The Many Versions Of “Caligula”!
This is one of the most notorious films ever released for many reasons, like the fact that an all-star cast of Oscar winners finds themselves in a xxx-rated film!
First, let’s look at the trailer for the 1979 film, which is for the R-rated version – just one of several cuts that were ultimately created, and we will discuss them all…
Now, the story behind one of the most notorious films in movie history!
Here is the plot:
“The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign – he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of England before meeting an appropriate end.”
Malcolm McDowell chews up the scenery in the film, which also starred such legendary Actors as Peter O’ Toole and Sir John Gielgud!
Helen Mirren also starred in the film, which was the first mainstream movie produced by the Publisher of Penthouse magazine…
The Many Cuts Of “Caligula!”
Here is where the story of “Caligula” gets even more fascinating: there are various versions of the film, ranging from the “R”-rated version which was heavily edited to remove a lot of sex and graphic violence…
There is also the legendary 160-minute “hardcore” version of the film, where xxx-rated sex scenes were added to the movie long after production had finished!
The film was always intended to be a graphic look at this controversial leader, and the film’s original Director Tinto Brass had a long history making “softcore” erotica – but this went even too far for him!
What happened was this: Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione added hardcore sex scenes into the movie – long after the original cast had finished filming – so those very big name Actors had no idea the film was being turned XXX-rated!
Acclaimed writer Gore Vidal did not want credit for his work on the screenplay, and legendary Actors Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud claimed to have been unaware hardcore sex footage was being shot for the film.
So, Was The Film “Disowned” By The Creators?
Even though the Actors had no idea what was happening behind-the-scenes, apparently the film’s creative team wasn’t upset because of the sex.
Here is great trivia courtesy of IMDB:
“Despite popular beliefs, Gore Vidal and Tinto Brass did not disown this film because Bob Guccione inserted hardcore sex and graphic violence sequences and changed the point of the film.”
In reality, only five or six minutes of the 156-minute version of the film was part of Guccione’s reshoot – that five or six minutes consists of the lesbian tryst in the secret room, and several inserts in the imperial bordello scene.
So Why DID They Disown It?
So, if not for the added sex scenes, what upset the creative team so much?
According to IMDB:
“Gore Vidal disowned the film because Brass and lead actor Malcolm McDowell changed the point of view of his screenplay. Brass disowned it because Guccione locked him out of the editing room (some in the industry suspect it was because Brass didn’t want to use Guccione’s hardcore inserts) after assembling the first 40 minutes of the film.
Guccione then proceeded to edit the film himself, but he often chose shots that were never meant to be included (the many zooms, out-of-focus shots, etc.), and also cut up certain scenes and put them in the wrong order.”
Hear The Inside Story!
Now you can hear exactly what happened here, by some of the stars involved!
In 2007, Image Entertainment released a 3-disc special edition known as the Imperial Edition. It features two cuts of the film, the 156-minute print and a new edit created from an alternate pre-release version which re-arranges some scenes and does not include most of the explicit sexual inserts added by Guccione (a few shots were left in by mistake and various outtakes from Brass’ shoot and a handful of 16 mm behind-the-scenes footage were used to fill in for the deleted material).
Both Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren take part in a full-length audio commentary, discussing the non-hardcore, pre-release version of the film – the film they THOUGHT they were making…the DVD also includes interviews with Tinto Brass, who discusses the film’s hectic production and botched editing; and Penthouse Pet Lori Wagner, who discusses the addition of the hardcore footage, including the lesbian sex scene in which she participated.
There is also a booklet included with the 3-disc set includes a discussion of the many different versions of the film, and states that a significant amount of footage remains unaccounted for – this movie should be studied in film school as a classic example of “crazy gone wild” – and with so much behind-the-scenes information and commentary, here is a ton to study!
Helen Mirren has gone on to Oscar glory, but she has other, very provocative films on her resume as well – see them all by clicking on my story here:
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Let me know if you’ve seen any or all of the various versions of “Caligula!”