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Caligula (AD 12 - AD 41)

Related: Rome - excess - extravagant - cruel - extreme

Malcolm McDowell in Caligula (1979), a film by Tinto Brass.

Outlandish stories cluster about the raving Emperor, illustrating his excessive cruelty, multiple and peculiar sexual escapades (both heterosexual and homosexual, or disrespect toward tradition and the Senate. Sources describe his incestuous relationships with all three of his sisters, his amateurish attempt to perform a caesarean section on his favorite sister, Drusilla, in order to deliver the baby he had engendered, resulting in her death, his subsequent declaring her to be a goddess, his selling to the highest bidder the wives of high-ranking Senate members during sexual orgies, his laughable military campaigns in the north, the plan to make his horse Incitatus a consul, and his habit of roaming the halls of his palace at night ordering the sun to rise. He also named his horse as a priest and gave it a house to reside in, complete with a marble stable, golden manger, and jeweled necklaces; and he later talked of making his horse a member of the Senate. He opened a brothel in his palace and had a habit of taking Senate members' wives with him to his private bedroom during social functions, while the husbands could merely look on as they left together, then he would recount the sexual acts he performed with the wives for all to hear, including their husbands. He is described as aloof, arrogant, egotistical, and is generally portrayed as insane. He is said to have cried "I wish the Roman people had but a single neck" when an arena crowd applauded a faction he opposed. He declared himself a living god.


Gaius Caesar Germanicus (August 31, AD 12 - January 24, AD 41), also known as Gaius Caesar or Caligula, was a Roman emperor born in Antium (modern day Anzio) and reigned 37-41 AD. Known for his extremely extravagant, eccentric, and sometimes cruel despotism, he was assassinated in 41 by several of his own guards. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caligula [Aug 2004]

Tinto Brass [...]

Malcolm McDowell on Caligula

McDowell: "When the film came out I bumped into John in New York and he asked me if I had seen it yet? I said that I hadn't and he said, "Oh you must. It's wonderful. I've paid to see it. Twice!"

Yet all this did was to get the general public to flock to it in their millions. In a brilliant business move, Guccione bought the Trans Lux cinema and raised the ticket prices from $5.00 to $7.50, arguing that he was offering a multi million dollar piece of entertainment, and that the ticket prices should reflect that. The film broke attendance records all round the world. It actually got banned in Rome for a week. When it opened at the Trans Lux it pulled $222.105 dollars in its first 18 days. After its cinema run Caligula was given a huge launch on video, where it again turned a massive profit. --http://www.malcolmmcdowell.org/Films/index.php?movies_caligula [Jul 2004]

Caligula (1979) - Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione

  1. Caligula (1979) - Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione [Amazon.com]

    Caligula may very well be the most controversial film in history. Only one movie dares to show the perversion behind Imperial Rome, and that movie is "Caligula," the epic story of Rome's mad emperor. 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 of those who would oppose him, and more. The combined talents of cinematic giants Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud and Shakespearean actress Helen Mirren, along with an acclaimed international cast and a bevy of beautiful Penthouse Pets, make this unique historical drama a masterwork of the screen. Not for the squeamish, not for the prudish, "Caligula" will shock and arouse you as it reveals the deviance and decadence beneath the surface of the grandeur that once was Rome. --description via amazon.com

    Caligula is a 1979 film directed by Tinto Brass (with additional scenes directed by Bob Guccione), about the Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Germanicus; also known as "Caligula". Caligula is loosely based on a screenplay by Gore Vidal and co-financed by Penthouse magazine. The producers were Guccione and Franco Rosselini. The film advertised itself as "the most controversial film in history. Only one movie dares to show the perversion behind Imperial Rome...".

    Caligula was unrated when shown in theaters in certain jurisdictions because it contained several scenes with sexually and violently explicit content, including orgies, masturbation, fellatio, anal fisting, beheading prisoners using a lawn-mower-type device (which is unlikely to have existed in reality), and slamming an infant onto stone steps like a ragged doll. It was highly controversial, and considered by some objectors to be pornographic. It would certainly have received an X rating from the MPAA. It was censored in several countries, an original runtime of 156 minutes (which, itself, was cut down from the Cannes 210 minute version, which may still exist somewhere as a bootleg) was reduced to 102, in the US, and 103, in the UK.

    Guccione eventually did authorize an R-rated cut, which earned the film wider distribution. Though the controversy over the film's content drew large crowds, virtually none of the most excessive scenes were included in the R version.

    Both the R-rated version and a 156-minute cut have been released to DVD. The original, 210-minute version is not available.

    It was followed by an unofficial sequel, called Caligula II - Messalina, Messalina. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caligula_%28film%29 [Aug 2004]

    I had never seen a Tinto Brass film when Caligula was finally released in 1980. Knowing something of the production wars behind it and knowing that all its creators disowned it, I understood full well that what I was about to witness would be, at best, a bastardization of Brass’s film. Then several scenes into the movie I noticed something startling. Brass was shooting multicam (at least three cameras at all times, somewhat like television shooting), and I could tell from the camera movements and compositions what he was trying to do. He was trying to make the movie I had dreamed of making—not quite as elaborately, to be sure, and certainly with a different subject matter, mood, and set design. Still, though, I could see where the cuts should have come (but didn’t), I could see what the cross-cutting should have been (but wasn’t), and I could see how rapid the pace was intended to be (but wasn’t). Watching the movie was an exercise in supreme frustration. Guccione’s mindless editing was thwarting Brass’s every intention. Where Brass would have used inserts, Guccione used main shots. Most of what we saw was not meant to be seen, and most of we were meant to see was deleted. As dreadfully dull and as genuinely awful as the final result was, it was enough to convince me that the guy who made it was brilliant. I wanted to burst into Guccione’s film vault in Manhattan, grab all the raw footage, and put it together the way it should have been put together. And then I wanted to scream at everyone who worked at Penthouse: “This is what it’s supposed to be like!!!!!! Can’t you see?!?!?!?!?! Isn’t it obvious?!?!?!?!?!? How could you mess it up so badly?!?!?!?!?!?” Critics and audiences were lambasting a film that consisted of almost nothing but outtakes. I tried to convey this idea to some friends and acquaintances who had seen the movie, but they couldn’t understand what on earth I was talking about. It was a lousy movie, they angrily insisted, and the problem wasn’t the editing. I felt like punching them in the teeth, and then I felt like kicking the wall. --http://www.geocities.com/busterktn/tinto8f.html [Jul 2004]

Joë Caligula - (1966) - José Bénazéraf

    Joë Caligula - (1966) - José Bénazéraf
    Another extremely cool (and exquisitely rare) B&W number from Jose Benazeraf, filled with hard men and slinky sex kittens. Joe and his crew stick up night clubs while wearing wraparound sunglasses and brandishing Sten guns. They hang out at strip joints where the chicks take it off – slowly – to the tune of "I’m Evil." For kicks they watch their women battle it out in vicious apartment catfights where the loser gets sliced up the spine with a stilletto. Immediately banned upon release and almost impossible to find today. --http://www.revengeismydestiny.com/EurotrashJ.html

    José Bénazéraf

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