23 January 2013

...Caligula Would Have Blushed

1979, Italy/USA
Tinto Brass, Bob Guccioni, Giancarlo Lui

Though I believe all perceived cinematic disasters should be revisited and reexamined through time, I regret the decision I made yesterday to give Caligula such treatment. Seeing it at an age when I actively sought out all things controversial and decadent, I possessed few feelings, one way or the other about the film, but following a strange impulse to give it another look, I'm surprised by my teenage ambivalence. Caligula is a trash heap of a movie, a singular achievement only in the fact that it managed to sour the combined efforts of so many talented individuals. Were those efforts collectively ruined by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione? Giving him any creative control or license was a mistake of course, but I'm pretty sure Caligula was beyond hope long before Guccione filmed those additional porn scenes.

Reading about the production nightmares of turning the roman emperor's debauched life into a motion picture, it's quite apparent that the various power struggles between screenwriter Gore Vidal, director Tinto Brass, art director Danilo Donati, producer Guccione, and star Malcolm McDowell were the source of the problem. And what's left is an unsurprisingly tasteless but surprisingly tiresome film that looks like a perverted child's version of Satyricon. I found myself cringing at every single aspect of Caligula, least of which its prurient affectations.

With: Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Teresa Ann Savoy, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud, Guido Mannari, Bruno Brive, Giancarlo Badessi, John Steiner, Donato Placido, Paolo Bonacelli, Leopoldo Trieste, Mirella D'Angelo, Anneka Di Lorenzo, Lori Wagner, Adriana Asti, Rick Parets

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