Sunday, December 16, 2007

Caligula Imperial Edition an Imperial Disappointment

For a number of years I have heard about the squabble over the lack of an X-rating for "Caligula" a movie based on a script by Gore Vidal. With such luminary actors as Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren, and John Gielgud, I couldn't imagine it could be anywhere close to a modern rating of "X". When the Imperial Edition was released I couldn't help but see for myself so I pre-ordered it on Amazon.

Unfortunately, I watched the unrated edition first and was revolted by the inclusion of gratuitous sex scenes that had no purpose at all to advance the plot. The wardrobe department must have scrounged costumes from some old follies show and Vidal must not have spent much time reviewing historical accounts of the period either since there actually was a time when Caligula first ascended the thrown that he was reasonable to an extent and was generally liked by the Roman mob. I also think a contextual background would have helped viewers to understand why Caligula spun out of control when given the chance to be the most powerful man on earth. Of course I was particularly irritated by the opening statement about "Pagan Rome" inferring that the events would not have happened if Rome had been Christian at the time. Oh, please!!! The brutality of Christian Rome could match that of Pagan Rome blow for blow!

I did enjoy reading about the background of the making of this "epic":

"Caligula is the stuff, or rather the spunk, of legend. The 1979 epic T&A-fest is based on real-life legend: the rapid ascendancy and downfall of Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (“Little Boots” for short). Caligula is also a Hollywood legend, revered and ridiculed from the moment of its cinematic conception. The film’s production history is difficult to piece together, but goes something like this:

Gore Vidal wrote a screenplay. Unable to secure adequate funding, he appealed to Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. Fiduciary aid was provided on one condition—that Caligula take the orgy to the next level. Vidal accepted Emperor Guccione’s demands. Italian director Tinto Brass, of Salon Kitty (1976) fame, signed on. Danilo Donati, a favorite of Fellini’s, was hired to construct ostentatious sets and render trompe l’oeil backgrounds. An all-star cast was assembled. Debaucheries were orchestrated and shot. Chaos soon descended. Guccione championed the inclusion of several minutes of hard-core pornography. Vidal and Brass both renounced the film, at different times and for different reasons. Malcolm McDowell has described his experience of Caligula as rape-like. Helen Mirren has more positively invoked an acid trip."-

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