CALIGULA (1979) Review

Directed by: Tinto Brass
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Guido Mannari

What can be said about Caligula? Chances are if you have heard of this you would probably know of its lavish catalogue of perversions. Sweet Jesus everything gets covered here; incest, pissing, necrophilia, fisting, etc. To call this film flat out pornography would not do it justice even in its slightest. The film does have a good deal of hardcore sex but the sex is not the subject matter of the piece although that being said there are lots of unnecessary orgy scenes. 
The cast is exceptional. There is a line up of legendary British actors including Peter O Toole, Helen Mirren, Malcom Mcdowell to name a few. The set designs are amazingly detailed, costumes are exquisite and Malcom Mcdowell's role as the tyrannical emperor Caligula is brilliantly realised. This is an amazing film and an oddity in the history of adult cinema.

The story begins with the ill emperor Tiberius in his last days. His grandson Caligula is awaiting his death as he is heir to the throne. Caligula's confidante Macron speeds the process by strangling Tiberius. So it begins. As the power and influence goes to Caligula's head during his rein his sanity takes a turn for the worst. He sends many of his senators to the gallows for no particular reason along with his brother and his friend Macron. He also had an excessive and decadent life style that was rendering Rome in debt. In one scene Caligula decides to consolidate Rome's surplus by running an imperial brothel with the senators wives as the whores. Which of course pisses the senators off. The rest of the film is the undoing of Caligula as his senators turn their backs on him and plot his eventual bloody demise. 

Although this film is considered pornography it has some brilliant cinematography which definitely lifts this film out of gutter to some where between low art and high art. I think the only thing that held this film back is the unnecessary scenes of hardcore sex. It seems they drag on for too long. If it was toned down a fraction I believe that the public and critics alike would have received it better. I'm talking about Palme d'or material. 
For those of who are familiar with the HBO television series Rome, you would find it hard to believe that this film is LESS gratuitous than that puddle of excrement. 
As a period piece this film is exceptional. 

Although massively unsuccessful in America (the market it was aimed at) it must have had some fanfare in Italy as it spawned an unofficial sequel. There are many different cuts and versions of this film. The 160 minute cut is the full film as its creators intended for viewing. The other cuts vary between 80-100 minutes which I'm sure would have been a butchered bloody mess. Mcdowell has since proclaimed that he is embarrassed about the film. That's a bit harsh. If I was him I'd be more embarrassed for being in piles of shit like Class of 1999 and Cyborg 3.

This film deserves to be watched and appreciated in its entirety. 

This might be stretching the friendship but I'm going to give this film 4/5 stars

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