"Caligula" is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful
trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more
shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this
travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after
two hours of its 170-minute length. That was on Saturday night, as a line of
hundreds of people stretched down Lincoln Ave., waiting to pay $7.50 apiece to
become eyewitnesses to shame.
wanted to tell them ... what did I want to tell them? What I'm telling you now.
That this film is not only garbage on an artistic level, but that it is also
garbage on the crude and base level where it no doubt hopes to find its
audience. "Caligula" is not good art, It is not good cinema, and it
is not good porn.
never had anything against eroticism in movies. There are X-rated films I've
enjoyed, from the sensuous fantasies of "Emmanuelle" to the pop-comic
absurdities of Russ Meyer. I assume that the crowds lining up for admission to
the Davis Theater were hoping for some sort of erotic experience; I doubt that
they were spending $15 a couple for a lesson on the ancient history of Rome.
I can say is that the makers of "Caligula" have long since lost touch
with any possible common erotic denominator, and that they suggest by the
contents of this film that they are jaded, perverse and cruel human beings. In
the two hours of this film that I saw, there were no scenes of joy, natural
pleasure, or good sensual cheer. There was, instead, a nauseating excursion
into base and sad fantasies.
have heard that this is a violent film. But who could have suspected how
violent, and to what vile purpose, it really is? In this film, there are scenes
depicting a man whose urinary tract is closed, and who has gallons of wine
poured down his throat. His bursting stomach is punctured with a sword. There
is a scene in which a man is emasculated, and his genitals thrown to dogs, who
eagerly eat them on the screen. There are scenes of decapitation, evisceration,
rape, bestiality, sadomasochism, necrophilia.
scenes -- indeed, the movie itself -- reflect a curiously distanced
sensibility. Nobody in this film really seems to be there. Not the famous
actors like Malcolm McDowell and (very briefly) Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud,
whose scenes have been augmented by additional porn shot later with other
people and inserted to spice things up. Not the director (who removed his
credit from the film). Not the writer (what in the world can it mean that this
movie is "Adapted from an Original Screenplay by Gore Vidal"?) Not
even the sound track. The actors never quite seem to be speaking their own
words, which were so badly dubbed in later that the dialogue never seems to be
emerging from the drama itself.
film even fails to involve itself in the action. "Caligula" has been
photographed and directed with such clumsiness and inelegance that pieces of
action do not seem to flow together, the plot is incomprehensible, the events
are frequently framed as if the camera was not sure where it was, and
everything is shot in muddy, ugly, underlit dungeon tones. The music Is also
what are we left with? A movie, I am afraid, that may be invulnerable to a
review like this one. There are no doubt people who believe that if this movie
is as bad as I say it is, it must be worth seeing. People who simply cannot
believe any film could be this vile. Some of those people were walking out of
the Davis before I did Saturday night; others were sitting, depressed, in the
lobby. That should not, I suppose, be surprising.
human being is a most curious animal. often ready to indulge himself in his
base Inclinations, but frequently reluctant to trust his better Instincts.
Surely people know, going in, that "Caligula" is worthless. Surely
they know there are other movies in town that are infinitely better. Yet here
they are at "Caligula." It is very sad.
friendly recommendation is that they see "The Great Santini," to
freshen their minds and learn to laugh and care again in a movie. People learn
fast. "This movie," said the lady in front of me at the drinking
fountain, "is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen."