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192 of 198 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Extras and Two Cuts of the Film
This new Imperial 3 disc edition of CALIGULA from Image and Penthouse is an "everything and the kitchen sink" affair. It should be a must buy for fans of the film, and offers two unique ways of viewing the infamous film known mostly for its peversity.

Disc One contains an unrated X-rated version including all the Bob Guccione inserted scenes of somewhat...
Published on October 1, 2007 by Brett D. Cullum

versus
361 of 386 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars From the historical point of view, not as bad as many think
I will concentrate on the movie's historical accuracy (or its lack of it), since the previous reviews seem to either have overlooked it, or claimed that it is "historically accurate", or on the opposite extreme, that it totally ignored history.
"Caligula" does have some merit from the historical point of view, surely already present in Gore...
Published on September 16, 2001 by P. Bartl


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192 of 198 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Extras and Two Cuts of the Film, October 1, 2007
By 
Brett D. Cullum (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This new Imperial 3 disc edition of CALIGULA from Image and Penthouse is an "everything and the kitchen sink" affair. It should be a must buy for fans of the film, and offers two unique ways of viewing the infamous film known mostly for its peversity.

Disc One contains an unrated X-rated version including all the Bob Guccione inserted scenes of somewhat hardcore sex acts. The editing is a little off as Guccione assembled this cut from what Tinto Brass directed and put some scenes out of order thus blurring the narrative and character development.

Disc Two contains a pre-release cut of the film without the hardcore scenes, and a more logical progression of scenes assembled to depict the order Tinto Brass wanted them in. It runs 3 minutes shorter, and you'll notice alternate footage in many scenes. Three commentaries are delivered over this version with Malcolm McDowell on one, Helen Mirren on the second, and Ernest Volkman on the final track. Each are joined by authors and film critics who help keep the conversation flowing and on topic. Also included are a dozen cut and alternate takes.

The third disc contains featurettes, interviews, and archival footage from the production. A 1980 documentary proves interesting and provides more graphic footage.

The transfer is improved, but still looks blurred and lacking in contrast. The reason for some of this is the movie was shot like a magazine spread with soft focus cameras. It's never super clear, and there's plenty of grain and digital artifacts to contend with.

This is the best the film has ever looked, and has tons of extra material to wade through. A dream for collectors, and a nightmare for the detractors. The film is dispassionate and brutal - depicting every peversity you could imagine and then some. Costumes and sets are amazing - including a five story machine that decapitates heads in a colisseum. Breathtaking for all the wrong reasons, CALIGULA is about ego out of control. Oddly enough those that made it suffered from the same malady.
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361 of 386 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars From the historical point of view, not as bad as many think, September 16, 2001
I will concentrate on the movie's historical accuracy (or its lack of it), since the previous reviews seem to either have overlooked it, or claimed that it is "historically accurate", or on the opposite extreme, that it totally ignored history.
"Caligula" does have some merit from the historical point of view, surely already present in Gore Vidal's original script. It's also very weak in many points.
The bare events of Caligula's life and reign are actually quite accurate. It may surprise many viewers that most of the secondary characters - Emperor Tiberius, Senator Nerva, the praetorian prefect Macro, Tiberius's grandson and Caligula's rival for the succession Gemellus, Caesonia, Chaerea (who murdered Caligula), his sister Drusilla - were all historical and, as far as the facts have come down to us, their portrayal in "Caligula" was fairly accurate, at least according to some ancient authors.
Tiberius did retire to the island of Capri in his last years and did invite the elderly Nerva to join him there, and ancient authors do claim that he indulged in sexual perversions there. Nerva really committed suicide as shown in the movie.
The conversations between Caligula, Nerva and Tiberius, probably by Vidal, really reflect contemporary views and issues - for instance, the deification of Julius Caesar and Augustus, Tiberius's predecessors: Tiberius was totally cynical about the whole thing, whereas Caligula firmly believed it. Throughout the movie, many of Caligula's lines come straight from ancient authors.
On the other hand, Nerva's comment on Caligula's "gift for logic" seems to owe more to Camus than to ancient sources - still, a nice touch, I thought.
Tiberius's murder by Caligula and Macro, Caligula's removal of Macro and Gemellus, his incestuous relationship with Drusilla, her death, his marriage to Caesonia, her giving him a daughter, his increasing tyranny, his farcical invasion of Germany and attempted invasion of Britain, and his murder by his own guard - are all historical facts, and on the whole not too inaccurately shown in the movie.
On the other hand, the movie's biggest weaknesses from the historical point of view are (1) the way it *looks* and (2) the suggestion that Caligula's and Tiberius's depravity were somehow "normal", part of Rome's "decadence".
The sets and clothes all look more like something from a Fellini film than from ancient Rome. Tiberius's palace on Capri is perhaps the most unrealistic, along with that ship, and the execution machine - and countless details.
The clothes aren't very realistic, either. Romans were more casual about nudity than we are today, and I suppose that their clothes might reveal much some times. But I doubt that Roman ladies would be as casual about parading half-naked as portrayed in the movie (I mean in normal situations, not the sex scenes).
Moreover, it's simply not true that "orgies" such as that portrayed in the movie were common among the Roman upper classes. Actually adultery - also on the part of males - was an offense punishable by death, at least for the upper classes (this didn't cover prostitution). The vast majority of the Roman senatorial class would, and did, find behavior such as that of Tiberius and Caligula scandalous.
However, Caligula's in cognito wanderings through Rome after Drusilla's death give perhaps for the first time in a movie a good impression of what ancient Rome actually was at night - dangerous, dark, chaotic, where no person of means would venture without an armed escort.
I also enjoyed the glimpse of what an emperor's routine largely consisted of, with Tiberius and Caligula stamping their seal onto endless piles of official documents.
"Caligula" was obviously intended to be mainly a pornographic movie - Bob Guccione made sure of that. But it also, at some point, was intended to have a core of historical accuracy, which is why Gore Vidal was asked to write the script.
This core is still present in the movie, and it's not true that you don't learn anything of Roman history by watching it.
But of course, I know that that's not what most people will watch it for. So perhaps Guccione was right.
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428 of 463 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Judge it for yourself, June 18, 2000
By 
C. Clark (United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Caligula, one of the most controversial movies ever made, is now available on DVD. This film was a real eye-opener for me, and the DVD is far superior to the VHS that was floating around a bit in the '80s (for all you people complaining about the quality, just shudder to think of how it used to be). The story of Rome's infamous emperor was probably not this wild in real life, but this is Penthouse and as a result is chockablock with sexual scenes and graphic violence. Because Caligula is basically in every single scene, it's hard for the other characters to develop, but there are some colorful supporting players, and McDowell really delivers. It's hard to believe his next film was to play the reserved, scholarly H.G. Wells ("Time After Time.") He is quite a talented actor. The movie drags on and on, and sometimes the cinematography is uncertain, but other times it is dead on the money. The film is a bit grainy on DVD, but as someone else once said, this really contributes to the "gritty" factor. As far as realism, many of the sex scenes look real, but I doubt the world has ever seen the likes of that purple-skinned four-eyed (or was it three-eyed?) woman, plus the guy with all those extra digits and the siamese twins joined at the head resting at Tiberius' palace. And how about the scene where Caligula "consecrates" that marriage...if that's how it was, I'd never get married.
The DVD has these things going for it: the creepy music added to the menu (the same as the opening title with the quote from Mark), the 30 chapters nicely divided up, the documentary about the making of featuring Gore Vidal and Bob Guccione (although in places everyone's face looked way too pale, but it was an old '70s film), and the sound is far superior to the VHS from what I can remember.
But this is Caligula and I would definitely not let anyone under 18 (or maybe even 21) watch it.
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165 of 182 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shock and Awe, August 28, 2007
If you thought HBO's depiction of ancient Rome was graphic and brutal Rome - The Complete First Two Seasons, then you obviously haven't seen Caligula.

Caligula leaves nothing for the imagination unless you're talking about some continuity issues and plot holes. Oh, the imagination fixes those just fine. But the scenes of love, incest, orgy, torture, rape, murder...they're there in all their glory...and I mean ALL their glory.

While the HBO series chronicled events in Rome circa 50 BC, Caligula is an adaptation of events circa 40 AD. The story is a bit discombobulated at times, but easy enough to follow.

Caligula (or, if you'd prefer, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) rises to power as Rome's third emperor. Writer/Producer and uncredited Director Bob Guccione Penthouse , not surprisingly, picked up on the writings that Caligula was an insane sex pervert and a cruel tyrant. Other historical writings that Caligula led Rome to major territorial expansion and architectural advancement were not included in this movie. No...that would have brought the...umm...mood down.

Helen Mirren stars as Caligula's queen. She's good at playing queen's, no? Coincidentally she won the 2007 Oscar and Globe for Best Actress by playing a queen The Queen . I can't imagine why the Academy passed her by in 1979's Caligula. There's plenty of other award winning talent in Caligula: You've got Malcolm McDowell A Clockwork Orange (Two-Disc Special Edition) , Peter O'Toole Lawrence of Arabia (Single Disc Edition) , and Sir John Gielgud Arthur just to name a few...well...that's actually all of the A-list.

But the surprising thing is that Caligula even had an A-list when the movie was less about acting and more about shock and awe. Sure, the good actors gave great performances. McDowell's Caligula is unforgettable; the surprising thing is that Guccione got this cast to even be in a movie that with any other actors you might have had to purchase this film in a dark DVD store on the corner of 38th Street and 8th Avenue in NYC.

The movie runs for 2 hours and 36 minutes. And if that ain't enough, the 2007 Imperial Edition gives you 2 extra disks of bonus stuff. According to Image Entertainment's July 2007 press release, The 3 disk Imperial Edition of Caligula comes with two versions: the important one being the unrated, uncensored theatrical version in a newly mastered high def transfer from recently uncovered negative vault materials. And that's good because the previous release looked and sounded like an old 8mm home movie capture. The other version is an alternate pre-release cut of the film.

Amongst other bonuses, the Image press release touts "hundreds of revealing photographs from the set never seen by the public". But I have to say, it can't get that much more revealing than what's already in the movie itself.

So there you have it. Caligula, the cult classic, gets re-released on DVD. And if you're in The Caligula Cult, it's your best day ever.
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115 of 129 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McDowell Delivers!, May 7, 2000
The first time I saw this movie, it was playing at a local art film theater. I had heard about how graphic this film was in every respect. I wasn't led astray. Despite its explicit nature, Caligula is quite a good film. Malcolm McDowell(who, in my opinion, is in the top 10 greatest actors of all time)is very good, as always, as are Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren, and Sir John Gielgud. They more than make up for a few corny (some downright stupid) plot and visual elements. The plot revolves around Caligula, a young man who becomes emperor of Rome after he has his uncle, the current emperor, killed. It takes the viewer through a graphic (yet historically accurate)display of the decadence of ancient Rome(with very convincing set pieces) as it shows Caligula's slow decline into insanity. Before viewing this film keep in mind that it is very graphic in its violence and sex (unless you're viewing the R-rated version that has almost 1 hour cut from its original running time). Also keep in mind that although it is graphic, it is also (for the most part)historically accurate. So, if you want to see some of the most impressive sets in recent memory & a few of the world's greatest thesbians at work and beleive you can handle its extreme nature, I would definatly give Caligula a try.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shock and Awe, August 28, 2007
This review is from: Caligula (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
If you thought HBO's depiction of ancient Rome was graphic and brutal Rome - The Complete First Two Seasons, then you obviously haven't seen Caligula.

Caligula leaves nothing for the imagination unless you're talking about some continuity issues and plot holes. Oh, the imagination fixes those just fine. But the scenes of love, incest, orgy, torture, rape, murder...they're there in all their glory...and I mean ALL their glory.

While the HBO series chronicled events in Rome circa 50 BC, Caligula is an adaptation of events circa 40 AD. The story is a bit discombobulated at times, but easy enough to follow.

Caligula (or, if you'd prefer, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) rises to power as Rome's third emperor. Writer/Producer and uncredited Director Bob Guccione Penthouse , not surprisingly, picked up on the writings that Caligula was an insane sex pervert and a cruel tyrant. Other historical writings that Caligula led Rome to major territorial expansion and architectural advancement were not included in this movie. No...that would have brought the...umm...mood down.

Helen Mirren stars as Caligula's queen. She's good at playing queen's, no? Coincidentally she won the 2007 Oscar and Globe for Best Actress by playing a queen The Queen . I can't imagine why the Academy passed her by in 1979's Caligula. There's plenty of other award winning talent in Caligula: You've got Malcolm McDowell A Clockwork Orange (Two-Disc Special Edition) , Peter O'Toole Lawrence of Arabia (Single Disc Edition) , and Sir John Gielgud Arthur just to name a few...well...that's actually all of the A-list.

But the surprising thing is that Caligula even had an A-list when the movie was less about acting and more about shock and awe. Sure, the good actors gave great performances. McDowell's Caligula is unforgettable; the surprising thing is that Guccione got this cast to even be in a movie that with any other actors you might have had to purchase this film in a dark DVD store on the corner of 38th Street and 8th Avenue in NYC.

The movie runs for 2 hours and 36 minutes. And if that ain't enough, you should go with the 2007 Imperial Edition Caligula (Three-Disc Imperial Edition) . The three disker gives you 2 extra disks of bonus stuff. According to Image Entertainment's July 2007 press release, The 3 Disk Imperial Edition of Caligula comes with two versions: the important one being the unrated, uncensored theatrical version in a newly mastered high def transfer from recently uncovered negative vault materials. And that's good because the previous release looked and sounded like an old 8mm home movie capture. The other version is an alternate pre-release cut of the film.

Amongst other bonuses on the three disker, the Image press release touts "hundreds of revealing photographs from the set never seen by the public". But I have to say, it can't get that much more revealing than what's already in the movie itself. So this single disk version was (way) more than enough.

So there you have it. Caligula, the cult classic, gets re-released on DVD. And if you're in The Caligula Cult, it's your best day ever.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality? Who Cares?, January 17, 2000
By 
Justin Fuentes (Citrus Heights, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Ok, there's the deal. The movie was made over 20 years ago. They did the best they could as far as quality is concerned. And for those who don't have a DVD player, get one. The bottom line is that the movie is awesome. It's a "get in front of it" look at history. No holds barred. And don't waste your time with the r-rated version. The unrated version is the 'only' version. You've got killer actors, killer sets, killer cinematogrophy, killer plot, and if you don't mind the smut, a killer money shot. It's the best of ALL worlds in one movie. Brass, Guccione, and Vidal make a killer team even if they don't want to admit it. Big budget, big actors, big ugly product. I'm sorry but I loved it! If you don't have a weak stomach, and if you love history, and if you dig a little sex, this is the flick to see.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Imperial Edition (Blu-ray), January 8, 2009
By 
Alric the Red (in modern times) - See all my reviews
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It's hard to view this film divorced from its controversy. To see spliced-in pornographic acts performed in a film so sumptuously photographed blurs our aesthetics; or it did mine, anyway. Whatever the final opinion, it was definitely never boring. Along with the nearly constant atrocities stemming from a complete abuse and debasement of power, it has stunning visuals going for it. Therefore a revitalized hi-def transfer makes an excellent opportunity to see it afresh. After watching Caligula [Blu-ray] ("The Imperial Edition"), and delving into all the extras, I've concluded that, despite its many flaws, it is indeed a good film. By all accounts, it could have been a GREAT film, but as often is the case with ambitious visions, conflicts led to too many compromises, eventuating to no one's satisfaction. There will never be a critical consensus on it, but still, anyone interested in films has to conclude it has its merits. This edition makes that obvious.

To sum it up, Malcolm McDowell plays Caligula as mirthfully cruel, irreverent, and giddily insane. John Gielgud, making an early departure, plays with erect Shakespearean dignity Tiberius' only friend, the wise Nerva, contemptuous of the inevitable scenario of Rome's further decline at Caligula's ascendancy. Peter O'Toole portrays Tiberius as demoralized and sardonically embittered by the trappings of power, his face scabby and scalp clumpy from the ravages of syphilis. Once Tiberius dies -- all of the actors with major theater credentials exit relatively early -- Caligula has the playground of Rome all to himself.

Having never seen the remastered SD special edition released a couple of years ago, I'm unable to compare its image quality to the transfer on Caligula [Blu-ray]. But I can state with certainty that this Blu-ray edition is far superior to the initial DVD issued back in the 1990s. Art director and costume designer Danilo Donati gave cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti a lively palette and grand designs to work with, and it's illuminated here. While the age of the print is apparent at times, the hi-def transfer revives the lost vibrancy of the draped luxury and pillared architecture. And aside from the brighter picture, there's a cornucopia tucked away in the special features.

The extras include two versions of "The Making of Caligula"; interviews (about 30 minutes each) with director Tinto Brass, actor John Steiner (who portrayed Longinus), and Penthouse pet Lori Wagner (who, in hindsight, realizes she was in way over her head, thanks to her blind ambition); three audio commentaries (McDowell, Helen Mirren, and on-set writer Ernest Volkman); an alternate pre-release version of the film; and, rounding out the set, the usual odds and ends (deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, and so on). This two-disc edition comes with a 15-page booklet detailing the film's troubled production, in which the essayist R. J. Buffalo concludes passionately that a full restoration to its original vision is in order. It's a hell-freezes-over probability. From the artifacts among the bonus features, it's obvious that two immutable creative forces were in direct conflict. Gore Vidal, who wrote the original screenplay, eventually disavowed the film when director Brass altered how Caligula himself was presented. It must have come down to an interpretation of the script, because Vidal's earlier version is included as a DVD-ROM extra, and a lot of the dialogue was retained, some of it word for word. So, on the one hand, you have Brass wanting a sexually explicit, anarchistic romp; on the other you have Vidal's depiction of Caligula as derisive of the ruling class, and abuses power as mockery. The result is a schizophrenic montage. In my judgment, Vidal's vision edges out ahead slightly, as by the time you get to all that explicit sex, they're not festivities you'd want to be invited to. So the question remains, to whose vision would the final edit be restored?
________________________________________
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Visual and sound quality not upto DVD standards, December 2, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Caligula (R-rated Version) (DVD)
The movie is well acted and the story is compelling enough although it deals with the depraved side of humanity. It illustrates the contrasting splendor and raunch that was Rome at the time. The film is beautifully done and impressive in many scenes, but the visual quality is lacking. The resolution and clarity is not what is normally expected with a DVD. Sound quality is also mediocre at best. It appears to be the same quality of a VHS movie that was made 20 years ago. Too bad... I hoped the original film quality could be preserved digitally on DVD.
The featurette discussing the making of the film was interesting addition to the DVD. Unfortunately subtitles are not provided.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get the four-disc 'Imperial Edition' UK DVD if you can find it for the extras alone, March 28, 2011
As usual Amazon have lumped all the reviews of the different versions of this film together - the four disc UK PAL 'Imperial Edition' this review refers to, the one-disc uncut version, the one-disc cut version, the three-disc US version, the BluRay (which includes the uncut version and the extras but not the alternate cuts)...

What to make of the notorious Caligula? It's not really porno, not really an epic, not really a drama - it's just a kind of Mulligan's Stew of a movie. The film is a mess and exists in lots of versions, with the three on the UK DVD not even covering half of them. The hardcore sex in the infamous unrated cut that was added by producer and Penthouse magazine owner Bob Guccione (who looks like a blinged up 70s Caesar in the accompanying documentary and who made the film as a tax deductible write-off against Penthouse's publishing profits) after shooting was finished has surprisingly been left uncut by the UK censors. Yet for all their publicity value, the porn inserts are more distracting than arousing and curious for what was intended as a mainstream commercial porn film because there's such an awful lot of male nudity in the unerotic unsimulated sex among the extras that it makes you wonder what team the producer was batting for.

Despite legend, they're not the sole reason director Tinto Brass and writer Gore Vidal disowned the film: the former did so because much of it was re-edited out of sequence after he was fired in post-production, the later because his script was changed so much (Brass ended up with a `principal photography by' credit while the only writing credit is `based on a script by Gore Vidal'). The original intention to make a more historically accurate and defiantly pagan Roman epic outside the studio system without the restrictions of a PG rating would be better achieved more than a quarter of a century later with HBO's Rome, while at the time it looked like a pale shadow of the BBC's noticeably much lower funded but infinitely better written I, Claudius. Unfortunately Malcolm McDowell wanted to play Caligula as an anarchist destroying Rome from within rather than just another madman - a potentially intriguing interpretation - but pointedly didn't want to do any gay scenes despite playing a bisexual. The producer was more interested in the box-office potential of an X-rated epic. It was never going to end happily for anyone concerned...

It's not exactly historically accurate, but then with Caligula running a close second to Nero as cinema's favorite mad emperor and most surviving accounts of his reign highly partisan, that's perhaps not too surprising. Caligula was actually one of the most popular Caesars with the public in his lifetime, initiating major reforms that made life better for the plebs while increasingly frustrating the senate and aristocracy, who had been running things their way for years in Tiberius' absence and didn't like suddenly being second best. The first two years of his reign were something of a golden age: the economy boomed, he started no wars, caused no major disasters and killed surprisingly few people, none of them members of his immediate family (a bit of a rarity for a Caesar), and even reintroduced democracy and instituted tax cuts and civic building programmes. And when his behavior did become more questionable, it was generally the upper class who bore the brunt of it rather than the unwashed masses. Indeed, so extraordinarily popular was Caligula with the people at the time of his assassination that attempts to restore the Republic were thwarted by mass demonstrations of public anger.

While there's general agreement his reign deteriorated after a near fatal illness and mental illness, most of the worst stories of his madness and perversion come from Suetonius' gloriously gossipy Lives of the Twelve Caesars, written 80 years after his death, so it's probable that despite his promiscuity the stories of incestuous relations with three of his sisters and the more outrageous acts of insanity that captured the public imagination for centuries may not even be true (it was fairly common practice to highlight and exaggerate earlier emperor's failings to make the current incumbent look better, something Suetonius would have been well aware of as the Emperor Hadrian's secretary). Indeed, even the name Caligula is something of a misnomer. He ruled as Gaius Caesar Germanicus: Caligula was a childhood nickname given to him by his father's troops meaning `bootikins' or little boots (caligulae), and its use after his death was a good way of belittling him as a figure of infantile ridicule as he became a victim of the same negative political spin that he himself pioneered against his predecessor, Tiberius. He was certainly a very flawed individual: paranoid, promiscuous with both sexes yet sanctimoniously moralistic, theatrical, mentally ill (possibly as a result of neurosyphilis) and often unnecessarily combative with little realpolitikal acumen, though they're not uncommon qualities in rulers (you could almost see him as the ancient world's King Ludwig of Bavaria). He wasn't a great Caesar by any standards, but he wasn't a particularly bad or monstrous one compared to many that followed him either, and he doesn't fit any standard definition of a tyrant. But then, given the choice between a flawed mentally ill reformer and a raving tyrannical madman, authors and filmmakers have always opted to print the legend. And with Caligula, they finally got the chance to film all the mucky bits the censors never would have let them get away with in the 50s and 60s.

It does have a car-crash fascination, though, and you can see the film it once wanted to be from time to time, as well as why it went so wrong. You'll have McDowell, Peter O'Toole (made up like a lecherous Albert Steptoe ogling his `little fishes') and John Gielgud speaking elegant Gore Vidal dialogue while extras play with themselves in the background, often in shots taken from completely different parts of the movie. It's shot on huge stages that are part Las Vegas (you almost expect Siegfried and Roy to turn up doing the floor show), part grand opera, with proscenium arch staging to match. Part Fellini-wannabe, part Visconti-wannabe, the over-riding impression at times is that it's the kind of film King Ludwig of Bavaria would have made.

Despite all the excess the $17.5m budget could buy back in 1976 and the odd grand image like a giant mourning cloth slowly floating down on the whipped and cowering senators, it's not exactly a grand spectacle - the film rarely leaves the Palace, though there is one vivid street scene where play actors depict the Roman class system as a human pyramid with the people sandwiched between the army and the slaves at the bottom and Caligula angrily trying to bring the whole edifice crashing down. As the film progresses, he becomes more dedicated to chaos, reducing the senate to baaing like sheep after they make him a god, using their wives as whores, all the while thinking they are mad for approving everything he does. "I don't know what else to do to provoke them," he laments at one point. Yet the film never seems to have an especially clear idea of what it wants to do or where it's going, the several years (!!!) it spent in the editing room and the uncredited rewrites during the nightmarish shoot all too apparent as it lurches along like a slightly distracted drunk caught somewhere between having drunk too much but still not quite enough.

The four-disc Imperial edition DVD available in the UK offers three different cuts of the film, none of them a director's cut. The first disc has the uncut X-rated version re-edited by Guccione, the second, described as an alternate `pre-release version,' an attempt to reconstruct something similar to Tinto Brass' original intentions that puts scenes back in their proper chronological order and drops some of the more gratuitous sexual footage such as Penthouse Pet Lori Wagner's lengthy lesbian scene, and - only in the UK set - a peculiar 102-minute R-rated cut from 1999. This short version isn't so much edited as hacked ruthlessly as if someone took it upon themselves to whip the uppity film into submission once and for all. It's not just the jarring and clumsy removal of most of the violence and the softcore as well as hardcore sex, it's the sheer nonsensical nature of the editing that strikes you. Cutting far more than the censors required - nearly an entire hour - it loses many of the film's most memorable and important moments (the humiliation of the newlywed couple, the fever that causes Caligula to believe himself a god and causes his sister's death), leaving the remnants often laughably bizarre nonsequiters or just plain confusing. Some of the cast in the credits are nowhere to be found in the UK version.

The set is certainly loaded with extras - three audio commentaries on the `pre-release version,' trailers, 79 minutes of home movie footage of the shoot, stills galleries and two early draft screenplay by Vidal among them. I know that sounds like saying you buy Playboy for the articles, but they are sometimes more fun than the film. The 48 minutes of deleted footage on the alternate version is deceptive - it's actually raw footage, much of it not even assembled, all mute and only about half of it in colour. Aside from one sequence of Caligula making love to his sister, the shots are either alternate takes of scenes in the film, trims or alternate angles of deleted scenes that feature on the UK edition's third disc. None add anything to the film, although the clumsily staged raw footage of unenthusiastic extras fumbling their way through the orgy at Tiberius' retreat and abruptly stopping every time they wrongly assume the camera is no longer on them does show how difficult it must be to shoot a decent sex scene.

The third UK disc includes another 31 minutes of deleted material taken from worn work prints that aren't included on the US DVD, including raw footage of the depravities in Tiberius' grotto and an additional 11 scenes in rough cut form, most of them cut from the latter section of the film after Drusilla's death that would have given the film a wider view of Caligula's reign and do show the much more ambitious but no more successful picture intended - much of the film's last third hit the cutting room floor on all versions, as did much of Helen Mirren's role. Unfortunately many of them simply aren't very good or don't quite work, such as Caligula avoiding raising taxes by theatrically setting himself above Jupiter and liberating the god's treasury, a scene not helped by awkward sped-up moments. Other scenes, such as the emperor replacing the heads of statues of the gods with his own head and rehearsing the camp march he makes the legionaries do at the imperial brothel, no longer have full sound and tend to spotlight some terrible work from John Steiner that would have undermined his character had they remained in the film. But McDowell's interest in making the character more of an anarchist comes over in a scene where he playfully plans famines and sea battles to liven things up while nimbly walking over desktops, makes his horse a senator to undermine the ruling class and appeal to the people and a lengthy bedroom scene with Helen Mirren about the dangers of goading and humiliating the senate. Without them, there's less of a sense of his continual emasculation of the old ruling class by piling on outrage after outrage building up to the point where his assassination becomes inevitable. There's also striking footage of his horse being chased by slaves as he dies twitching in the film's final scene, as well as the conclusion of the `Death Machine' sequence where he has his guards throw Proculus into its path only for him to survive.

While a new documentary about the making of the film could be fascinating, the accompanying one-hour documentary on the DVD dates from the film's release, though it's hard to tell who it was made for since it includes a lot of hardcore footage that would have kept it off even cable TV. Sadly there's no input from Vidal, who sued Guccione to have the film retitled Gore Vidal's Caligula and then, on seeing it, sued again to have his name taken off, nor is there the infamous spoof trailer for a remake he, Mirren and director Francesco Vezzoli made in 2005. Director Tinto Brass, one of the Penthouse Pets who is now a living monument to Cher's plastic surgeon, and Italian schlock-fixture John Steiner (openly admitting most of his films are crap and he's no interest in seeing Caligula) do contribute lengthy interview featurettes, what I've heard of Helen Mirren's audio commentary is fairly good (though nothing thus far to match her onset comment that "It has an irresistible mixture of art and genitals in it") but Malcolm McDowell's commentary is definitely the big attraction here - at one point he even pauses mid-anecdote to compliment Teresa Ann Savoy's naked derriere!
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Caligula (Unrated Edition)
Caligula (Unrated Edition) by Tinto Brass (DVD - 2007)
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