"Sickening, Utterly Worthless, Shameful Trash" Finally Gets British Release*

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Almost thirty years after its release, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will allow Britons to view the crappy historical epic/porn film Caligula—not because it is wrong to censor the works of Malcolm MacDowell, but because the film is now deemed of "historical interest." The Telegraph has details:

It received a short run in the US but was never shown in Britain, after being banned by the BBFC. The film was also derided by some as "insanely pornographic".

Now it will finally be sold in DVD format on shop shelves after the official censor changed its mind.

Sue Clark from the BBFC said: "Given that Caligula is a film of historical interest, we felt we could pass it uncut."

Alex Agran, from the film's distributors Arrow Films, responded: "When it came back uncut, we were stunned."

Malcolm McDowell, who played the emporer in the film, said four years ago he was "outraged" by Guccione's decision to lace the film with hard porn.

He said: "I'm proud of the work I did in Caligula, there's no question about that. But there's all the raunchy stuff, the blatant, modern-day porn that Bob introduced into the film after we'd finished shooting.

"That to me was an absolutely outrageous betrayal and quite unprecedented. Frankly, it showed that Bob had no class whatsoever."


Full story.

Horrifying, though safe for work, clips from Caligula.

*Film critic Roger Ebert's judgment of the the original, uncut version.

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  1. If you take out the extra porn, it still isn’t that much of a movie. There were plenty of other things that went wrong with it.

    I don’t care, I like it anyway. The added lesbian scene is one of best lesbian scenes I’ve ever watched. Plus Helen Mirren flesh adds quality to anything.

  2. THE URKOBOLD WISHES TO ASK A QUESTION: IS HELEN MIRREN FULLY REVEALED IN THIS MOVIE?

  3. I like McDowell but he, Gielgud, Mirren, and the rest should really stop pretending they didn’t know what they were getting into. His little fisting scene at the wedding should have tipped him off from the get-go. Oh, and the fact that it was produced by, uh, Bob Guccione.

  4. Episiarch,

    I don’t know–it’s not like those actors all have had a history of doing this sort of film (don’t forget O’Toole, by the way). I think they thought they were pushing the edge a bit, but the final film must’ve been quite the shocker.

  5. Urkobold:

    Oh yeah. As well as others you wish had not been.

  6. Plus Helen Mirren flesh adds quality to anything.

    Really? Her?

  7. The added lesbian scene is one of best lesbian scenes I’ve ever watched.

    No kidding, one word, “Wow”. Christ, has it been 30 years already? Where does the time go?

  8. I saw a play of Caligula in Old San Juan, PR about 15 years ago. All of the actors were completely naked during the orgy scenes (actual sex didn’t take place though). The play took place in the courtyard of an old Spanish building; I wondered if they were cold…
    I went with some friends- one guy’s girlfriend was in the play and he was just so proud of her (and horny).

  9. Really? Her?

    No. Old Bull Lee is a freak. He probably watches Airtight Grannies.

  10. At least that level of sexual depravity makes a degree of sense in the hedonistic court of Caligula, as opposed to the dorm room of two girls who just realize they don’t have enough cash to pay the pizza delivery guy…

  11. How can anyone disparage the feather wheel?

  12. “THE URKOBOLD WISHES TO ASK A QUESTION: IS HELEN MIRREN FULLY REVEALED IN THIS MOVIE?”

    She bears her soul, if that’s what you mean.

  13. it’s not like those actors all have had a history of doing this sort of film

    O Rly? McDowell did Cat People after all. Fun side note: I have an ex who looked exactly like Ms. Kinski in that film. Watching it with her was a trip.

  14. He probably watches Airtight Grannies.

    Not sure why I Googled that. Well, I’m all grown up now.

  15. McDowell is probably the freakiest of the bunch, but no, even he probably was shocked by the final film.

  16. Epi,

    She looked like that and you let her go? Fool.

    Never seen it, but per Wikipedia, Ed Begley Jr. makes a cameo. Now that’s hot.

  17. Mirren is pretty hot for her age:

    http://images.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&q=helen+mirren+beach&btnG=Search+Images

    but it’s not like a preference I have or anything.

    You guys do realize she was in her mid-30s in this movie, right?

  18. It’s been about a zillion years since I watched that, but it was obvious that the hardcore scenes were very clumsily edited into the final cut. MacDowell & Co. certainly contributed plenty of softcore to the film, however, so his complaints ring a bit hollow.

    More on topic, it’s rather amusing that the Brits do stuff like this and then make fun of Americans for being uptight fundamentalists.

  19. “When it came back uncut, we were stunned.”

    What, they were expecting it to be circumcised?

  20. I like McDowell but he, Gielgud, Mirren, and the rest should really stop pretending they didn’t know what they were getting into.

    Some of McDowell’s scenes are worse than the hardcore footage.

  21. She looked like that and you let her go? Fool.

    Besides sharing Kinski’s looks she also shared the German-heritage nuttiness. Grandma was a psycho Hitler Youth participant (literally, from Deutchland), Uncle C. was schizophrenic, the list goes on.

    You guys do realize she was in her mid-30s in this movie, right?

    Still not impressive. Not bad, but not impressive.

  22. Yep, I think I’ve seen most, all uncut, of the films on the infamous list of “video nasties” banned by the British Courts.

  23. She looked like that and you let her go? Fool.

    Besides sharing Kinski’s looks she also shared the German-heritage nuttiness. Grandma was a psycho Hitler Youth participant (literally, from Deutchland), Uncle C. was schizophrenic, the list goes on.

    Since it involves “she”, aren’t any comments on nuttiness essentially redundant?

  24. but it was obvious that the hardcore scenes were very clumsily edited into the final cut.

    The entire movie was clumsy.

    I always thought Ebert’s “sickening” review and the “ban” gave this movie more business than it would have done without them. It’s not trash because it’s sickening and worthless, it’s a movie that tries very hard to be sicking and violent and pornographic and winds up being dull and boring. I’ve seen plenty of poorly done sick/violent and sick/porno movies and none were as completely and utterly boring as Caligula.

  25. Besides sharing Kinski’s looks she also shared the German-heritage nuttiness. Grandma was a psycho Hitler Youth participant (literally, from Deutchland), Uncle C. was schizophrenic, the list goes on.

    Ah, the German psychosis. Been there, done that. Best that you got away from her while you could.

  26. German-heritage nuttiness.

    You go for the head cases, huh? I seem to remember a shrink in need of therapy, among others?

  27. I always knew my stamina would win out in the end.

  28. Yep, I think I’ve seen most, all uncut, of the films on the infamous list of “video nasties” banned by the British Courts.

    Dude, WTF? They banned Possession? And Tenebrae but not Suspiria?

    Oh man, I had forgotten about Cannibal Apocalypse. John Saxon rules.

  29. You go for the head cases, huh? I seem to remember a shrink in need of therapy, among others?

    It seems to be head cases who do a fantastic job of hiding that they are head cases. Or I’m an idiot. Which is definitely possible.

  30. did you ever consider that you’re the common element in all this, Epi? Maybe you drive them to be headcases…

    And who are you kidding? You and SugarFree are each other’s One and Only.

  31. The trailer for Gore Vidal’s Caligula is brilliant.

    http://www.veoh.com/videos/v336120kqxq5xRN?confirmed=1

  32. You go for the head cases, huh? I seem to remember a shrink in need of therapy, among others?

    As I can attest, and Epi too I’m sure, they are by far, the most fun in bed.

    I can do one better, Epi. My ex looked like a young Jackie Kennedy with bigger tits and was half German, half Persian. Nucking Futs on a galactic scale. I still half-expect to stumble across her on an amateur porno web site one day.

    What’s the tie-in to this thread? She liked Caligula.

  33. I’m proud of the work I did in Caligula, there’s no question about that. But there’s all the raunchy stuff, the blatant, modern-day porn that Bob introduced into the film after we’d finished shooting.

    When “the work I did” includes a scene where you shoves your fist in another mans ass, then you should really avoid making statements like this.

  34. If you really want a good dramitization of the history of the Claudian dynasty go rent the BBC I Claudius mini series. It is really good and stands well to this day. If you really want some good Europorn and have a taste for Helen Mirren, rent The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover. It is a lot more watchable than Caligula and you get all the Helen Mirren you could ever want. If you really want good europorn sans Mirren, go rent The Dreamers. Eva Green is God’s gift to man. All and all, I really don’t see the point of ever watching Caligula.

  35. half German, half Persian.

    It’s like a eugenics program for unbelievably hot and completely insane chicks!

  36. If you really want a good dramitization of the history of the Claudian dynasty go rent the BBC I Claudius mini series. It is really good and stands well to this day.

    I agree. And it has Captain Picard when he was a boot ensign right out of the academy (bet you didn’t know he was that old!)

  37. Episiarch! Wrong again. Helen Mirren was no slouch. As for today, she’s aged better than just about anyone in Hollywood without major reconstruction. Although, it is true, we have the technology.

    By the way, forget about the actors. What about Gore Vidal? I’m a fan of his classical age historical fiction (Julian, Creation) and bought the Caligula novel expecting something similar. Wrong! Hard to believe how much pornographic one can make mere text. I don’t think the book was actually Vidal’s, incidentally. It must’ve been a novelization of the movie, based on the script.

  38. Nucking Futs on a galactic scale.

    The thing is that I now try to avoid the crazies because I’ve learned my lesson, but for some reason, it doesn’t work. I just end up with different kinds of crazy. Maybe it is me.

  39. Proud of his work? He may be the only person involved with that film wh would say that.

    When I first saw the move I was convinced that everyone involved, except Danilo Donati, had been deliberately thumbing their nose at Guccione. That’s especially true of Tinto Brass (who has made several films I like) and Gore Vidal.

    After reading a little bit about the making of the film, I’m convinced that’s what happened.

  40. Maybe it is me.

    No, no, it’s not you. It’s just inevitable.

    Just man up and enjoy the fringe benefits before her meds kick in. And yes, this is why god invented bourbon.

  41. I just end up with different kinds of crazy. Maybe it is me.

    I kind of hope that’s the case. Otherwise, it leaves us with the uncomfortable dichotomy of us ladies either being hot and crazy, or not and not. Not sure which sounds worse.

  42. Russ 2000 has it right. Saw the damn thing when it first came out. It was boring. Behind the Green Door was Oscar material when compared to Caligula.

  43. “insanely pornographic”.

    I would think that Ass Hunters 3 would be a little more ‘insanely pornographic’. Can one not get pornography in the UK? Or are only mainstream movies that push the boundaries ripe for banning?

  44. Otherwise, it leaves us with the uncomfortable dichotomy of us ladies either being hot and crazy, or not and not. Not sure which sounds worse

    Hot and a little bit crazy–just a little–is good. However, a little crazy unfortunately often changes into “this goes to 11”, so it’s a hard thing to find.

    For instance, Isabelle Adjani in Possession (banned in the UK!): too crazy.

  45. The thing is that I now try to avoid the crazies because I’ve learned my lesson, but for some reason, it doesn’t work. I just end up with different kinds of crazy. Maybe it is me.

    Duh?

  46. The thing is that I now try to avoid the crazies because I’ve learned my lesson, but for some reason, it doesn’t work. I just end up with different kinds of crazy. Maybe it is me.

    Maybe you’re just getting a big enough statistical sample to see the truth of the situation.

    Could be worse, you could be hooked on redheads like me.

    Concur with the bourbon comment, I do end up walking around the house about three days a week going “Why is all the rum gone?!”

  47. I think a clarification is in order. There’s crazy, which can be applied to most women, and there’s psycho, which applies to a certain class of women.

    I’ve dated psycho bitches from hell, and I think it’s important to not confuse them with the general population of women at large.

  48. go rent the BBC I Claudius mini series

    I think I was about 7 or 8 when that series came on PBS. I watched every show. I guess my parents let me watch it because it was supposed to be educational or something. I just watched it again this past month. I still get surprised when I see Derek Jacobi and he isn’t fat and limping around.

    Isabelle Adjani you say Episiarch? I think I will have to add that one to my Netflix queue. She has the kind of crazy I find irresistable.

  49. Oh, I wanted to say, along the lines of what others have said here, that I was a hormone-flooded teenage boy when Caligula came out. I saw it in a German kino that let you smoke and drink. It was really the perfect environment to see a movie like that and I hated it. It was the first time I had ever seen an “adult” movie and realized just how gross and boring they could be.

  50. I’ve dated psycho bitches from hell

    Today, we are all that guy. Agreed on the clarification.

    Psycho is fun as hell, but mercifully, flares out quickly. Crazy is a slow burn that grinds you down, incrementally and steadily, over time. My tequila and beer intake is higher than ever after 12 years of marriage.

    How did men do this before internet porn?

  51. For instance, Isabelle Adjani in Possession (banned in the UK!): too crazy.

    Until I followed your link, I thought the Gwyneth Paltrow movie was being referred to. No tentacle creatures in that one, though.

    We (blech) Millennials have so much to catch up on.

  52. We (blech) Millennials have so much to catch up on.

    I would say that it would be far better for us to make our own disturbingly pornographic movies. Much more fun for the producers and it would greatly speed the gradual amnesia that will finally save us all from the horrors that the Baby Boom generation unleashed upon us all. And really, who *doesn’t* want that?

  53. “I agree. And it has Captain Picard when he was a boot ensign right out of the academy (bet you didn’t know he was that old!)”

    He had hair back then to. He was the perfect Sejanus. I read both of the Graves novels and loved them. Usually when I like a book I can’t get into the movie because the characters in the movie just don’t match my expectations. I can’t watch any of the BBC versions of All Creatures Great and Small for this reason. I just love the characters too much and can’t tolerate seeing them differently than I imagine them to be. But I Claudius hit it perfectly. Every character in the series is exactly or close to exactly how I imagined them in the book.

  54. I liked both the Graves’ books and the BBC series. However, Livia almost certainly was nothing like the character in the book. Augustus, if anything, was more ruthless prior to marrying Livia than after. Still, Graves did a great job, and quite a bit of his story is historically accurate.

  55. Graves did a great job, and quite a bit of his story is historically accurate

    Because he ripped off Suetonius as much as he could. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Suetonius is like The National Enquirer of the Early Empire.

  56. “However, Livia almost certainly was nothing like the character in the book.”

    Livia was evil in the book. She was a shrew who poisoned Germanicus and everyone else between Tiberious and the thrown. The only good thing Claudius says about Livia in the entire book was that she always made appointments to the provinces on the basis of merit. That is it. In every other sense, she is an evil shrew.

    If there is any character that deviates from the book to the series it is Augustus. Augustus is a complete dolt in the series. In the book he is more formidable but still totally dominated by his evil wife.

  57. Sorry, John, I wasn’t clear. What I meant was that the historical Livia was nothing like the Livia in the book or in the TV series.

  58. Pro,

    Making Livia so obviously evil is the one real liberty Graves took with the history. He did it I think to make a better story. The coniving matriarch and the dottering hen pecked patriarch makes for a good story. Also, both Setoneus and Tacitus hint at Livia being guilty of the crimes Graves accuses her of, they just don’t offer any proof. So, it might be true or Livia might be a victim of slander. We will never know. But Graves doesn’t give Livia any worse of a treatment than Procopius gave Theodora.

  59. Augustus clearly did some bad things and blaming Nancy Reagan–I mean, Livia–for his crimes is a way of not directly condemning the Deified Augustus.

  60. Psycho is fun as hell, but mercifully, flares out quickly.

    Psycho isn’t always fun as hell. It starts out fun, and then when you find yourself in a surreal setting being interrogated by police by no fault of your own… let’s just say that psycho loses its charm.

  61. Most likely, the real people in the Julio-Claudian dynasty were very little like they were portrayed by Suetonius and Cassius Dio. Ancient historians not only had political axes to grind, but purposely created exaggerated accounts for purposes of entertainment and moral instruction. The modern concept of historiography was basically foreign to them.

    Further, Suetonius and Cassius Dio wrote many decades after the fact–over a century, in the case of Cassius Dio–and were working from secondary sources themselves. The primary sources on Caligula are limited.

  62. “Most likely, the real people in the Julio-Claudian dynasty were very little like they were portrayed by Suetonius and Cassius Dio.”

    I think that goes a bit too far. Yes they were writing for entertainment, but they were not that far removed from the events. They could certainly get away with exaggeration but only to an extent. It is difficult to imagine that they could have portrayed Nero or Caligula as they did had both of them been sane, competent rulers. Was Germanicus the irreproachable figure that Tacitus makes him out to be? Considering that is progeny included both Caligula and Nero, I highly doubt it. But he was most certainly a good soldier and well thought of by the Romans at the time or Tacitus couldn’t have held him up to such high esteem and still been believed.

    I think the characters in Tacitus and Cassuius Dio are probably a lot like the Hollywood versions of Kennedy or Roosevelt are today. Dramatized but with a central kernel of truth.

  63. Could be worse, you could be hooked on redheads like me.

    Yeah, I’ve got that problem too.

    If we ever meet, I’ll buy you a pint and we can swap crazy Redhead stories.

  64. Dagny T. wrote:

    I kind of hope that’s the case. Otherwise, it leaves us with the uncomfortable dichotomy of us ladies either being hot and crazy, or not and not. Not sure which sounds worse.

    In my case, I seem to be attracted to a bundle of qualities that seem to be highly correlated with craziness.

    And in my most recent folly, that also included her having an Internet handle take from an Ayn Rand novel. So you could be hot and crazy. Just sayin’.

  65. Hot and a little bit crazy–just a little–is good. However, a little crazy unfortunately often changes into “this goes to 11”, so it’s a hard thing to find.

    For instance, Isabelle Adjani in Possession (banned in the UK!): too crazy.

    Oh, yeah. Too crazy even for me in that one. And that’s coming from someone who thinks most of Asia Argento’s roles are just the right amount of crazy.

  66. Helen Mirren was no slouch. As for today, she’s aged better than just about anyone in Hollywood without major reconstruction.

    She amazingly made Ayn Rand hot. ‘Nuff said.

  67. And that’s coming from someone who thinks most of Asia Argento’s roles are just the right amount of crazy

    My friend is friends with Dario and he was doing a documentary on him during the filming of Two Evil Eyes. Asia was there as a kid and is in some of the pictures–and she has a huge honking schnozz. She must have gotten a nose job.

  68. If you really want some good Europorn and have a taste for Helen Mirren, rent The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover. It is a lot more watchable than Caligula and you get all the Helen Mirren you could ever want.

    Unfortunately, the Region 1 DVD of The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover is out of print and going for upwards of $60 used on Amazon. Fortunately, I bought that DVD right before it went OOP.

    For the record, Mirren is sexiest when evil, as in John Boorman’s Excalibur.

  69. And in my most recent folly, that also included her having an Internet handle take from an Ayn Rand novel. So you could be hot and crazy. Just sayin’.

    Franklin Harris,

    Not to put too fine a point on it, or anything, eh? 😉

    Yeah, (perhaps unfortunately) I suspect that is where I fit in on that continuum.

  70. Oh man, I had forgotten about Cannibal Apocalypse. John Saxon rules.

    I met Saxon last year. He’s a lot shorter than you’d expect, only an inch taller than me.

  71. “Malcolm McDowell, who played the emporer in the film, said four years ago he was “outraged” by Guccione’s decision to lace the film with hard porn.”

    I know I would be totally fucking stunned if Bob Guccione, of all people, decided to put porn in a film.

  72. I could have sworn that Helen M got completely nekkid in that movie. Maybe I’m just thinking of the end, where Caligula was carrying her corpse down the street and her lady parts were flapping in the breeze. It’s been a long time since I saw it.

    John Saxon’s face disturbs me. He’s weird looking.

  73. Helen Mirren is nude in Caligula, breasts, at least. But you are confusing the end of the film with the scene earlier on, when Caligula drags around the naked corpse of his sister, played by Teresa Ann Savoy, who also starred in another Tinto Brass film, the 1976 Nazisploitation flick Salon Kitty.

  74. Trailer For a Remake Of Gore Vidal’s Caligula

    NSFW, but funny. Saw it for the first time at the Whitney’s Biennial. Also when I uttered the line “A naked chick eatin’ cornflakes? Now that’s art!” and caused my brother-in-law to run into a sculpture with his face. (Sculpture unhurt, face unimproved.)

  75. Often when guys generalize women and dismiss them as crazy or mentally ill, it’s just a cover for having been dumped by them. What probably happened was that Epi’s hot foreign psychologist girlfriend wised up to his bullshit misogynistic attitude and dumped his ass. I bet that’s what really happened.

    It’s ok, Epi, now you have a network of other pathetic guys here on the internet who will decry and bash women and their sinister and insane ways alongside you, in lieu of a girlfriend. Cold comfort, but it’s something.

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