
11. A Wedding Gift [7:29]
12. Comfort From the Storm [3:35]
13. Treason [14:40]
14. An Honest Man [4:19]
15. Newborn [10:45]
16. Roaming the Streets [9:12]
17. God on Earth [3:35]
18. The Imperial Brothel [10:54]
19. Caligula the Conqueror [10:43]
20. Assassination [5:55]
21. End Credits [1:51]

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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?
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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
If some times you like and enjoy bad smells, spoiled food, constant noise and miserable weather this Caligula DVD is for you.
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.
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.