Caligula (1979) / Drama-Adult
MPAA Rated: R and X in its initial release for strong sexuality, nudity and violence.
Running Time: 102 min. (theatrical), 148 min. (1990 release), and 156 min. (unrated version)
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren, Teresa Ann Savoy
Director: Tinto Brass
Screenplay: Gore Vidal
Review published December 12, 2000
Depicting the rise and fall of the infamous Roman Emperor Caligula (McDowell, A Clockwork Orange), an amoral and repugnant man who used violence to gain his throne and to deal with his subjects, this is the highly controversial film that after $15 million dollars was invested in, no one wanted anything to do with. Screenwriter Gore Vidal (Suddenly Last Summer, Is Paris Burning?) wanted no credit, nor did Italian director Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty, Frivolous Lola). When Penthouse magazine magnate Bob Guccione saw the film, there was no surprise that he felt it needed more sex. He injected over 6 minutes of hardcore action into it. The result is the world's most expensive porn flick, with big name stars and lavishly extravagant sets.
Ironically, it is the controversial additional sex that actually makes the film somewhat interesting. The entire production, even with the gaudy sets and credible actors, is a poorly directed bore in every other respect. The sets are large but unrealistic, the acting is stilted, the directing woefully lackluster and the script downright laughable. Only towards the end does the film seem to find the footing it lacked for nearly the entire duration, but it's too little too late. Caligula is a horrendously bad motion picture, overlong, overdrawn and over-bloated with extravagant pomposity. Only recommended for people with the most fervent tenaciousness in curiosity.
©2000 Vince Leo