Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Wow. I mean… wow. I don’t really know what to say about this one. I’ve probably told this story before but I’m old enough know where I can tell the same damn stories over and over again just like my dad does. When this flick came out on VHS back in the day, despite what my mom might have heard, she rented this movie thinking it would be something similar along the lines of Masterpiece Theater’s ‘I Claudius’. Yes, what a pure and gentle unassuming woman my mother was. I was probably around fifteen at the time and the whole family, including a couple of my aunts, my sister, my dad, and a cousin were gathered around the Zenith for TV movie night. About ten minutes in moms realizes that Bob Guccione’s ‘Caligula’ is about as close to ‘I Claudius’ as Salt Lake City is to Moscow with the eject button being hit so quick that I didn’t even see the tape exit the machine. I haven’t really given that movie a thought since then, because quite honestly watching some dude getting a BJ while in the presence of one’s mother is something you’d like to excise from your brain as quickly as possible. But for whatever reason I stumbled across this movie, and despite what I had heard, I decided to  watch it some thirty years after its initial release and see for myself. Wow…. Dollar for dollar, this could very well be the worst movie ever made.

When we first meet the fourth Caesar of the great empire of Rome, Gaius Germanicus Caligula (Malcolm McDowell) is frolicking half naked in the lily fields with his sister Drusilla (Teresa Ann Savoy). Perhaps dude shouldn’t be having sex with his sister, no matter how hot she may be, but who in the hell am I to tell a future Caesar how to behave? Anyways, after all the frolicking and sexing Caligula is called to the court of the present Caesar, his uncle Tiberius (Peter O’Toole), who we might add is looking mighty fucked up about now. However, the boils on Tiberius face aren’t stopping him from frolicking in a pool surrounded by lots of naked people much to dismay of his right hand man Nerva (Sir John Gielgud). Tiberius doesn’t want anything in particular by requesting Caligula’s presence, he just wants to torment him and show off his little decadent party room where lots of people perform real sex on command. Who in the HELL is running this country while all this is going on?

Though Tiberius is dying and all, he’s not going quick enough for Caligula who has him killed and is now the new Roman Emperor. What this apparently means is that Caligula is doing basically the same stuff he was doing before, but with a big ass ring on his finger. Some of this stuff would include having more sex with his sister, sticking his fist up some dudes ass, castrating this same dude and feeding his dick to some dogs, making all the senators wives become whores and many other things that simply aren’t becoming of a nations ruler. As history will tell it, as this is almost the only thing remotely historical in this movie, Caligula would fall out favor with his senators who will have him assassinated and subsequently have Claudius, largely recognized as the town idiot, crowned as the new emperor.

This is one incredibly screwed up movie. No reason to get into real world reasons why it’s so messed up as the rise and fall of the making of ‘Caligula’ is one most well documented subjects on any movie ever, but considering the talent involved and the money behind the production, it’s still phenomenal in its overall ineptitude. Calling ‘Caligula’ pornography is really doing porn flicks a disservice. I mean sure there are some graphic sex scenes in this crap, including a scene that could possibly qualify as the longest BJ in the history of filmed movies, but there’s not nearly enough graphic sex for this to qualify as a decent porn flick, and anybody desiring to see this just a little penetration would be far better served renting ‘Me Luv U Long Time 8’ or something. As a historical film it’s totally lacking unless all the Roman Emperors ever did was have rape parties, orgy parties and sodomy parties. Surely Caligula did SOMETHING having anything to do with actually running the country. I mean dude was in charge for like four years, though this overly long movie would seem to exist in Real Time giving the feeling that Caligula was Caesar for two and a half hours. Plus I think a couple of the orgy participants had silicone implants which may also challenge the historical accuracy of this thing. And it’s not like if you took out the hardcore sex scenes this thing would have been any better, only a few minutes shorter, which might HAVE made it better.

I did find it amusing watching arguably the greatest actress of this generation, Helen Mirren, do the ‘dance’ which was possibly the silliest dance I’ve ever seen. It was like The Robot / Goosestep. If Bootsy Collins was on bass it would have been straight up funky. As it has been well documented most of the people behind the camera, such as Gore Vidal and Tinto Brass have had their names removed from this film, and if you’re getting dissed by Tinto Brass, then you know you have some garbage on your hands.

Fortunately this was Bob Guccione’s first and last foray into filmmaking as the man settled into to doing what he does best and that’s exploiting women on a monthly basis in his magazine and publishing those awesome Penthouse Forum letters. Which reminds of a story… though I thought it would never happen to me…

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