Links of Import

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Caligula (1979)

Caligula (1979)
Full cast:

From inside the private offices of Penthouse Films International -
Executive: … and constant nudity, incest, uniforms only consisting of tunic – uuumm, OH RIGHT. A red machine of death.

I have a sad confession to make about this film before I review it.

My Censored Story (Disclaimer):

I finished watching Caligula and, just when I was about to chalk up my lukewarm reaction to 21st century desensitization, I did a bit of research. I knew it was controversial, but reviewers were calling it tantamount to hardcore porn, and I was wondering where I missed that. It was then that I realized that I had seen the censored version and not the full monty. Disappointing! On the upside, my review might suffer, but at least I don’t have a stock of new images to gradually forget with time.

So, here is my list of…

Several Shocking Aspects of a Censored Shocker: Caligula!

1) Out of all the things they chose not to reveal, the least they could have done is to censor a little bit of Peter O’Toole’s face. I am a big O’Toole fan, but this particular Miscellaneous Illness involved bloody gashes, which were not pretty to look at. They were supposedly various sexual diseases transmitted by his “little fishies” (his words, not mine.) I am not surprised that he and Caligula share a family.

2) The fact that I found Caligula’s concern for his sister touching, despite the incestuous nature of the relationship, surprised me. There are maybe two instances of genuine human caring in this film, and sometimes Caligula shows that minimal caring towards Drusilla. He loves her. Incestuously. But it’s love. I’ll take any positive (?) emotion I can get.

3) Bruno Brive played Caligula’s young half-brother, Gemellus, but was two or three decades too old for the part. He came off as a grown man playing a twelve-year-old. It was a sincerely creepy experience. Has anyone seen MadTV’s Stuart? They wore almost the same amount of makeup.

I can’t find Brive on the internertz, but I’m sure that his birth date would not line up with the Gemellus character.

4) Young Helen Mirren and the fact that I did not recognize her at once. It took me a few close-ups to even realize it was Mirren. I’m used to her rocking the white hair. And I think she looks more attractive now than she did then. SOMEONE aged really well.

5) Everytime I saw Malcolm McDowell as Caligula, I saw a less attractive Rupert Graves, but a more attractive Yellow Man From Sin City. It must be the nose and wide forehead. Also the cheekbones. Also the whole face. As for sanity, Caligula is in the middle between Mr. Graves and Mr. Yellow Man. I wouldn’t mind being in the same room as Rupert Graves, I sure as hell would not willingly be in the same room as Caligula, and I would probably not walk out of the room alive if I were in a room with the Yellow Bastard.

6) The Red Machine of Death

I’ve seen it before in clips, but I’m still amazed at its massive size and vivid redness. Not to mention its food-processor blades, which deal death blows to heads and conveniently push them aside afterwards. That baby is big and totally not from early AD Rome.


This movie actually has many over-the-top surreal bits to choose from.

Ex: The large-brothel boat and the fake-army of nakedness charging into the water and… wandering around in shallow area. I have no idea what they were doing.

Also, the pyramid of hierarchy Caligula sees in the square, and the constant selling of penis sculptures. They were selling gigantic phallus shapes like hot dogs in the street. I didn’t quite get why. They were pretty big, so… I don’t even know.

The thing is, I can see someone insane doing these things, so who knows if some of these images weren’t half accurate? Maybe they had a brothel ship at some point. Who knows?

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  1. Oh man, I will have to check this out. It sounds funny but very uncomfortable. I loved I, Claudius (the book and the PBS mini-series) and Graves' sequel, Claudius the God. And thanks for the reference to Stuart. Just thinking about that character cracks me up.

  2. @Naima Haviland

    I would see the movie if only to wonder at how they managed to miscast someone as badly as they did this "young boy" in Caligula. I would also suggest the censored version. Unless you want to see some serious, serious 70s porn.

  3. By serious 70's porn he means the bushiest bush you've ever seen on every woman in the movie. Other than that I personally enjoyed the film, though I saw the unrated version, not the censored one.