The porn Gone with the Wind
Pekinman | Illinois | 09/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you expect to be intellectually edified and historically informed after viewing Bob Guccione's film Caligula, you will be enraged upon viewing this gargantuan, Preminger-esque porn extravaganza.
Caligula (the film) has many things going for it; notably viable dialogue, largely contributed by Gore Vidal who, I believe, disowned this film once he got wind of the direction the film script was going in the hands of the producers, and wildly imaginative set pieces that are probably not too far off the mark in regards to what Rome looked like in 40 A.D. It also boasts an impressive cast of stars who seem to have believed in the project by forcing themselves to pretend they were making a movie for Lindsay Anderson (O Lucky Man) or Stanley Kubrick (Clockwork Orange). In fact, the ever-splendid Peter O'Toole gives a chilling, scary performance as Tiberius Caesar, Caligula's grandfather. His dying emperor reminds me of Willem Dafoe's character in David Lynch's Wild at Heart, very dangerous and very insane. Tiberius, like all the historical individuals in most films about Rome, is completely bogus here, but O'Toole falls into the spirit of the cartoony nature of this flick and has a grand old time going WAY over the top as he would love to have done in every movie he's made. He is at his best in these kinds of roles, see The Ruling Class and The Lion in Winter.
The English are nothing if not mercenary in a very practical sense, so the producers of Caligula were able to entice the great John Gielgud to give them one of his programmed performances for a, no doubt, very high fee for 10 minutes of film time.
And I expect he enjoyed all the naked people running around in his scenes on the isle of Capri. Good work if you can get it.
The historic person, Gaius Caligula, was a huge man according to the historians, who was hairy, bald and brawny. We have quite a different impression of this man stemming from the really off-base character in I Claudius, played by the otherwise great John Hurt, and this version here, played by a similarly wan and blonde, English, naughty choirboy type. Malcolm MacDowell has stated that he now knew what it was like to be a whore. Well, I expect he had a pretty good idea of that before this project, but having said that, he certainly seems to be enjoying himself enormously as this fantasy anti-hero, Caligula Caesar, who spends his days and nights fornicating with girls and fisting the boys.
Helen Mirren seems game for anything and it isn't all that surprising to see her flailing her enormous breasts about in priapic rituals in old Roma. Mirren was always a superb actress who has shown over the years how versatile and adventurous she is when choosing roles, and she does them all brilliantly. After Caligula was made she went on, years later, to star in Peter Greenaway's shocking, often disgusting film The Cook, the thief, his wife and her lover, finally making her way to Buckingham Palace as Queen Elizabeth II. An amazing career when you look at her curriculum vitae.
These four stars make for engaging viewing between orgies and atrocities, which are, in themselves, interesting to watch, if you have the stomach for it.
Caligula is a movie for people who appreciate the beauty of the human body and are not averse to seeing it on display in a wide array of positions and activities. The dialogue is not nauseatingly inane because Guccione opted to concentrate on the sex stuff so few words were needed to add on to Vidal's work. What a con! The man was a genius.
The film is made slightly cheesy, in an appropriate manner for a porn flick, by the use of 'classical' music by Aram Khachaturian and Serge Prokofiev, recorded in Mantovani-like ffffFrequency sound; lots of swooning violins in an indoor pool environment, sort of thing, alternating with blaring Ben Hur-like brass fanfares and bombast.
The sets, as I stated, are first class, no expense was spared on the production and is in many ways beautiful to behold.
Guccione was the Preminger porn kings.
You've been warned, but for those of you still interested, get it."