156 min., 1979
Written by Gore Vidal
Directed by Tinto Brass
My rating: ★★
A kinda porn with a kinda plot.
* * *
The movie begins with us meeting Caligula (Malcolm McDowell) who has been called by his emperor, Tiberius (Peter O’Toole). Tiberius has been losing his mind and has called Caligula there for…well, to do a little dance. After the dance Tiberius shows him around his large temple of love and pain. You see Tiberius is dying (apparently of syphilis) and next in line to the throne is Caligula, but instead of being kind about passing on the throne Tiberius has gone a little mad and tries to poison Caligula. A little time passes and Tiberius’ best friend Nerva (John Gielgud) commits suicide which seems to cause Tiberius to worsen. Thinking that Tiberius is dead Caligula steals his ring and while he is admiring himself with it on, Tiberius starts calling for it back. The head of the guards, Macro (Guido Mannari), climbs on the bed and chokes Tiberius until he is finally dead. Now Caligula is in power and he starts to have some fun with it. One of the first things is making sure that a newly married couple is virgins, and then de-virginizing them, next is dealing with the faithful Macro, by killing him and getting a new head of the guards, Chaerea (Paolo Bonacelli). The biggest problem that Caligula is having is that he wants to marry his sister (who he has been sleeping with), Drusilla (Teresa Ann Savoy), and that’s not allowed. He has to find a wife, if just for show, and he finds Caesonia (Helen Mirren). As the movie moves along Caligula slowly loses his mind, he starts to not trust anyone including his stepbrother Gemellus (Bruno Brive), dim-wit Claudius (Giancarlo Badessi) and his own right-hand man, Longinus (John Steiner). As the madness increases he starts to do more outlandish things like sleeping (not sex) with his horse and making the upper-class wives act like local whores. Are Chaerea and Longinus really plotting to kill Caligula or is it all in his madness ridden head?
What can I say about this movie’s acting? Overall it’s just okay. You have some big names here with Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole, but even they turn in some pretty low performances. The best of the bunch had to have been Peter O’Toole. His crazy Tiberius is just great, you can actually see the crazy and mistrust rolling around in his eyes. Malcolm McDowell brings in a very uneven performance, sometimes he is so good that you believe everything that he is saying and you believe that he has truly gone mad, but there are other times where he just seems to be really tired of the job and he kinda sleeps through some of it. The two that surprised me the most were Guido Mannari as Macro and John Steiner as Longinus. Both of them weren’t on the screen for extended periods of time, but every time they were, my eyes were always drawn to them and what they were doing.
Now one of the biggest problems with the movie is the effects. Well not really the effects, but the sets. When I watch a movie and the sets are done so well I don’t notice that they are sets, but with Caligula every set looked exactly like a set. Most of the time it looked like I was watching a stage play instead of a movie and that really took me out of the movie. The sets do look really nice, but again they look like sets and not actual places. The other effects of the movie are okay, but nothing great.
In the end the movie was just really boring for me. The acting was okay and the effects were just fine, but what really killed if for me was the excessive amount of sex. There is nothing wrong with sex in a movie, but having to watch a ten minutes blowjob just got really fucking boring. There is also a ten minute long lesbian scene and after the first three minutes it just got really boring. Caligula’s descent into madness is well done and by the end of the movie you really do believe that he had lost his shit, but if I wanted to watch this much sex, I would have tossed in a porno and not a movie that has more sex than plot.Have You Read...?