Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Caligola: La storia mai raccontata (1981)

...aka: Caligula: The Untold Story
...aka: Caligula II
...aka: Caligula 2: The Untold Story
...aka: Emperor Caligula
...aka: Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story
...aka: Garden of Taboo, The

Directed by:
Joe D'Amato

The violent, sexually graphic and big budgeted historical epic CALIGULA (which was produced by Bob Guccione of Penthouse Magazine fame) was neither a critical success nor a box office hit upon release, but it made so many international headlines throughout production that the low-budget, mostly European copies began right away. Many of these actually managed to beat their controversial cousin (which began filming in 1976, but didn't get released until three years later) to theater screens. This one, from well-known Italian sleaze director D'Amato (using the alias "David Hills" here) isn't one of the earlier ones but is likely the closest actual copy out there. Like the Guccione film, it's tasteless, overlong, gory, loaded with sex (some soft, some hard) and sexual perversity and was released in many altered versions for different international markets, including an R-rated cut missing over 20 minutes that was first unleashed to video here in America. Unlike the Guccione film, it's low-budget; completely lacking the grandiose sets, elaborate costumes and a "respectable" star-studded cast, yet it still manages that cheaply efficient shock the director is best known for.

David Brandon (as "David Cain") has the title role, as the insane, sadistic and sanctimonious Roman emperor who spends his time cooking up ways to humiliate and mutilate innocent people. After foiling would-be assassin Domitius (Michele Soavi), having him crippled and his tongue cut out, he and his lover Messala ("Oliver Finch"/ Luciano Bartoli) rape and kill virginal Livia (Fabiola Toledo). Though they blame the murder on others, Livia's confidant Miriam (Laura Gemser) knows what really happened and vows revenge. She has her opportunity when Caligula puts together a brothel full of beautiful women (mostly religious women dragged in against their will) to service wealthy senators he wants to help finance a pet project. Miriam, no stranger to sapphic love but still technically a virgin, deflowers herself with a dildo before God to prepare herself for the things she'll have to do in order to get closer to the emperor. But right as she's in a good position to strike out, she ends up falling for him.

What you'll see here, technically speaking, is generally unimpressive. The director also shot the film; opting for darkly lit interiors and soft-focus exteriors. Carlo Maria Cordio does provide an eerie score and there are appropriate costumes, but ancient Rome isn't meticulously brought to life via architecture and art direction. In fact, much of the action is filmed outdoors (in the woods, a beach, a cave...) to deliberately avoid all that. Though there's plenty of full nudity and soft-core sex, the hardcore is relegated to just two scenes; where the ladies have to practice their craft on a Greek soldier and during the brothel scene that follows, all of which use extras (likely Euro porn stars). Said brothel scene goes one step further than CALIGULA ever did, though, by having a graphic scene featuring a lady and a horse. We also get Caligula killing a newborn infant by flinging it against a wall and a memorably disgusting bit where men are killed by having metal poles shoved up their asses.

The cast includes Charles Borromel (MONSTER HUNTER), Gabriele Tinti (Gemser's husband) and Mark Shannon (EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD). The director, who also co-scripted with "Larry Franks" (George Eastman), was a big presence in 70s and 80s Euro exploitation world until he switched his attention to hardcore in the 90s. In that arena, he revisited the Roman themes again with CALIGULA: THE DEVIANT EMPEROR (1997) and other titles. The full uncut version of the film runs 125 minutes, though the UK release is just 86 and the R-rated U.S. version is 92.



CavedogRob said...

This was a very informative review although I'm not quite sure if I want to see the movie!

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

You're not missing much. I'm not a big fan of the big-budget Caligula either to be perfectly honest.

kontoculai said...

I think I should watch this just because Laura is in it...

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