Caligula: Mastur(bation)piece Theatre

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caligulaI don’t usually take my movie watching cues from Larry Flint, et al, but last month’s Penthouse alerted me to a special occasion that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.  This year is the 20th anniversary of “Caligula”.

I haven’t been much for historical epics since Mel Gibson ruined Hamlet for me, but this was different.  I had a vague recollection of hearing references to “Caligula” here and there.  It was always something indicating that the movie was taboo or offensive or inappropriate.  After recently watching it, I can assure you, it is all three and then some.

My curiosity got the better of me, and I put “Caligula” on my Netflix list, at the top of my queue.  (Sorry Mandy Moore and John Krasinski, you’ve been bumped.)

“Caligula” opens with the title character, Gaius Caligula (Malcolm McDowell), cavorting around the forest with the lovely Drusilla (Teresa Ann Savoy).  This may have been unremarkable save that underwear was clearly optional, giving us a prime view of Drusilla’s lady bits, and the fact that Caligula and Drusilla are brother and sister.  Oh, but that’s only the beginning, folks.

For the next two and a half hours, I watched what can only be described as “Hostel” meets “Clash of the Titans” meets every 1970s porno in existence.  I can’t say I’m a big fan of Bob Guccione’s freshman filmmaking effort, but it does take a certain artistic insight to combine that much gore, camp, and oral sex into one historical biopic.

Maybe the most remarkable thing about “Caligula” isn’t the anal fisting, fellatio, Sapphic cunninlingus, or even that lovely circle jerking scene where Ennia (Adriana Asti) gets covered in male ejaculate.  What strikes me is the cast associated with this movie.

A top player in “Caligula” is, of course, Malcolm McDowell.  This isn’t quite as much of a stretch as the others – have you seen “A Clockwork Orange”?  MM is sort of known for his strange choices.  Helen Mirren, on the other hand, is not.  That’s right. Oscar-winning actress and Queen Elizabeth portrayer Mirren plays Caligula’s wife, who also happens to be the most infamous prostitute in town.

To add to the illustrious cast, we have Sir John Geilgud, an Oscar winner known for his performances in myriad historical films.  Geilgud plays Nerva, friend and assistant to Caligula’s predecessor (and Grandfather), Emperor Tiberius Caesar.  Who plays the mighty emperor you ask?  That would be Peter O’Toole, eight time Oscar nominee and respected actor.

A movie that depicts well-respected actors and actresses, 20 years younger, weaving their craft among piles of writhing naked bodies engaged in various sinful orgies is…surprising.  I mean, the lesbian carpet munching scene shot in 6x zoom was shocking in itself; I didn’t expect it in a movie starring “The Queen”.

So, if you’re interested in bloody, pornographic Penthouse Pet promotion with a quasi-accurate historical twist, give “Caligula” a try.  Since watching “Caligula”, it’s interesting to see the additional movies that Netflix is recommending to me.  “Based on your rental of Caligula, we would like to recommend ‘Naked Torture Part 8′”.  I’m convinced that my name is now flagged in some FBI database somewhere.  Thanks a lot, Helen Mirren.

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