“Caligula, the ultimate cut”, cinema made madness

“Caligula, the ultimate cut”, cinema made madness

A critic’s job is to choose the best angle for his column, but what do you do when the re-release of a film allows for several? Well, let’s not deny ourselves the pleasure of reviewing them all… because this “Caligula”, with its Sardanapalesque sets by Tinto Brass, is a film like no other, and deserves a review like no other.

One: the film and its aura of mystery and scandal. Produced by the publisher of Penthouse magazine, but with a cast of renowned actors (Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole in the role of Tiberius), this peplum, which logically has no problem showing nudity in the orgy scenes, went way over budget, took several years to release and was – in its first version – X-rated. It must be said that pronographic scenes had been sneaked in by the director. As a result, all those who were fed up with American puritanism flocked to theaters.

It’s said that the producer of “Caligula”, when he arrived on the set (in Rome) and saw everyone as naked as a worm, quickly realized that this was also a far cry from the original script by, pardon the pun, Gore Vidal. In France, the 2024 re-release is strictly forbidden to under-16s, but parents are reassured : your children can still easily watch free porn videos 24 hours a day on their cell phones. And in secondary schools, they can continue to be taught gender theory rather than the decadence of the Roman Empire.

Two: Malcolm McDowell. Few actors are fortunate enough to have played in two cult films, but McDowell has had two tours de force: Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and this “Caligula” (1979). A large part of this film rests on his stunning acting from start to finish. Because it’s very hard to play madness: it’s like a cheese soufflé or mayonnaise: one wrong dose and it either falls off, or doesn’t take. With the likes of Klaus Kinsky or Denis Lavant, you’re never disappointed. Next to Malcolm McDowell, even Depardieu seems calm.

Three: McDowell plays a complete madman. Caligula: four years of reign, four years of insane acts… which we won’t spoil, to let you enjoy these three breathtaking hours to the full. In any case, if you don’t mind the blood and ass in “Game of Thrones”, or if it adds to the beauty of the thing, you’ll be on familiar ground. The editing is based on a treasure trove of 90 hours of dailies (a dazzling budget, as we told you), the lighting and camera movements are regularly stunning… and the music has been modernized… a sort of eerie infrabass that underscores just what’s being filmed.

After watching this film, you’ll want to take a look at the Wikipedia entry for the emperor to whom Camus dedicated a play, and play the “what’s true? what’s invented?” game. Whether you’re a fan of ancient history, fa, great cinema or both, this is a must-see film.


French release date: june 19, 2024

More informations : http://www.bacfilms.com/distribution/fr/films/caligula

Jean-Marc Grosdemouge