Studio: Arrow Films
Length: 156 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 29 September 2008
Cat No: FCD265
Screen ratio 1:1.78
Dolby Digital 5.0, Dolby Digital 2.0
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Caligula (Imperial Edition)
Cast: Adriana Asti , Helen Mirren , John Gielgud , Malcolm McDowell , John Steiner , Teresa Ann Savoy , Leopoldo Trieste , Paolo Bonacelli , Peter O'Toole , Giancarlo Badessi , Guido Mannari , Mirella Dangelo
Tinto Brass’s infamous soft-porn Roman epic stars Malcolm McDowell as the deranged titular Emperor, and provides an unexpected entry on... Read More
Nearly thirty years after it was unleashed in various truncations upon gob-smacked cinema audiences around the world, Caligula is now legally available in the UK in the hardcore version that producer and Penthouse publishing magnate Bob Guccione assembled without bothering to consult the cast or director Tinto Brass.
The controversy surrounding the film’s production and release is legendary, and far too convoluted a story to go into here (it is covered in the booklet that accompanies this release); suffice to say that ‘Brass v Guccione’ was just one of the legal wrangles that ensued. (Note that Brass is credited only with ‘principal photography’; Caligula, uniquely for a major production, has no on-screen director credit.)
But the knowledge of all the behind-the-scenes warring simply adds to the notoriety that drenches Caligula from its opening frames. Malcolm McDowell is on outrageous form as the eponymous emperor, presiding over a writhing Roman hotbed of orgies, casual incest and bloodthirsty slayings; he is aided and abetted by an incongruously glittering supporting cast that all but advertises the extravagant (for 1979) $15 million dollar budget — Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, even John Gielgud. And making up the numbers are a bevy of Guccione’s ‘Penthouse pets,’ on hand to spice things up a bit when the foreground actors have to wade through some particularly baroque dialogue.
Time may have tried to defuse Caligula’s explosiveness, but this is still potent stuff; indeed, the hardcore inserts, directed by Guccione after Brass had gone home for the evening, sit more comfortably with the rest of the film than you might expect. But beyond the penetration shots and the trophy casting, there is some artistic merit here: the sumptuous sets, costumes and cinematography are worthy of the grandest Hollywood product, and Brass’s set pieces are orchestrated with real visual flair.
This insanely respectful ‘Imperial Edition’ contains a fascinating featurette on the making of the film (shot while original screenwriter Gore Vidal was still on board), alternative versions, deleted scenes, amusing commentaries and a host of other tasty morsels. It’s the kind of kinky, grandiose package befitting an epic.