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Miraculously shoddy Penthouse production scripted by a highly embarrassed Gore Vidal and directed by pretentious schlockmeister and top polishing product Tinto Brass. The only reason anyone reading this should bother is the presence of Patrick ‘Magee makes deals. Barratt make moves’ Allen. Recently the version on show has been a fairly intact full-length original (US) cinema release cut, although the notorious “six minutes of sex” added by Penthouse have been tastefully panned and scanned in places. Basically, it’s shit, whatever version it is.



  1. lump516

    January 3, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Actually, Gore Vidal’s book about Caligula wasn’t much to write home about, although I’m sure he did–at great length.

  2. Tom Ronson

    October 4, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    Considering all the uproar, hoo-hah and general controversy, Caligula manages the unenviable double whammy of being both sleazy and incredibly fucking dull, like Weston Super Mare. I’m no scholar, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t even have fisting in Roman times.

  3. Droogie

    October 4, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Malcolm McDowell recently talked about the fisting scene on the excellent Gilbert Gottfried podcast. The director wanted Caligula to bugger both the honeymoon couple in that scene, which horrified Malcolm and made him think that it would destroy his career If he sodomized someone in a movie. He compromised however with some fisting instead after hearing about the practice from a gay wardrobe department guy on set.

  4. Richardpd

    October 4, 2020 at 11:14 pm

    This has almost as many different cuts as Blade Runner, with the longest having “video nasty” status.

    It’s at it’s weakest when it tries to be the Caligula segments of I, Claudius, with the quality of scripts and set design ratios reversed. Some of the cast thought it was going to be a serious production, only to find they were going to be upstaged by Penthouse playmates.

    The lawnmower head chopping device seems to have been dropped in from one of Terry Gilliam’s films.

  5. Droogie

    October 4, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    The McDowell interview with Gilbert Gottfried is hilarious. He’s still pissed off with his treatment on this film decades later, especially with the porn that was later added. McDowell describes how the director would film a shot of him as Caligula supposedly looking off-camera and smiling at his horse, only to have some hardcore action of 2 girls getting it on intercut so it looks like McDowell is smirking at that instead!

  6. THX 1139

    October 5, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Apparently Sir John Gielgud loved this, and would go to see himself in it at the pictures. Rumour has it Helen Mirren really likes it too. Most of it is pretty boring, but every so often it will come up with something that’s weird and inspired and like nothing else (no, not the porn). Same art director as Flash Gordon, fact fans.

  7. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 5, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    Saw this – or a version of it – on Channel 4 twenty years ago. A difficult film to assess because its main aim is to depict a completely deranged period in history, and two twisted and malevolent figures – Tiberius and Caligula – about which it’s fair to say, ‘job done.’ But that in itself is a strange ambition, and coupled with the sad appearance of great actors such as Gielgud (who at least compensates for his inability to resist the fee by giving a moving performance in his few scenes) and O’Toole (apparently drunk), and the decision to try to turn it into a porn film (thereby completely scuppering any commercial or artistic potential) makes this a film too misguided to be anything other than an object of contempt.

  8. THX 1139

    October 7, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Thanks to Droogie for pointing out the Malcolm McDowell interview with Gilbert Gottfried, a highly entertaining listen! I know he always says he doesn’t want to write an autobiography, but he’s so full of great anecdotes, it’s a pity.

  9. Droogie

    October 7, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    THX 1139 – isn’t he great? His unsentimental anecdote about working with Christopher Lee and what a self obsessed bore McDowell found him ( and Lee’s hairpiece issues) made me laugh like a loon.

    • Richardpd

      October 7, 2020 at 12:46 pm

      I heard Malcolm McDowell helped shape Alex’s character in A Clockwork Orange, especially when he brought along a bag of cricketing gear along to rehearsals, which Stanley Kubrick was impressed with enough to have the gang’s outfits based on cricketing whites with the boxes worn outside the trousers.

      Singing in The Rain was used for one scene because it was the only song McDowell was confident singing.

    • THX 1139

      October 7, 2020 at 2:00 pm

      Yes – Christopher Lee was a notorious chatterbox, he would jabber away when he got nervous apparently, and many people found him pretty avoidable! Poor old soul. The Passage is an underexamined potential bad movie classic, it really is awful. Love that McDowell and James Mason renamed it The Back Passage!

      • Glenn Aylett

        October 7, 2020 at 4:39 pm

        @ THX 1139, The Passage would have been a tedious film without Malcolm Mc Dowell, playing a seriously unhinged SS officer who has a macabre sense of humour as well as being a complete psychopath. Worth checking out for him alone as it’s the sort of seventies role made for him.
        As regards Caligula, probably on a par with another of Tinto Brass’s films, Salon Kitty, about a Gestapo brothel in Berlin that existed in real life, but was totally sexed up for the film, including a tasteless scene with a group of dwarves.

        • George White

          October 7, 2020 at 9:33 pm

          He dresses as a chef too, in the Passage, right.
          Out-Derren Nesbitts Derren Nesbitt.

          • Glenn Aylett

            October 8, 2020 at 10:44 am

            @ George White, the scene where Mc Dowall dresses up as a chef and cuts off a prisoner’s fingers. A really unsettling film where Mc Dowall sets an old man on fire, shoots someone in the back that he has no more use for and wears swastika underpants and dreams of being Hitler. Kind of makes Alex de Large look like a nice boy and for all The Passage is little remembered, it’s classical sinister Malcolm Mc Dowall.

          • THX 1139

            October 8, 2020 at 2:24 pm

            There’s something compelling about seeing an actor plainly not respecting the material and just arseing about, knowing they’ll be paid whatever happens. See also Marlon Brando in The Island of Doctor Moreau, Fiona Shaw in The Black Dahlia, etc. There’s a lot of that in Malcolm’s Caligula too.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    October 8, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    @ THC 1139, I’ve seen Caligula a long time ago and the actors know it’s rubbish and it shows. It’s rather like Sean Connery when he reprised Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, he stopped being the old school Connery Bond as soon as he landed in America, played the role for laughs as he knew the film was below par and collected a massive fee at the end.

    • Richardpd

      October 8, 2020 at 10:55 pm

      In fairness Sean Connery donated his pay from Diamonds Are Forever to a children’s charity, and while it’s not the strongest Bond film it’s still a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

  11. Droogie

    October 9, 2020 at 2:33 am

    Malcolm McDowell thought the critical and box office reaction to Caligula as a massive turkey nearly ended his career as a leading man in Hollywood movies. Luckily his next role in cult classic Time After Time playing a hero as HG Wells was a good one.

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