WARNING: This review of Caligula has content sexual nature that may not be suitable for some and strong language, but being that it is a Penthouse Films produced feature, would you expect anything less?

The X-Rating, renowned for being the ‘adults only’ rating for films featuring mature scenes of brutal violence and unsimulated or simulated sex on screen, had its fair share of controversy as it continues life today under the NC-17 rating. Most films, such as Midnight Cowboy and Pink Flamingos, challenged the motion picture industry as a whole of what could or could not be shown up on the big screen. From this, another X was born: Exploitation films. These films rely on exploitation of violence, sexual, gore and what other major motion pictures cannot show giving the audience an unclean and possibly highly entertaining experience, depending on the person. This week’s film is no exception to that definition as Tinto Brass’ Caligula has it all.

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1979’s Caligula legacy is beyond legendary. Produced by Bob Guccione and Penthouse Films, this big budget tale of the rise and fall of Gaius Caligula Caesar is beyond legendary. Originally written by Gore Vidal, Tinto Brass decided to adapt his screenplay (whatever the hell that means) in order to make this erotic biography of Caligula resorting in Bob Guccione stepping in to fund the project under Penthouse Films. The result is a misguided attempt to tell history with orgies galore, scenery chewing and lavish sets that make the film seem more like a high budgeted porno than anything else. The late Roger Ebert said this was one of the worst films he saw, resulting in an infamous zero star rating calling it “sickening, utterly  worthless, shameful trash” and walked out two hours in. Well, Mr. Ebert, sorry to say this, but… it was not that bad.

Come on, Ebert, it looks like a nice romance film (Spoiler: That’s his sister he is sleeping with and he knows it)

Sure, it is not a great film or a good film and is nearly terrible, but I was having a great time watching this feature. Starring Film A Week alumni Malcolm McDowell (Week 9: Time After Time), Caligula is all about Little Boots trying to gain his rightful place as Emperor of Rome by any means nessacery. Caligula arranges the murder of his great uncle Tiberus, played by a possible drunk beyond compare Peter O’Toole, frames his pal Macro, played by Guido Mannari, tries to wed his sister Drusilla, played by Teresa Ann Savoy, and finds a new wife in the form of Caesonia, played by the beautiful Helen Mirren. Of course, along the way Caligula does or partakes in some rather risque and controversial activities.

List of Caligula’s Risque & Controversial Activities (In No Particular Order)

  • Having sex with his sister
  • Attending an orgy filled with sex swings
  • Getting in a threesome with his sister
  • Deflowering the young virgin wife of Proculous
  • Fisting Proculous as he was also a ‘virgin’ of anal sex
  • Putting a flower in Proculous’ ass after fisting him
  • Beheading those who betray him with a giant wall with crab-like spikes
  • Dancing nude in the rain, then proceeding to have sex in said rain
  • Declaring his daughter is his ‘son’
  • Engaging in betrayal and treason against his family
  • Outright calling for a major stabbing of a guard
  • Castrating his victims
  • Did I mention the fisting? I did? Well, shit, he loves to fist
This is the tamest image I could find of this film. Trust me.

 

That is only a small percentage of what this film contains. There is nudity everywhere and not a scene without it. I am not a prude, so I do not mind nudity. If ypu see one frame without a sexual reference or some form of nudity, then you must be watching the R-rated version. Bob Guccione even stepped in to add more pornographic scenes including, but not limited to:

  • A three headed woman masturbating
  • Two men jerking of and reliving their semen into a bowl
  • A man delivering unsimulated oral sex to another man
  • A lesbian sex scene out of left field
  • Some guy with tumor or small man on him getting head
  • A four-legged man reliving himself
  • Two nymphs urinating on a dead corpse
  • Giant sex swings with women riding on a wood penis with another grinding a pole

Yea…Caligula is a little awkward to watch with friends unless your friends do not mind watching good ol’ fashioned Skinemax to borderline hardcore style sex alongside you. This is intended to shock, but it is not that shocking. Probably to others, but I am the man who liked the hell out of the movie Shortbus, which managed to make the use of unsimulated sex work with its plot of a woman who cannot orgasm.

Also, it is a great comedy and it just occurred to me I like odd movies.

As for the film itself, the acting is not completely. McDowell chews scenery like no one else and seems to be having a damn good time, which McDowell is always great at. Helen Mirren is very minimal, but does a decent job and she looks stunning (Heck, she still looks gorgeous!). The other actors are bland and piratically sleepwalking through the film, but a majority of them die in the feature and we are all the better for it. The direction is what you would expect from such a schlock, but never does it dip into amateur mode. The production is big and broad and the sets are gorgeous. No surprise Bruno Mattei utilized the sets in order to create his own feature Caligula Reincarnated As Nero (Nerone e Poppea), which is discussed on Brad Jones’ The Cinema Snob site on The Bruno Mattei Show in Episode 12.

In fact, Caligula is Brad Jones’ favorite film on the site and even reviewed it in character as the Snob for his 100th Episode (and a twoparter, too). Because of Brad’s review, this film has been sitting pretty in my watchlist until now in order for me to take a crack at it and I see why he loves it for all the exploitative joy it is. I did not love it as much though, but I did think it was worth and experience to watch such a controversial and tasteless (according to critics at least) feature because a film like this could never be accomplished ever again in the modern era of film and goes back to a time where exploitation was everywhere for the curious. I was curious, took a crack and enjoyed it as any curious pop culture film fan would be. Go ahead and spend two hours and half to see some good old trashy fun.

Also, it was better exploitative trash than Irreversible will ever be. Seriously, fuck that movie.

Next week on Film A Week, as political tension rise in our present society due to the recent news of Syria and a possible strike, I sure know how to pick film that unintentionally fit the mold. Time for Peter Capaldi’s infamous foulmouthed performance of Malcolm Tucker from the BBC hit series The Thick of It to stop an UK-US invasion of the Middle East in the politically charged British comedy, In The Loop.

Film A Week 35: In the Loop (2009)
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Friday, September 6th