Caligula (film)

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Image:Movie dvd cover caligula.jpg
Directed by Tinto Brass (later disowned)
Produced by Bob Guccione
Franco Rossellini
Written by Gore Vidal (later disowned)
Malcolm McDowell
Massolino D'Amico
Tinto Brass
(the latter three are all uncredited)
Starring Malcolm McDowell
John Gielgud
Peter O'Toole
Helen Mirren
Teresa Ann Savoy
Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Aram Khachaturyan
Bruno Nicholai (under the pseudonym of "Paul Clemente")
Distributed by Produzioni Atlas Consorziate (Italy)
Independent Artists (USA)
Release date(s) August 14, 1979 Italy
February 1 1980 USA
Running time 156 min.
(US NTSC Unrated version)
150 min.
(due to 4% speed-up) (Europe PAL Unrated version)
Language English
Budget $17,500,000 (initial) $22,000,000 (final)
IMDb profile

Caligula is a 1979 film directed by Tinto Brass, with additional scenes filmed by Bob Guccione and Giancarlo Lui, about the Roman Emperor Gaius Caesar Germanicus also known as "Caligula". Caligula was written by Gore Vidal and co-financed by Penthouse magazine, though the script underwent several re-writes after Tinto Brass and Malcolm McDowell found Gore Vidal's interpretation of the infamous Emperor to be unsatisfactory. The producers were Bob Guccione and Franco Rossellini. The film was initally budgeted at $17.5-million, but by the end of the production the budget swelled up to about $22 million. The film ended up grossing $21 million in its initial release; afterward, Caligula became a long-time hit on home video market. The production advertised itself as "the most controversial film in history. Only one movie dares to show the perversion behind Imperial Rome..."

It stars Malcolm McDowell as the Emperor and chronicles his rise and fall as the brief ruler of the Roman Empire. The film focuses heavily on Caligula's infamously deviant sexual practices, as well as those of his contemporaries. It drew heavy criticism because of its scenes of actual penetration in the "uncut" version.


[edit] Production

Gore Vidal developed the screenplay from Roberto Rossellini's unproduced television mini-series treatment by the request of the famous director's nephew, Franco. Rossellini and Vidal originally intended for the film to be a modestly budgeted historical drama, but could not find a financier, until Vidal had the idea of contacting media mogul Bob Guccione, who agreed on two conditions; that the film would be transformed into a flamboyant, over-the-top, luxurious spectacle akin to Hollywood's sword and sandal epics of the 50's and 60's and that hardcore sex would be added to the script in order to plug Guccione's Penthouse magazine. Both Vidal and Rossellini obliged.

Celebrated art director Danilo Donati was hired to build the expensive and complex sets & costumes. Renowed talent, including Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud were cast. Maria Schneider was originally cast as Caligula's doomed sister Drusilla, but later dropped out due to her concerns with the sex and nudity in the film and was shortly replaced by Teresa Ann Savoy. Tinto Brass, a relatively young Italian director known for his works of avante-garde, but picked out by Bob Guccione for being able to fuse explicit sex and big budget historical drama in the 1976 controversial film Salon Kitty, was hired to direct the film. The production was housed in Dear Studios, Rome, where the infamous debacle Cleopatra was filmed a decade earlier. The shooting commenced in September of 1976, with the hopes of an early 1977 release.

This proved to be simply wishful thinking, as the entire production started to slowly fall apart. It first started with Tinto Brass and Malcolm McDowell being unhappy with Gore Vidal's interpretation of the title character, Vidal agreed to collaborate with them and re-write the shooting script over a dozen times, and the three people became rather annoyed with each other by the time the principal photography began.

Soon afterwards, due to Rossellini and Guccione's inexperience in producing major films, it was realized by the filmmakers involved that the shooting schedule for the production was horribly unrealistic for a film of such scope and Danilo Donati had to scrap his original ideas for the sets and replace them with such surreal imagery as bizarre matte paintings, blacked out areas, silk backdrops and curtains. This resulted in even more departures from the script, with Tinto Brass and the actors improvising around scenes written to take place in entirely different locations, and sometimes shooting whole new scenes (such as the frolicking scene that erroneously opens the film) in order show some progress made while the incomplete sets were off-limits. The production was also plagued with delays due to the constant clashes between Tinto Brass and Bob Guccione over the sexual nature of the film.

Image:MalcolmMcDowell Caligula.jpg
Malcolm McDowell as Caligula

By the time the principal photography on Caligula had completed, Gore Vidal, fearing to be associated with such an out-of-control production and rightfully thinking that the film would turn out incoherent, disowned the movie and did his best to distance himself from the project. Bob Guccione, infuriated that Tinto Brass didn't showcase his hand-picked Penthouse Pet models, secretly snuck back into the studio and shot additional hardcore sexual content more in line with his vision of the film, which he would later use to replace Tinto Brass' bizarre and farcical scenes of sexual depravity.

When the film finally entered post-production, Bob Guccione and his close friend Giancarlo Lui decided to fire Tinto Brass because neither were happy of where he had taken the film in terms of story, political context (Guccione would later call Brass a "Communist") and depiction of sexuality. Giancarlo Lui then took it upon himself to re-fashion the film into something more in-line with what Gore Vidal had first scripted many drafts ago and, more importantly, with what the readers of Penthouse magazine were expecting out of a Bob Guccione production. This ultimately proved to be a grave mistake that destroyed the film.

Lui deleted as much surrealism and inventions of Malcolm McDowell and Brass as he possibly could without completely distorting the story. Also, with much footage improvised and re-written from the original draft of the film, many scenes were deleted all-together or trimmed, scrambled and re-cut into something barely coherent. Also, much of the disturbing sexual images Brass had shot were deleted and about six minutes worth of them were replaced by Bob Guccione's re-shoots. All in all, the final cut of the film bore virtually no resemblance to what Tinto Brass and Malcolm McDowell had intended. Ironically, it also bore little resemblance to what Vidal wanted as well.

In the unpleasant aftermath, Tinto Brass and Gore Vidal launched numerous independent lawsuits over such things as breach of contract and fraud, delaying the release of Caligula indefinitely. Both eventually settled for cash settlements and the right to have their names partially removed from the film. Afterwards, various charges of obscenity also contributed to the film's hold up from public release.

In late 1979, almost four years after the production began, Caligula finally made its debut in a crippled, butchered, practically incoherent form.

[edit] Multiple versions

Caligula was shown in various versions, including:

  • A 150 minute Italian cut; it was basically a shortened version of the U.S. edition. It was eventually pulled out of release in favour of Franco Rossellini's re-edited version (more on which below), but a briefly released VHS tape exists, though it is now out-of print and until recently was considered a collector's item. However, Raro Video announced that it will release a re-mastered edition of this cut on December 5th, 2006, along with an interview by Tinto Brass, in which he, for the first time, would discuss in great detail where the editing of the film went wrong.
  • The
    Image:Caligula R2PAL 156m DFWUncut SingleDisc.jpg
    R2 uncut single-disc DVD, 2001 DFW
    Image:Caligula R2PAL 156m DFWUncut DoubleDiscSet.jpg
    R2 uncut double-disc DVD set, 2001 DFW
    unrated version, available in the U.S. and mainland Europe, running 156 minutes (NTSC) and 150 minutes (PAL). This is the most widely seen cut of the film. It enjoyed a limited, albeit highly profitable, run in the American cinemas. This version contained many scenes with extremely taboo, sexually, and violently explicit content, including orgies, masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus, anal fisting, male and female homosexuality, cross-dressing and transvestism, sibling incest, rape, female urination, decapitating prisoners using a lawn-mower-type device (which is unlikely to have actually existed), unseen fratricide, penile castration and unseen testi castration, and slamming a child on stone steps like a rag doll.

The film was highly controversial and would certainly have received an X rating from the MPAA. The U.S. DVD release of this version is available in a blue cover. In 2001, Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) released a European region 2 uncut version of Caligula in re-mastered form with a cleaner print. DFW released two editions; first, a standard single DVD of the main feature, and a second, limited edition double disc set including biographies of the actors, filmographies of the actors, a "making of Caligula" featurette (55 mins), and a photo gallery. Another 2 disc deluxe edition was released in France early in 2003, containing improved image and audio quality.

  • The UK version, running 144 minutes. Aside from the removing 12 minutes of explicit footage, the editors included some replacement shots, derived from Tinto Brass' principal shoot, as well as remainder footage from Bob Guccione's re-shoots. Just like the older Italian cut, this version is also out-of-print these days, but is actively hunted for by various collectors.
  • The rumored and infamous 210-minute unreleased version, shown in a private screening in Cannes, France (though not as part of the film festival). It is highly sought-after, but no one has been able to locate a copy of this version, and is considered by many to be simply an urban legend.
  • Guccione eventually authorized an R-rated cut released in 1981, 105 minutes long, which earned the film wider distribution. Contrary to popular belief, majority of the cut footage was that of various dramatic scenes, which many felt brought the pace to a screeching halt (this was possibly due to the botched editing). In this version all of the hardcore, bloody and violent footage was either trimmed or replaced with yet another set of alternate shots and angles.
  • In 1984, Franco Rossellini, unhappy with Bob Guccione's final edit of the film, re-edited an extended, pre-release print of Caligula, which may or may not have been the infamous 210 minute version. This new edition of the film, re-titled as Io, Caligola clocked in at 133 minutes and contained various minor scenes and shots not present in any other versions of the film, but the Italian censors had it cut down to an astonishing 86 minutes. However, after a huge backlash, they allowed it to be brought up to 123 minutes. The missing ten minutes are no doubt responsible for a few jump cuts that occur throughout the film. This version has been released on DVD, but is available exclusively in Italy.
  • The second R-rated version saw light in 1999. It was released straight to DVD and contained no alternate angles. Various shots simply repeated themselves continuously instead of using the different takes of scenes seen in the R-rated theatrical release, causing numerous continuity problems and a disorienting, nauseating feel to the viewers. The rest of the cuts and trims, however, were based on the 1981 censored release. This DVD version ran a total of 102 minutes and was released with a red cover.
  • A few months later, the FilmFour channel, frustrated by the lack of any extended version of the film available in the UK (only the low quality 1981 censored version was still in print), released their own cut of Caligula, running approximately 140 minutes (the missing 16 minutes can be mostly attributed to the PAL overspeeding and time compression.) It was essentially the same as the 156 minute version, but lacked all of Guccione's footage (much to his anger). Those missing bits were the lesbian tryst and a handful of sexual inserts during the imperial bordello sequence.

Both the new R-rated version, the 156-minute cut and the Io, Caligola version have been released to DVD in various countries. The 1981 R-rated cut was released briefly on DVD in the UK

The uncut Twentieth Anniversary Edition DVD was refused classification in 2006 by Australia's OFLC effectively banning the film in its uncensored form. The OFLC deemed the film too sexually explicit to fall within the R18+ classification (despite sexually explicit mainstream films such as 9 Songs receiving this rating). The film could not be accommodated in the X classification (for explicit sex) as it contains depictions of violence. Although the film's sexual content was permissible in the X category, the OFLC's classification guidelines unambiguously state "No depiction of violence... is allowed in the category" <ref> OFLC Board Report T80/232 CALIGULA - TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY EDITION </ref>.

[edit] Critical reaction

The film was heavily panned by critics; Roger Ebert gave it zero stars, describing it as "sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash" [1]; a generation later it remained on the list of his most hated films (he also mentioned walking out of the theatre in the middle of it). Both Peter O'Toole and Malcolm McDowell have since expressed regret in participating in the film. The director, Tinto Brass, disowned the film altogether, since it was taken out of his hands and given to Giancarlo Lui, to complete the editing. Writer Gore Vidal also disowned the film, but that happened much earlier than the incident with Brass and for an entirely different reason: Vidal and Brass had major creative differences over the subject matter, and though both had strong ideas concerning Caligula's reasons and motivations behind his madness, neither could find a common ground. The majority of those behind the film backed Tinto Brass, which infuriated Gore Vidal, who left the project, bad-mouthing the entire production. Whatever intellectual heft Vidal's writing and research would have given the production is notably absent from the finished version, since it was re-written into a somewhat fictionalized political fable by Brass and McDowell, which, in turn, was deleted by Bob Guccione and Giancarlo Lui during the editing proccess.

[edit] Cast

[edit] References

  • <references/>

[edit] External links

el:Καλιγούλας (ταινία) it:Io, Caligola pl:Kaligula (film) pt:Calígula (Filme) ru:Калигула (фильм) sv:Caligula (film)

Caligula (film)

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