I watched this odd, to say the least, movie a few years ago. It is directed by the great Tinto Brass (Salon Kitty and Paprika), with Peter O’Toole in the role of Tiberius and Malcolm McDowell (yeah! The one from A Clockwork Orange!) as Caligula himself.
It talks about the rise and fall of the Roman emperor that gives the film its title. To make it possible to shoot it, they had to count with the production of Penthouse magazine.
The movie was very controversial because of its scenes loaded with violence and explicit sex.
The film is very theatrical, at the beginning it may be difficult to follow the plot, but then you become captured by it, absorbed in the way everything develops, intrigued on how an inexperienced politician turns his megalomania into madness and a total disgrace for his family and his subjects.
Addicted to bacchanals, sadomasochistic practices, homosexual orgies and excesses, he becomes a character that you’ll hate and love at the same time. Besides, the role is masterly performed by McDowell (proving once more that he’s the best for insane characters!!)
Browsing the net, I found out the producer, not happy enough with the sex scenes, took the camera and shot other explicit sex scenes on his own. These were included in the final cut and it was a disaster due to the contrasts in image quality, performance, etc. That’s why many of the actors were angry and wanted to removed their names from the credits. Apart from that, they say there were at least ten differently edited versions with less explicit scenes.
I have watched the uncut version and it is true that there’s a drastic change when the sex scenes start. You can notice a different rhythm, sex scenes are too long and the style of shooting is not the same. It looks like the movie is suddenly a completely porn one! Actually, it’s like watching a porn superproduction with great plot and script, besides having the magnificent Peter O’Toole among its actors.
I strongly recommend this movie. If you enjoy films about Romans, or current series like Spartacus, you definitely shouldn’t miss Caligula 😉