Caligula (Uncut Edition) DVD

Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione, 1979

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Film Details

Directed by Tinto Brass, Bob Guccione

Produced in 1979

Main Language - English

Countries & Regions - European Film, American film

MovieMail's Review

Julian Upton gets hot under the collar reviewing the Imperial Edition of Caligula.

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.

Julian Upton on 10th September 2008
Author of 166 reviews

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Film Description

A notoriously excessive depiction of the riotously perverse and orgiastic days of Imperial Rome, here coming to you uncut and in its full explicit detail. Notable for being the only major motion picture ever to star esteemed British actors of the calibre of Malcolm McDowell, Sir John Gielgud, Peter O’Toole and Helen Mirren alongside scenes of extreme violence and explicit hardcore sex, Caligula infamously sees them being outrageously upstaged by notoriously graphic sequences in this catalogue of decadent depravity.

Based on Suetonius's ‘Lives of the Twelve Caesars' and scripted by celebrated author and historian Gore Vidal, the film was produced by Penthouse magazine publisher Bob Guccione. Unfortunately, director Tinto Brass and Guccione's respective visions of what the film should be were worlds apart and no sooner had shooting started than the artistic bickering began with Vidal, Guccione and Brass all falling out with each other. Vidal was barred from the set and once principal photography was complete, Guccione banned Brass from the editing room and, after shooting extra footage of hardcore sex scenes, the ‘Penthouse' boss set about editing the film himself.

The result is the stuff of legend - an insane, pornographic orgy of a film that details the rise and fall of the titular Roman Emperor (brilliantly played by McDowell), his sexual passion for his sister, his marriage to Rome's most infamous prostitute (Mirren), and his spectacularly inventive ways of dealing with his enemies, all garnished with the totally inappropriate sexual rompings of a dozen or so Penthouse Pets. If nothing else, Caligula truly is cinematic madness on the grandest scale.

DVD Details

Certificate: 18

Publisher: Arrow Films

Length: 156 mins

Format: DVD Colour

Region: 2

Released: 27th July 2009

Cat No: FCD369

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Community Reviews

by Anon on 13th January 2005

A really terrible movie! It really is showing its age. It could be viewed as some sort of a cult classic, but this is one that Tinto Brass is probably trying to forget... Read on

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