Caligula (1979) - Three-Disc Imperial Edition

Genre(s): Drama / History
Image Entertainment || NR - 156 minutes - $39.99 || October 2, 2007
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2007-11-08

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Tinto Brass
Writer(s): Gore Vidal (screenplay)
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Teresa Ann Savoy, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole

Theatrical Release Date: February 15, 1980

Supplemental Material:
  • Extended Version (156-Minutes)
  • Cut Version (102-Minutes)
  • Actor Commentary
  • Actress Commentary
  • Penthouse Spokesman Commentary
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • My Roman Holiday with John Steiner
  • Caligula's Pet: A Conversation with Lori Wagner
  • Tinto Brass: The Orgy of Power
  • The Making of 'Caligula'
  • Behind the Scenes Footage
  • Still Galleries
  • Cast and Crew Bios (DVD-ROM)
  • 2 Versions of Gore Vidal's Screenplay (DVD-ROM)
  • Penthouse Featurettes (DVD-ROM)

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby 2.0)
  • Subtitles: NA

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.::THE FILM::.

I think most people who know who Caligula is have at least heard of or seen the now infamous film based around the life of this Roman Emperor. The movie has become a cult classic for its lavish sets, over the top acting and of course, un-simulated sex. The film financed by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione which made for a very graphic and explicit film. The film itself was set to be directed by Italian director Tinto Brass but when Guccione was not getting what he wanted, he took over. As a result, the film is filled with graphic sex, incest, rape, castration, orgies.and that's only a small taste of what the film depicts.

Looking at the names involved, one would assume that the film would be an epic along the lines of a David Lean or Cecile B. Demille film: a script by Gore Vidal and a cast that includes Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren. Unfortunately, all the acting takes a huge backseat as the film's wild and explicit sex scenes take over. To Tinto Brass' credit, he actually wanted to try and make a film that wasn't as graphic. Tinto Brass has even said: "I wanted to make a film about the orgy of power and instead it became a film about the power of the orgy." Not liking where the film was going, Guccione took over and added several scenes of graphic sex and sent over his "Penthouse Pets" in order to "spice" up the film. As a result, we get nothing more than just hardcore 2 hour epic porn with really nice sets and costumes.


Though the film itself is a waste of time, the DVD producers put together a very nice 3 DISC package.


The first disc of the DVD includes the extended 156 minute version of the film that includes all the explicit scenes added by Guccione.


The second disc includes the cut that most people have seen. Many of the hardcore scenes and inserts shot by Guccione were removed.

Also included in the second disc are three individual audio commentary tracks. Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren provide separate commentaries about their experience on the film. Both say that they had no idea that the film would end up being remembered the way it was. Both Mirren and McDowell also say that working with director Tinto Brass was a pleasant experience. Both commentaries (especially McDowell's) are great to listen to because they are filled with stories from the set that likely no one has ever heard. The third commentary is from Penthouse spokesman Ernest Volkman. This commentary track is also interesting because we get to hear from the Penthouse side of the story. Not surprisingly, Volkman spends a great deal of time defending Guccione.

The second disc also includes 48 minutes of deleted/extended scenes. Some of the scenes include "Tiberius' Grotto," "Bordello Ship" and "Macro's Execution." The scenes are in black and white and color but no dialogue is included.


My Roman Holiday with John Steiner is a 24 minute look at the experience of actor John Steiner in Italy as an actor. Steiner had a supporting role in Caligula as Longinus. Steiner spends most of his time being bitter about the whole filmmaking process with Caligula which makes this extra quite annoying by the end of the 24 minute running time.

Caligula's Pet: A Conversation with Lori Wagner is a similar extra to the Steiner one. Wagner spends 28 minutes describing her experience with Caligula. Wagner is much more honest and even admits that she would have done anything just to be famous and on camera.

Tinto Brass: The Orgy of Power is perhaps the most interesting extra on the 3 disc set. Brass spends 34 minutes talking about how his film was butchered and the fact that he had no idea what Guccione was doing behind his back. Brass is very candid about all the fighting and ego's that came along with all the big names involved with the film.

The Making of Caligula is an extra that is split into two parts. The first is an hour documentary from 1981 that discusses the controversy the film created. Guccione spends most of his time defending the film and even calls it "art" multiple times. The second part is a 10 minute featurette also from 1981 that covers more of the production aspect of the film.

The DVD also comes with almost 90 minutes of behind the scenes footage from the film. They are split into numerous categories such as "Pets arrive in Rome," "John Gielgud in make-up" and "Tinto Brass directing."

Finally, the DVD comes with still galleries and a number of DVD ROM extras. Cast and crew bios, 2 versions of Gore Vidal's screenplay and several Penthouse featurettes are among the extras one will find on the DVD ROM.


The film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and actually looks fairly good for an almost 30 year old film. I never saw the video transfer on the 20th Anniversary Edition but I would assume that the DVD producers did improve from the original transfer.

The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is fairly good for a film of this nature. Some of the bass is a little weak in areas of the film but nothing too distracting.


While the film itself is not really worth watching (unless you want to see hardcore porn), I still have to praise the DVD producers for putting together such a nice package. The 3 disc edition is complete and includes special features from all facets of the filmmaking process. Caligula the film is certainly not worth watching but one has to admit that the circus surrounding the film is fascinating. Its rare that a special edition DVD spends more time talking about the failure and controversy of a film versus all the success and fun they had making it.