Peter O Toole
Co-financed by Penthouse magazine and lasting over 2 and a half hours, this insufferably boring attempt to combine authentic cinema and erotica is worthless trash that's good only as, well, just that... trash. It's the type of campy schlock that might be so bad its good had you the patience to even sit through it (NOTE: its stars include Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, and Peter O'Toole... unbelievable!). Personally, I just wanted it to end. And as it went on, I found myself growing depressed at my inability to become offended by the filth onscreen. This is likely due to the scenes being handled in such a shoddy and blasé manner, which also applies to the sexually explicit material. During the course of the film, here's a brief rundown of what takes place (almost all of it in lingering close-ups):
Urination on dead bodies
If I'm making the film sound intriguing, you'll have to excuse me. It's not. The thing is so poorly slapped together that even with the pretentious attitude that clearly went into making it, it barely registers as "amusing." It's a colossal failure in every way—as an experiment, as erotic entertainment, and most of all, as a genuine piece of cinema.
If nothing else, pick up this film for the second disc, where star Malcolm McDowell and Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren offer separate but equally captivating commentaries.
As for the packaging, it comes in a very nice and sturdy cardboard foldout case that could easily convince the uninitiated that CALIGULA must be an epic masterpiece to receive such a classy treatment.
Unrated, Uncensored Theatrical Release: There's a separate R-rated release of the film on DVD (running 102 minutes), but this here's the original 156 minute version, including all those X-rated money shots. I don't know why you'd care about the other release though, since without its controversy, this film is nothing.
There are also three Theatrical Trailers.
Alternate Pre-Release Version: This slightly shorter cut of the film (152 minutes) is the pre-release cut, giving a slightly more accurate interpretation of what director Tinto Brass had in mind before Bob Guccione (Penthouse founder) came in and altered it.
Audio Commentary (with Malcolm McDowell): One of the best commentaries I've ever listened to. You often see movies where the actors have let slip their distaste for what happened behind-the-scenes, but hardly ever do you get to hear them openly discuss it on the DVD. Here you get that chance, and it's enthralling.
Audio Commentary (with Helen Mirren): Mirren isn't quite so sour over the CALIGULA experience as McDowell, but she's just as interesting to listen to. The only downside here is the dead air that creeps in between comments.
Audio Commentary (with on-set writer/reporter Ernest Volkman): Recorded over the phone, this track from a Penthouse writer is mildly interesting, but after hearing the thoughts of McDowell and Mirren, it's almost an unnecessary addition.
Deleted & Alternate Scenes (47:51): These audio-less scenes (with added background music) feature long, lingering shots of nudity and sexual acts that were originally assembled for Tinto Brass' version of the film.
The Making of Caligula: Documentary (1:01:46): Brought over from the film's 20th Anniversary Edition, this featurette was made while everybody involved in the production were still on good terms with each other (including writer Gore Vidal, who removed his name from the production). It's a hilarious, overly serious look at CALIGULA and its so-called "importance."
My Roman Holiday with John Steiner (24:14): A discussion with English actor John Steiner about his career and his horrible experience on the set of CALIGULA, where he played the lead character's advisor.
Caligula's Pet: A Conversation with Lori Wagner (28:18): This Penthouse Pet of the Century discusses her involvement in the film, and her onscreen pissing scene.
Tinto Brass: Orgy of Power (34:26): Subtitled in English, this recently recorded interview has the gruff Italian director explain what happened to his original vision of the film.
The Making of Caligula: Featurette (9:55): Vintage promotional material.
Behind-the-Scenes Footage (1:07:00): Raw, silent footage shot by the crew. Worth wading through.
Finally, there are some Still Galleries.
Miscellaneous: As an added bonus, there's a 14-page booklet all about CALIGULA and its amazing history.