I've heard that Gore Vidal's original script for the cinematic monstrosity known as "Caligula" was a pretty dull, straightforward historical piece. But at least it wasn't porno, which is what it turned into after Penthouse kingpin Bob Guccione, rumors say, decided he wasn't happy with the first cut. Consequently, the name Gore Vidal is now linked to two of the worst "major" movies ever--the other being "Myra Breckinridge," adapted from his novel. Now that I think of it, Malcolm McDowell hasn't been in too many decent movies since either.Of course, no movie that contains a scene featuring Malcolm McDowell vomiting in slow motion can be all that bad. Okay, I'm lying--it really is that bad. Like a lot of awful exploitation flicks, "Caligula" is alternately revolting and tedious. The boredom comes whenever the proceedings veer, briefly, into straight drama; this kind of "power corrupts" message has been done far better elsewhere, and, let's face it, McDowell just isn't convincing as a Roman emperor.
But mainly, "Caligula" is a deeply unappetizing mix of sex and violence. The former provides much unintentional comic relief, as hard-core scenes are incongruously dropped into the movie out of nowhere--a sure sign of post-production tampering. Fans of outrageous cinema (you know who you are) may find merit in the mass decapitation scene, in which a giant lawn mower shears off the heads of some unfortunates buried up to their necks in the ground...but, trust me, it's not something you really have to see.
This ghastly mess goes on for about 2 1/2 hours, whereupon patient viewers are treated to an abrupt, tacked-on ending and a most beautiful sight: the credits.It doesn't even qualify as good camp. If you want porno, do yourself a favor and dig up those old Radley Metzger flicks.