- Caligula (film)
name = Caligula
imdb_id = 0080491
Bob Guccione Franco Rossellini
Gore Vidal(later disowned) Malcolm McDowell Massolino D'Amico Tinto Brass Ted Whitehead
(the latter four are all uncredited)
Malcolm McDowell John Gielgud Peter O'Toole Helen Mirren Teresa Ann Savoy
Tinto Brass(later disowned)
distributor = Produzioni Atlas Consorziate (Italy)
August 14, 1979Italy February 1 1980USA
runtime = 210 Mins
156 Mins (
NTSCSpeed)/150 Mins ( PALSpeed)
(Original Italian Release)
(UK 18 Version)
(Recut Italian Release)
(1981 R-rated Version)
(1999 R-rated version)
language = English, Italian
Sergei Prokofiev Aram Khachaturyan Bruno Nicolai(under the pseudonym of "Paul Clemente")
amg_id = 1:7895
budget = $17,500,000 (initial) $22,000,000 (final)
"Caligula" is a 1979
filmdirected by Tinto Brass, with additional scenes filmed by Giancarlo Luiand "Penthouse" founder Bob Guccione. The film concerns the rise and fall of Roman EmperorGaius Caesar Germanicus, better known as "Caligula". "Caligula" was written by Gore Vidaland co-financed by "Penthouse" magazine, and produced by Guccione and Franco Rossellini. It stars Malcolm McDowellas the Emperor. "Caligula" remains the only major motion picture to feature eminent film actors (Sir John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, Malcolm McDowell, Dame Helen Mirren) in a film with graphic and explicit sex. [ [http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/11/30/caligula/print.html Salon Movies | Porn for thought ] ]
"(Due to the various edits of the film floating around, the plot synopsis may vary slightly from version to version.)"
Caligula, the young heir to throne of the syphilisridden, half mad Emperor Tiberius, thinks he has received a bad omen after a black bird flies into his room early one morning. Shortly afterwards, Macro, the head of the Praetorian Guards, appears and tell the young man that his grandfather(Tiberius) demands for him to arrive at once on the Isle of Capri, where he has been residing for a number of years with his close friend Nerva, the dim-witted relative Claudiusand Gemellus, Caligula's younger stepbrotherand Tiberius' favourite. Caligula, fearing an assassination, is afraid to leave, but his beloved sister Drusilla convinces him to do so.
Once at the Capri, Caligula finds his grandfather has become a bitter, filthy old man, marred by his numerous
venereal diseases, who has been long disillusioned with Romeand politics. In order to pass the time he spends living at the Capri, Tiberius puts on various degrading sexual shows, often including children and various freaks of nature. Caligula can't do anything but watch in a mix of fascination and horror. Tensions only rise when Tiberius jokingly tries to poison Caligula in front of Gemellus. But once Tiberius collapses from a stroke after Nerva commits suicide in fear of living under Caligula's inevitable reign, Macro and Caligula begin planning a way to make Tiberius' departure swifter.
Late one night, Macro escorts all the spectators out of Tiberius' bed chamber in order for Caligula to get rid of his loathed grandfather once and for all, but when he's unable to, Macro finishes the deed himself by strangling Tiberius with a scarf. Caligula truimphantly takes the imperial ring off of Tiberius' hand, realising only too late that Gemellus bore witness to the murder. Tiberius is buried with honours and Caligula is proclaimed the new Emperor, who in turn proclaims Drusilla his equal, much to the disparagement of the senate. Afterwards, Drusilla, fearful that Macro may turn the tables against them, convinces Caligula to get rid of him. Caligula obliges by setting up a mock trial, in which Gemellus, scared into being a "witness," claims that Macro acted alone. Macro, along with a number of other perceived enemies of the state, are buried up to their necks in sand and decapitated by lawn mower-like blades attached to a giant moving wall. After dispatching Macro, Caligula proclaims the docile senator
Chaereaas the new head of the Praetorian Guard. With Macro gone, Drusilla considers that her next duty is to find Caligula a wife amongst the Priestesses of the Goddess Isis, a religion which she and her brother secretly practice. However, Caligula wants to marry Drusilla, even though she tries to explain to him that only the Egyptians are allowed to do so. Out of spite, Caligula decides to marry Caesonia, a known courtesan, but only after she bears him an heir.
Caligula proves himself to be a popular, but eccentric ruler. He gives various tax breaks to the Roman citizens and purges all the oppressive laws that Tiberius designed, yet the senate begins to dislike the young Emperor due to various silly proclamations and insults Caligula devises in order to poke fun at the law structure. However, some darker traces of his personality begin to surface, such as raping of an innocent bride and groom on their wedding day due to a minor fit of jealousy and heartlessly ordering the execution of Gemellus for no apparent reason other than to provoke Drusilla.
Soon after he finds out that Caesonia is pregnant, Caligula gets struck down by the
fever, but Drusilla manages to nurse him back to health. After he has made full recovery, Caesonia gives birth to a baby girl and Caligula marries her. During the celebration, Drusilla collapses in Caligula's arms from the fever which she contracted while nursing him back to health. While Drusilla is in the care of the royal physician, Caligula receives another ill omen in the shape of a black bird. He rushes to Drusilla's side and watches her expire. Caligula experiences a nervous breakdown, smashing the nearby statue of Isis into pieces and dragging Drusilla's limp body around the palace while screaming hysterically.
Caligula, in deep depression, escapes into the Roman streets, disguised as a beggar to see first hand what his citizens live like. After a brief stint in the city
jail, he returns to the palace, along with a mute giant he befriended in prison as his new right-hand man, determined to take down the senatorial class, which he has come to loathe. His reign becomes one humiliation after another for the upper class. The senators' wives are forced to work as prostitutes in order to boost up the treasury, estates are confiscated and Caligula personally degrades the state religion and launches a faux war on Britain in order to humiliate the army. It soon becomes clear to the senators and the military that the only way out of the horrific cycle of systematic abuse is to have Caligula assassinated.
Late one night, while reflecting on his recent actions, Caligula wanders into his bedroom where the nervous Caesonia waits for him. The black bird makes one last appearance, but this time only Caesonia is scared by it.
The next morning, after rehearsing an Egyptian play, a blitz attack, headed by Chaerea, is launched on Caligula and his family. Caesonia is brutally stabbed in the stomach and their daughter has her head smashed against the marble steps of the stadium. The giant tries to protect them but is beheaded by Chaerea. Caligula is stabbed repeatedly, but being his usual defiant self, he mockingly cries out to Chaerea, "I live!"
As the bodies of Caligula and his family are thrown down the stairs and their blood is washed off the marble, a
High Priestdeclares Claudius the new Emperor and the cycle of politics, blood and sex begins all over.
Gore Vidal developed a "Caligula" screenplay from Roberto Rossellini's unproduced television
mini-series. Franco Rossellini (nephew of Roberto) and Vidal's original intent was to create a modestly budgeted historical drama. However, when the pair could not obtain financing, Vidal contacted media mogul and "Penthouse" founder and publisher Bob Guccione. (Vidal had been a frequent contributor to "Penthouse".) Guccione agreed to finance the project on two conditions: that the film would be transformed into a flamboyant, luxurious spectacle akin to Hollywood's sword and sandalepics of the 1950s and 1960s; and that sex would be added to the script in order to promote Guccione's magazine. Both Vidal and Rossellini agreed and the "Caligula" project was launched. Federico Fellini's art director Danilo Donatiwas hired to build the expensive and complex sets and costumes. Renowned acting talent, including Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Tooleand Sir John Gielgudwere cast. Maria Schneider was originally cast as Caligula's doomed sister Drusilla, but later dropped out and was replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy. After Guccione was unable to come to an agreement with more established directors John Hustonand Lina Wertmuller, [http://alexdlg.tripod.com/interviews/guccione80.html Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980 ] ] Tinto Brass, a relatively young Italian director, was selected by Guccione to direct the film. Guccione was impressed by Brass' previous work, the 1976 controversialfilm "Salon Kitty", which fused explicit sex with a big budget historical drama. "Caligula" production was housed in Dear Studios, Rome, where the infamous "Cleopatra" was filmed thirteen years earlier. Shooting commenced in September 1976, with plans for a 1977 release.
However, from the start "Caligula" was plagued by difficulties. According to Guccione in a 1980 "Penthouse" magazine interview, Vidal (whom Guccione called a "prodigious talent") started trouble with a "Time" magazine interview in which he called directors parasites living off writers, and that the director need only follow the directions as provided by the author of the screenplay. According to Guccione, an enraged Brass responded to Vidal's comments by throwing Vidal out of the studio. Guccione was forced to side with Brass, (whom he called "a
megalomaniac") because "Gore's work was basically done and Tinto's work was about to begin."
Casting and logistical issues were also a problem. Uncomfortable with the sex and nudity in the script, the female lead Schneider quickly resigned from the film. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947822,00.html Will the Real Caligula Stand Up? - TIME ] ] It was also soon apparent to the filmmakers that the aggressive shooting schedule developed by the inexperienced Rossellini and Guccione was unrealistic for a film of such scope. Donati had to scrap some of his more elaborate original ideas for the sets and replace them with such surreal imagery as bizarre
matte paintings, blacked-out areas, silk backdrops and curtains. This resulted in significant script changes, with Brass and the actors improvising scenes written to take place in entirely different locations, and sometimes shooting entirely new scenes (such as the frolicking scene that opens the film) in order to show progress while the incomplete or redone sets were unavailable. The production was also plagued by delays due to disagreements between Brass and Donati over Brass not using Donati's completed sets, as well as Brass and Guccione disagreeing over the sexual content of the film.
Brass was similarly unhappy with Vidal's script. "It was the work of an aging arteriosclerotic. Vidal redid it five times, but it was still absurd." With the help of McDowell, Brass rewrote some of the screenplay.
By the time the principal photography on "Caligula" had completed, Vidal (having a previous issue with his involvement in the infamous "Myra Breckinridge") was concerned about being associated with such an out-of-control production. Fearing the film would turn out incoherent, Vidal distanced himself from the project. Of Vidal, Brass concluded, "If I ever really get mad at Gore Vidal, I'll publish his script." [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,947822-2,00.html Will the Real Caligula Stand Up? - TIME ] ]
As the film entered
post-production, Guccione took control of the film footage, fired Brass for running up huge costs (Guccione claims Brass shot enough film to "make the original version of "Ben-Hur" about 50 times over") , casting actual criminals as Roman senators, [http://nymag.com/nymag/gotham/lifeincity/1407/ Porn Again ] ] and using what Guccione considered "fat, ugly, and wrinkled old women" in the sex scenes instead of his Penthouse Pets. Guccione hired friend Giancarlo Luito re-edit the film. Lui was instructed to refashion the film into something more in keeping with what Vidal had first scripted, while delivering the sexual content demanded by Guccione. In their most controversial move, the pair also shot extra scenes of hardcore sexual material which would be used to replace scenes shot by Brass.
With much footage improvised and rewritten from the original draft of the film, Lui further scrambled, re-cut, and deleted scenes altogether. Many of the disturbing sexual images shot by Brass were removed, replaced by approximately six minutes of hardcore sex shot by Guccione and Lui. In the end, the final cut of the film had strayed far afield from what Brass had intended. Ironically, perhaps, it bore little resemblance to what Vidal had scripted as well.
In the unpleasant aftermath, both Brass and Vidal launched independent tirades against the film and lawsuits against Guccione, delaying the release of "Caligula". Vidal, who was paid $200,000 for his script, agreed to drop his contractual claim for 10% of the film profits in exchange for having his name removed from the title of the film (original billing was to have been "Gore Vidal's Caligula"). In 1981,
Anneka Di Lorenzo, (aka Marjorie Lee Thoresen) the 1975 Penthouse Pet of The Year centerfold model who played Messalina, also sued Guccione, claiming that he damaged her career by using hardcore sexual scenes in the final cut of "Caligula" without her knowledge, thereby associating her unfairly with a pornographic film. After a protracted litigation, in 1990 a New York state court awarded her $60,000 in compensatory damages and $4,000,000 in punitive damages. On appeal, the punitive damages were determined to be not recoverable and the court vacated the award. [ [http://www.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/I92_0250.htm Marjorie Lee Thoreson A/K/A Anneka Dilorenzo, Appellant-Respondent, V. Penthouse International, Ltd. And Robert C. Guccione, Respondents-Appellants ] ]
In late 1979, three years after production began, "Caligula" made its debut.
The film was panned by critics;
Roger Ebertgave it zero stars, describing it as "sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash." Perhaps the most scathing comment to ever appear in one of Ebert's reviews is attributed to a third party: "This movie", said the lady in front of me at the drinking fountain, "is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen." This was also one of the few (if only) films Ebert ever walked out of; "two hours into its 170 [sic] minute length.`' [ [http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19800922/REVIEWS/9220301/1023 :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: Caligula (xhtml) ] ] Reviewer Leonard Maltinsaid the film was little more than "chutzpah and six minutes of not-bad hardcore footage." [ [http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/11/30/caligula/index.html Salon Arts & Entertainment | Porn for thought ] ] " Newsweek" magazine called "Caligula" "a two-and-one-half-hour cavalcade of depravity that seems to have been photographed through a tub of Vaseline."
Multiple versions & video releases
"Caligula" was shown in various versions, including:
*The unrated version, available in the
U.S.and mainland Europe, running 156 minutes (NTSC) and 150 minutes (PAL), is the most widely seen cut of the film. It enjoyed a limited, albeit highly profitable, run in the American cinemas. This version contained significant explicit sexual and violent content, including sex orgies, masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, anal fisting, male and female homosexuality, cross-dressingand transvestism, sibling incest, rape, male and female urinationas well as scenes of decapitationof prisoners by a giant "death machine" (A giant moving wall with lawn mower-like blades underneath it which is unlikely to have actually existed), infanticide, implied fratricide, penile castrationand testicle castration.
*The UK version, running 149 minutes. Aside from removing seven minutes of explicit footage, the editors included some replacement shots, derived from Brass' principal shoot, as well as some remainder footage from Guccione's re-shoots. It seems that the alternate footage was inserted carelessly, resulting in glaring continuity errors (especially obvious during the Rape of Prolucus & Livia and the Temple of Isis scenes.) This version is currently out-of-print, and will soon be replaced by the uncut version, which was finally granted classification in July 2008, 29 years after its initial release. [ [http://sbbfc.co.uk/Caligula_Case_Study.asp
*The rumored and infamous 210-minute unreleased version, shown in a private screening in Cannes, France (though not as part of the film festival). It might have been Russell Lloyd's (one of the original editors, before Giancarlo Lui took over the post-production) rough cut with a few reels of hardcore sex shot by Bob Guccione added in. No official copy of this version is believed to exist.
*Guccione eventually authorized an R-rated cut released in 1981, 105 minutes long, which earned the film a wider distribution. In this version the hardcore, bloody and violent footage was either trimmed or replaced with yet another set of alternate shots and angles.
Franco Rossellini, unhappy with Guccione's final edit of the film, re-edited an extended, pre-release print of "Caligula", which may or may not have been the infamous 210 minute version. This new edition of the film, re-titled as "Io, Caligola" clocked in at 133 minutes and contained various minor scenes and shots not present in any other versions of the film, but the Italian censors had it cut down to only 86 minutes. However, after a public backlash, the film was restored to 123 minutes. The missing ten minutes are no doubt responsible for a few jump cuts that occur throughout the film. This version has been released on DVD, albeit available only in Italy.
*When "Io, Caligola" was released on video, the distributor put back in some of the hardcore material shot by Guccione (it was deleted by Franco Rossellini) in order to boost the sales. This is the version that is currently available on DVD.
*A second R-rated version was released in 1999. It was released straight to DVD and contained no alternate angles. Various shots simply repeated themselves (instead of using the different takes of scenes seen in the R-rated theatrical release), resulting in continuity problems. Otherwise, this version is based on the 1981 censored release. This DVD version ran a total of 102 minutes and was released with a red cover.
*In 1999, the FilmFour channel, frustrated by the lack of any extended version of the film available in the UK (only the low quality 1981
censoredversion was still in print), released their own cut of "Caligula", running approximately 143 minutes (the missing 13 minutes can be mostly attributed to the PAL overspeeding and time compression.) It was essentially the same as the 156 minute version, with most of Guccione's explicit sexual material removed, including a lesbian tryst and a handful of sexual inserts during the imperial bordellosequence.
*A 150 minute Italian cut; it was basically a shortened version of the U.S. edition. It was eventually pulled out of release in favor of Franco Rossellini's re-edited version, but a briefly released VHS tape exists, though it is now out-of print. Raro Video announced that it would release a re-mastered edition of this cut on
December 5, 2006, along with an interview by Tinto Brass, in which he would discuss for the first time where the editing of the film went wrong. This release never came to fruition as Raro Video's distributor backed out, and the company replaced it with a remastered print of Franco Rossellini's edit.
*The uncut Twentieth Anniversary Edition DVD was refused classification in November 2005 by Australia's OFLC; effectively banning the film in its uncensored form (although a 102-minute version was passed with an R-rating in 2004). The OFLC deemed the film too sexually explicit to fall within the R18+ classification (despite sexually explicit mainstream films such as "
9 Songs" receiving this rating). The film could not be accommodated in the X classification (for explicit sex) as it contains depictions of violence (although a 143-minute version of the film had, in fact, been granted an X rating for video release in 1984, when the X rating had only just been introduced and still permitted depictions of violence; the 156-minute version was also passed with an X rating in January 1985). [ [http://www.refused-classification.com/Films_caligula.htm Refused-Classification.com's report on "Caligula"] ] Although the film's sexual content was permissible in the X category, the OFLC's classification guidelines unambiguously state "No depiction of violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence, or coercion is allowed in the category". [ [http://www.oflc.gov.au/resource.html?resource=62&filename=62.pdf OFLC Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005] (PDF document)]
*In October, 2007
Image Entertainmentreleased a 3-disc special edition known as the Imperial Edition. It features two cuts of the film, the 156-minute print and a new edit created from an alternate pre-release version which re-arranges some scenes and does not include most of the explicit sexual inserts added by Guccione (a few shots were left in by mistake and various outtakes from Brass' shoot and a handful of 16mm behind-the-scenes fotage were used to fill in for the deleted material.) Both versions have been digitally remastered. Commentary tracks featuring McDowell and Mirren are included on the non-hardcore, pre-release version, and the DVD includes interviews with Tinto Brass, who discusses film's hectic production & botched editing; and Penthouse Pet Lori Wagner, who discusses the addition of the hardcore footage, including the lesbian sex scene in which she participated. DVD-ROM content includes Gore Vidal's original screenplay. Other extras include more than two hours of deleted and alternate footage. The DVD set was to carry a fourth disc with the film's complete musical soundtrack, but Penthouse later pulled the soundtrack, along with any mention of the music (and the people behind it) in the behind the scenes featurettes. The 156-minute and 102-minute versions will also be released separately in new collectible packaging. [ [http://www.image-entertainment.com/dvd/detail.cfm?productID=13933 Image Entertainment / Feature Film / Caligula (Imperial Edition) ] ] The booklet included with the 3-disc set includes a discussion of the many different versions of the film, and states that a significant amount of footage remains unaccounted for; the notes include a plea to viewers to contact Image if they are in possession of any footage not included in the DVD set.
*The Imperial Edition was released in the UK (Region 2) in September 2008 by Arrow Films. This edition contains four discs, three being retained from the Region 1 Imperial Edition, including a newly discovered half hour of deleted and alternate footage not present in the US release, and a fourth disc claiming to feature the 1981 R-rated version, but it ended up being the 1999 version.
*A Japanese special edition was also released, containing the newly discovered deleted footage, but without the 1981 release.
*In 2004, a fake trailer for "Gore Vidal's Caligula" was produced by artist
Francesco Vezzolifor an alleged remake as a promotion for Versace's new line of accessories. It was a parody, "ostensibly [promoting] a film about a mad Roman emperor who sleeps with his sister, executes his critics and presides over a crowd of ambisexual extras dressed only in the occasional accessory." The trailer features Courtney Loveas Caligula, Benicio del Toroas Macro, as well as Helen Mirren(making a guest cameo) as Tiberius. Milla Jovovichand Gerard Butleralso appear as Drusilla and Chaerea respectively. [ [http://www.artforum.com/diary/id=9133 artforum.com / DIARY ] ] The trailer screened worldwide, including a showing at New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art's 2006 Whitney Biennial. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/26/arts/design/26yabl.html?ex=1298610000&en=d05471946d7b6eb0&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss NY Times Advertisement ] ]
*During the 2006
Mark Foley scandal, the American satirical television program The Daily Showaired a brief snippet of an orgyscene from "Caligula", represented by a correspondent as security camera footage from congressional page dormitories. Deadpanning, host Jon Stewartthen identified the video as "Bob Guccione's Caligula"."
Matthew Sweetused dialogue from the movie on his album "Altered Beast" in 1993:
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.
I shall wait for the unanimous decision of the Senate, Claudius..."
Claudius: "All those who say aye, say aye."
Caligula: "Aye... Aye!"
Senators: "Aye! Aye! Aye!.."
Chaerea: "He's a god now... [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,978979,00.html?iid=chix-sphere Rock-'N'-Roll Animal - TIME ] ]
melodic death metalband Arch Enemyused the same "Caligula" dialog in their song " Rise of the Tyrant" from the same-named 2007 album. [ [http://www.lordsofmetal.nl/showinterview.php?id=1856 Arch Enemy | Interview | Lords Of Metal metal E-zine - Issue 73: september 2007 ] ]
*The character of
Caligulais featured in an episode of Adult Swim's popular show The Venture Bros.[ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_to_the_House_of_Mummies_Part_II] ]
Deathgrindband Cephalic Carnagewrote a song about Caligula called Anthro Emesis on their Lucid Intervalalbum and recounted his perverse activities. On their most recent album, Xenosapien, the song "Let Them Hate So Long As They Fear" is based off of Caligula's line in the film, "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me".
Malcolm McDowell-- Caligula
Teresa Ann Savoy-- Drusilla
Helen Mirren-- Caesonia
Peter O'Toole-- Tiberius
John Steiner-- Longinus
Paolo Bonacelli-- Cassius Chaerea
Mirella D'Angelo-- Livia
Anneka di Lorenzo-- Messalina
Lori Wagner-- Agrippina
John Gielgud-- Nerva (son of Marcus Cocceius Nerva (consul 36 BC))
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