Lilith Likes to Watch - Caligula

Title: Caligula
Year: 1979
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren, Teresa Ann Savoy
Director: Tinto Brass, Giancarlo Lui, Bob Guccione
Synopsis: Details the graphic and shocking, yet undeniably tragic story of Rome's most infamous Caesar, Gaius Germanicus Caligula. -via IMDB
Lilith's Notes: Big budget film conceived by the founder of Penthouse Magazine. Banned in several countries.
NOTE: My copy ran 2 hours and 35 minutes.

This is a toughy.

I had seen this movie before years and years ago, on the basis that, at the time A Clockwork Orange was one of my favourite movies. That first time, I was full of booze. Thus I barely remember any of it. This second watching, I was considerably more sober.

You have to admire the work that went into this movie. The sets and costumes are amazing. The acting is pretty top-notch for what it is, and the cast have great chemistry with one another.

There's quick sequence involving a goblet where Tiberius, sick and bearing sores from some STD, offers Caligula a drink. Peter O'Toole is so quick and oddly slick that it's a very fun 10 seconds of film.

The loving and sexual relationship between Caligula and his sister Drusilla is very well crafted. They appear to genuinely love each other, despite the blood relation.

Yet the film is over-long, and the pacing is weird. We never really get a sense of Caesonia's --Helen Mirren's character-- feelings toward Caligula, her husband. Does she love him? Does she love his power? Does she only want the throne for herself? She doesn't show any dislike toward Caligula and never actively plots against him but we're told Caesonia is bad news and would make a terrible wife, but she's dutiful and encouraging through the entire movie. If she has dissent, she keeps quiet about it.

There's some inventive sex, including a push-peddle powered cunnilingus device and enjoyable lesbian scenes, as well as coy simulated sex. The simulated sex is much more well done than other movies I've recently watched and reviewed. It's a pet peeve I didn't know I had until recently. This blog is a journey of self-discovery, apparently. The orgy scenes both drag on too long but also end too quickly. It's difficult to explain, and very vexing.

There's a scene where Caligula orders the senator's wives and daughters to be fucked in a brothel aboard a boat (which, at the time was the most expensive prop ever built for any film.). None of the woman are bothered by this. They're not arguing, they're not shy, they're not weeping. They all willingly, enthusiastically submit to be whores while their husbands stand by and chat among themselves of how Caligula has gone too far this time!

It zooms through the last 25 minutes, which is strange because it kept a fairly good pace the first half of the film.

Overall, Caligula is a pretty, expensive, over-long movie that's shorter than I remember when I first watched it. I understand why it's a cult-classic and you have to respect it for the guts and hubris it took to make this film. Whatever it is, it's undeniably art.

LILITH'S SCORE: 4/5 - Really good. Watch it.

NEXT TIME: We continue this trend of known names staring porn with Party at Kitty and Stud's AKA The Italian Stallion.