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Caligola
[DVD]

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Recently, the 20th anniversary restored edition of Caligula was on a limited release to theaters before its release on DVD on November 23. This film is Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione's cinematic portrayal of the decadent life and times of Rome's most infamous emperor, Caligula (played by Malcolm McDowell). Back in 1979, this film was notorious for its graphic violence, even more graphic sex, and high caliber acting talent (along with McDowell, the film features Peter O'Toole, John Gielguld, and Helen Mirren). Initially unrated, this film was -and is - being promoted as a film not intended for the squeamish.

It's also a film not intended for those with triple-digit IQs, as this two-and-a-half-hour movie is duller than watching paint dry. I was glad I only paid four dollars at a bargain matinee...and the film wasn't even worth that much.

"Adapted" from a screenplay by Gore Vidal (which probably means that they plagiarized bits), you would think that with Guccione's penchant for elegant sleaze this movie might be reaching for extremely high standards (Guccione makes Larry Flynt look like Mr. Rogers). However, the pacing of this movie is incredibly tedious, the direction is very less than assured, and the acting leaves much to be desired. (When the actor portraying Caligula's son, Gemellus, first appears, Mike Nelson from MST3K popped in my head and said, "Hey look it's Lou Reed from the cover of his Transformer album." That's the only gratuitous pop culture reference I'm going to make.) Although probably shocking in 1979, a generation weaned on Friday the 13th and Freddy Kreuger movies will find the violence in this film amateurish and unnecessary. (I don't mean that it will offend; I mean that it is offensively executed, all puns intended).

This film also does contain some graphic sex scenes, which are definitely not under-17-years-of-age material (We're talking close to hardcore porn, kids). However, these are the least erotic scenes ever committed to film. You're better off renting a traditional X-rated tape if you want to be aroused. When the sex scenes in a porno movie are dull, hoo boy, you are in trouble. This movie isn't worth the Satellite of Love's time and effort (OK, two gratutious pop culture references - my bad).

If you look up this film at the Internet Movie Database or Amazon.com, you'll read reviews that call this "porn for thought" and state that it is a serious masterpiece about the abuses of power. Yeah, right, and if we broke the fingers of all the Shrub staffers, they'd write the collective works of Dashiell Hammett. This movie isn't even a camp kitsch classic, either - it's just stone cold bad.

So, if you're a Roman history buff (like me) and/or curious about Caligula's life, I can make some better alternative suggestions. First, I recommend that you read The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius - a first person account of the goings-on of all the Caesars, and the most accurate account of the decadence of Rome. In addition, a better portray can be found in I, Claudius, the BBC-produced miniseries based on the novel by Robert Graves. The miniseries is probably the finest (albeit unsanitized) version of the history of the Caesars, and stars Derek Jacobi, John Hurt, and Patrick Stewart with a bitchin' perm (I ain't making that up, folks).
Date Added: 10/12/2012 by Kolyan
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