“I have existed since the beginning of the world, and shall exist until the last star falls out of the heavens. Although I have taken the form of Caius Caligula, I am all men, as I am no man. I am a God.”
– Caligula Caesar
Those words could just have easily been spoken by Lucifer, the ultimate prideful rebel. And in effect, by proxy, they were, as the Satanic spirit is replete throughout this figure. They were spoken by the namesake of this magnificent historical erotic docudrama. The original intent of this production was to present the most accurate and realistic portrayal of the events under the Caligulan reign.
There is plenty of fair warning in the beginning that the subject matter may offend and disturb, so no one need complain about subjecting themselves to the utterly opulent decadence herein. Truly, Rome in all of its glory. Much controversy has followed this film ever since its pre-production, filmed on location in Rome, Italy. Rumors of orgies, incest, bestiality, extreme cruelty, blood and gore, followed this film since the start — all of which it most assuredly contains.
The DVD includes a revealing “making of” documentary with interview inclusions from Bob Guccione (Penthouse publisher and iconoclast, whose scrumptious ‘pets’ adorn the film throughout), Sir John Gielgud (a classic actor of the first callibre), Peter O’Toole (elite actor who plays Caesar Tiberius), among others. Here and there, one notices some excised scenes previously unavailable in the widely released form, as it may have proved too extreme for American censors of the time. Although I am sure the European release included them in full.
Caesar Tiberius must choose a successor. He invites young and naive Caligula to the palace, where he is introduced to some of the elements of betrayal and deceit, and witnesses a justified evisceration as the result of one guard’s improper inebriation. Caligula strikes a deal with his right-hand man at the time, named Magnus, a Roman soldier, to kill Tiberius and take the throne. Tiberius is subsequently strangled, and Caligula comes into possession of The Emperor’s Ring, which he wields with pride and power. Caligula rises to rulership, together with his sister and lover, becoming increasingly more imbalanced, self-destructive, excessively selfish, and indiscriminate in his proclamations.
Caligula is a remarkable piece of underground paganography that has to be seen to be believed, and therefore, appreciated.
[Editor’s Note: There are two versions of this film available: an R-rated one, and an “unrated” one. The latter is reviewed herein.]
[- Draconis Blackthorne]