Thursday, September 21, 2006


Caligola (Caligula)


Director: Tinto Brass, Additional Scenes Directed By: Giancarlo Lui, Bob Guccione, 1st Assistant Director: Piernico Solinas, Script: Gore Vidal, Masolino D'Amico, Additional Dialogue: Bob Guccione, Giancarlo Lui, Story: Gore Vidal [uncredited],Treatment: Roberto Rossellini

Country; Italy & America

Duration; 102 mins [UK - video] 115 mins [USA - R-rated version] 143 mins [Argentina; Australia; USA - erroneously listed on laserdisc sleeve] 146 mins [Norway; Sweden] 148 mins [USA - 1990 re-release; laserdisc - erroneously listed as 143 mins on the sleeve] 150 mins [UK - theatrical] 156 mins [Australia - uncut version; USA - unrated versions] 157 mins [Italy] 210 mins [version shown at Cannes]

The Players; Malcolm McDowall [Caligula]John Gielgud [Nerva]Peter O'Toole [Tiberius] Helen Mirren [Caesonia]Teresa Ann Savoy [Drusilla]Guido Mannari [Macro]Giancarlo Badessi [Claudius]Bruno Brive [Gemellus]Adriana Asti [Ennia]Leopoldo Trieste [Charicles]Paolo Bonacelli [Chaera]John Steiner [Longinus]Mirella D'Angelo [Livia]Richard Parets [Mnester] Paula Mitchell [Subura singer]Osriride Pevarello [giant]Donato Placido [Proculus]Anneka di Lorenzo [Messalina - uncredited]Lori Wagner [Agrippina - uncredited]Gerado Amato [uncredited]Patrick Allen [voice of Macro - uncredited]Eduardo Bergara Leumann [high priest - uncredited]

Alternatives; Caligula, My Son - UK advertising title Io, Caligola - Italian title Caligola - Italian title
Available; Image DVD - 156 minute version
Original Ratio;
DVD Ratio; 1.85:1
Colour*Dolby 5.1*English Language*

''What would you have done if you had been given absolute power of life and death over everyone else in the whole wide world?''


Caligula was to peplum as Night Porter was to sadiconazista. Both movies cemented a staple format for a ‘hybrid’ genre that emphasised the extremities in sex and violence as they were in Ancient Rome.

This flawed classic has suffered merciless cuts and silly re-marketing until finally the full complete version turned up stateside on a pristine 20th Anniversary edition,courtesy of Image Entertainment. Finally a maligned, unique and opulent epic, that took 4 years in the making, got the star treatment and care it duly deserved.

Assholes! To the prudish critics that take the piss out of it and big shame to the actors that revile it, they are so wrong and should be proud of their participation. I’ll tell you why….

First and foremost we have a superb script by Gore Vidal that is partial historical fact, for a change, adding credibility to the story. Vidal later requested his name be removed from the movie when what was finally revealed wasn’t exactly in keeping with some of the original.

Secondly we have a grade A list of acting wealth, the lead played fascinatingly and impishly by Malcolm Mcdowell. The gorgeous Helen Mirren plays Caesonia with a sophistication, charm and a ravenous libido, unfortunately though she doesn’t seem to live up to her ‘whore of Rome’ infamy as she doesn’t put it about much.

Although brief, Peter O’Toole ‘decays’ very well as the sore addled Tiberius and poor John Gielgud performs well despite him seeming somewhat ill-at-ease. The only slight disppointment is that of Teresa Ann Savoy, she seems a bit out of her depth in such a major part. She's just as wooden as her appearence in Brass' other sadiconazista foray 'Salon Kitty'.

However she is not shy when it comes to nudity or dodgy themes so credit where credits due and I glory in her pluck for doing what she did. Compared to some of the modern day actors and actresses Savoy seems oscar worthy anyway.

Thirdly there are the wonderful sets and magnificent visual design, perfectly grandiose and features rapturous bold colours igniting the screen where necessary.

Fourthly, and controversially, there is nasty violence and hardcore interludes that don’t seem out of place. One sequence featuring a Roman soldiers’ march inter-cut with fellatio, culminating in the moment of ejaculation, is one of the most powerfully erotic sequences I have ever had the delight in viewing.

I could also mention the superb soundtrack used throughout featuring verbose classical pieces and pounding drums that accommodates the power and sheer lavishness of the time perfectly.

The sexual freedom one witnesses in the lavish orgies and in the beautiful lesbian sequence is positively uplifting. As Tinto Brass has taken so much care in nearly every frame and set piece this does not denigrate the sequences into the smutty throw away porn category.

Brass also brings such magnificence to the screen with long shots that concentrate on the epic proportions and the very punchy cuts that can go from gentility to gruel in an instant, a bit like the mad emperors state of mind.

When this cut occurs it provides a kick to the senses as well as leading the viewer into insecurity as to what to expect next. This is one of the keys that I’m sure unlocks the door to what it is that makes the proceedings such engrossing viewing.

All of it is stunningly cinematographed including the rude- making them outstanding moments of hardcore finery. Guccione, Brass et al, wanted to serve the cinema going public a dish of warts and all ancient decadence and has achieved this on every level.

Some of the celebrities were allegedly unaware of the ‘smuggling in’ of several hardcore actors and actresses on set; once the production had ceased, so the premier must have been very interesting.

The majority of the time naked people wander around in different scenarios putting nudity into the background as the intrigue becomes dominant in the fore.

The set for Tiberius’ ‘realm’ features not only lurid hetero couplings but a bit of bestiality involving an eel, glimpses of the most oddest sex toys in action and what seems to be real and sfx freaks getting it on.

Apparently in ancient Rome people with disabilities of all manners were highly sought after and paid handsomely by Tiberius to add to his ‘unusual’ collection.

The scenario resembles something Hieronymus Bosch may have come up with if he was in charge of the lens; as beautiful as it is twisted, with the exception of the soldier who drank too much, I’ll leave you to find that one out.

Another superb sequence has to be the decapitation machine which seems to make you laugh and wince at the same time.

Caligula really has so much going for it and really hooks you but only in its full version.

Channel 4 tried to screen it on national English TV and bless them did their best. Instead of showing the hacked to oblivion region 2 release available on the u.k high streets they screened as much as they could, slowing down sequences to cover up the hard core and still maintain the running time.

It’s sad really, I can comprehend why on national television this is the case but not on their (at the time) pay per view channel on digital which has its’ own parental control.

For those that think Caligula is a bit of glossy smut or a bit of a bore – think again.

Penthouse financed the movie and attempted, bravely, to bring hardcore to the mainstream and add spice to the sword and sandal sagas. Unfortunately, just as the other peplum of the 60’s, Caligula took a battering from the critics and wasn’t the success it thought it could become.

The film begins with the plotted death of Tiberius as we see Caligula and his bodyguard Macro strangle the old perv with a piece of black chiffon.

Thus Caligula’s’ despotic reign begins, with his new founded position Caligula indulges in varied depravities.

Some of these are totally cold and cruel as it seems anyone who highlights the nutty emperors’ insecurities just by the way they look or who they are, are mercilessly executed in the most horrible and gruesome of ways.

The motivation behind some of Caligula’s demands lies purely with his sister Drusilla, who the emperor is having a relationship with. As it is illegal in Rome to wed brother and Sister Caligula marries Caesonia in order to provide a healthy son and heir.

Caligula contracts a deadly fever and is nursed to health by his sister. Unfortunately Drusilla falls ill and dies from it.

Caligula goes completely loopy imposing ludicrous demands on his citizens and his advisors as well as turning the senates’ wives into whores of the republic (including the gob smacking results displayed on screen for your delectation – the notorious imperial bordello!).

These actions act as a fatal catalyst and from here after Caligula and his family spiral into a vortex of despair and madness until their brutal demise.

These are glimpses into a totally unique movie, shrouded in unjust controversy and unnecessary criticisms that we will never see the like of again.

A decent DVD extra worthy of note, is the documentary which features edits from the final cut including one excised sequence where Caligula bashes a senators head open with a sledgehammer. The documentary was previously available on one of Penthouses’ compilation laserdiscs.
It provides insight into the construction and development of the hardcore sequences as well as brief interviews with the cast; Mirren seductively stating the movie to be ‘an irresistible mixture of art and genitals!’ is a classic moment – how I shuddered!

The documentary is titled Gore Vidal’s Caligula and features him passionately talking about the character and how he interprets it. Guccione also says his piece about what motivated him to embark on such a venture. This is interesting to see especially when one reads varied reports on how sour things turned.

The film still packs a bit of a punch and has aged considerably well considering its’ 26 year old vintage – an exploitational peplum classic.

Buy this from this link – it’s worth every penny.

Check out the IMDB’s trivia about the movie, there’s enough stuff in here of interest to keep the fact hungry fiend occupied for an autumn evening ! Fascinating reading of a fascinating film.


Caligola : La storia mai raccontata (Caligula II : The Untold Story)


Director & Writer; Joe D'Amato (as David Hills) & George Eastman
Country; Italy
Duration; 125 mins (Original film aspect ratio; 2.35:1)
Available; DVD Region X Rated Kult Video Region 2
Colour *WIDESCREEN*English Dub (some of the footage pops into italian with english subs)

Caligula II: The Untold Story/ Caligula: The Untold Story (UK) /Emperor Caligula (Italy) /Emperor Caligula: The Garden of Taboo (USA) (video title)/Imperatore Caligula, L' (Italy) (alternative title) /The Emperor Caligula: The Untold Story (USA)

The Players; David Brandon (Caligula) / Laura Gemser (Miriam) / Gabriele Tinti (Marcellus Agrippa) / Sasha D'Arc (Ulmar)/ Michele Soavi (Dimitius) / Ulla Luna (Clizia) / Charles Borommel (Petreio) / Larry Dolgin (Cornello Varrone) / Oliver Finch (Messala) /Alessandro Freyberger (Ezio) / John Alin (Tullio Gallio)

Cashing in on Bob Guccione/ Tinto Brass original venture into tits and toga comes this unofficial sequel courtesy of the stalwart of sleaze - Joe D’Amato.

D’Amato released the film in 1981 utilising the same poster art of the bleeding coin which can now be arguably heralded as an icon of exploitation cinema.

D’Amato had already bought other wonderful unsavoury delights including one of my favourite movies and one of his all time shockers ‘Emanuelle in America’ so we can already guess what sort of experiences lays in wait for the thrill seeking viewer.

Sword and Sandal now joined forces with sex and gore as cash-in’s flooded the market and attempted to bring in more Liras.

Diverting from the ideals of conventional ‘wholesome’ heroics and fabled beasts, the emergence of these types of film ensured a no holds barred approach was the order of the day.

Graphic orgies, xxx hardcore inserts, bestiality, court skulduggery and blood thirsty perversion replaced the safety mood of 50’s/ 60’s peplum for an early 80’s European audience. Under the dark guidance of D’Amato he takes the shocks and adds his own unique atmosphere of nihilism and brutality.

The lead is played by David Brandon who pouts his way through the mis-en-scene. I wouldn’t compare him to Malcolm McDowell’s interpretation as although the content in plot is similar the actors and production values are not.

Brandon plays the mad Caesar with believable conviction murdering ruthlessly anyone who shows the slightest insubordination. Brandon on the whole seems more pervier than his predecessor and is more hands-on than Mcdowell.

Taking into consideration the actor probably had a little less to lose is perfectly understandable. I thought, in a certain light and angle, Brandon is more ‘fitter’ too. He comes across as an exploitational ‘Rupert Everett’ so all in all isn’t bad to look at and cuts the mustard thesp wise.

The lucky bugger has a roll around with Gemser too and although neither engage in the hardcore performs intensely erotic. My ideal threesome?

The delectable nymph Laura Gemser, turns up as a retributive moor woman intent on Caligula’s demise after his ruthless rape and murder of her close friend.

Gemser also adds warmth and mood to the show as well as a grace on screen, perfectly counteracting some of the rough and tumble elements she is embroiled in or privy too.
Gabriele Tinti her real life husband, also stars as Marcellus Agrippa and loses none of his charisma even though his role is non-Emanuelle orientated.

I like Tinti, I think he’s cool. I feel his 70’s ‘flim-flam’ panache was so important to the black Emanuelle genre but as the emphasis was mostly on Laura, I feel he plays second fiddle and his contribution can be overlooked at times. When you think of it he appeared in the majority of Gemsers’ outings so in my opinion deserves just as much kudos.

In the opening montage of sequences we get a feel of what is to come as Livia, a pure Christian virgin is violated and murdered by dagger via Caligula. This is witnessed by her boyfriend who also gets the sword in the gut treatment.

This is a major error that starts the demise of the Caesar. Livia is a well respected citizen of the Moor and Christian faith communities and her boyfriend was the son of a powerful senator. To get out of the shit Caligula blames the massacre on the Christians but due to their gentle nature (???) this is disputed.

Miriam, a close friend of Livias’ wants to get the truth and seek revenge for her death. After offering her virginity to a god, courtesy of an ebony dildo, she then infiltrates the Roman palace to find out who the culprit was and annihilate him.

She soon wises up to the fact that it was the Caesar himself. She gets put on the whore A-list and attends a lavish orgy where she seduces the nutty emperor. Caligula, who becomes besotted, is totally unaware that she will be in fact his nemesis.

Like the original movie we then witness a spiral delirium until justice prevails against a backdrop of madness, intrigue, treachery, crimson splatter and hardcore sex and violence.

D’Amato does what he does best and brings us a platter of debauchery. The orgies feature xxx fellatio and penetration, wild gourmand experiences filled of vomit, fornication and dwarves (yes they do appear the same size in other areas despite the stature).

The most notorious, but not that graphic, is the horse wank sequence. Just when you thought you had enough of Pedro he crops up again, sexually tended to by a harsh looking slut.

In one hilarious sequence where the women are being harvested for the grand banquet this poor lass pleads with the transvestite recruiter that she can take part in the orgy. ‘I’ll do anything’, she says, ‘o.k. - horse and dogs’ is the reply, in a weird way I kind of felt a bit sorry for her.

How the octogenarian got into the orgy proceedings over her is beyond me, I felt queasier seeing the old woman get her rocks off with a young roman than the horse sequence itself to tell the truth. Pure adult freak shows!

Caligula 2 has something for everybody and doesn’t seem to want to calm down either. Other jaw drops on display are the sword up the rectum and out of the chest sequence where a family head is cruelly slaughtered for pissing off the Caesar, then the family takes their turn and much of the same grimness ensues.

A novel way of dealing with vestal virgins is another sleazy sequence and poor Demitius’ (played by future Italian horror director Michele Soavi) demise involving a tongue cutting and a tendon slicing also makes you wince.Though his attentiveness by the well endowed and aptly named Cliz('ts)ia is a worthy distraction it must be said.

Another very bloodthirsty but enjoyably twisted piece of direction have the guests and the orgy participants going about their usual bodily fluid exchanges whilst two gladiators fight. The gladiators have a spiked glove each and proceed to beat the shit out of each other for the guests’ enjoyment.

As the attendees gorge and generally act depraved they are intermittently splashed with gouts of blood as every blow creates a paint brush flick of crimson. The guests carry on regardless, a perfect marriage of sex and violence that delights the exploitation hound and more than likely the director, but would have moral, bleeding hearts in a total lather.

Despite the gruel Caligula 2 manages to be highly watchable and addictive viewing just like its infamous father. It has a skill of enthralling you as to what might happen on screen next.

As soon as this film was in the can the sets were used for two hardcore pornos’ also shot by D’amato using the same performers, ‘Messalinas’ Imperial Orgasm’ and ‘The Virgin of Imperial Rome’. What an entrepreneur this guy was !!

Despite the cost cuts the sets and costumes don’t look cheap fortunately and really this is the only thing it lacks when compared to the original understandably so without Penthouse’s backing.

This isn’t crude trash just exploitation done well based on history. For crude trash I would favour checking what’s playing at your local cinema currently, there seems to be these by the bucket loads.

I can safely say avoid the region 1 version, all hardcore footage and other controversial footage has been omitted.

I cannot wait for the day Synapse / Blue Underground genre-dedicated companies can get their mitts on this for distribution. Despite the region 1 edition hinting that this version is full length on the cover, this is in fact utter bollocks.

You are presented with the cut 101 minute dub in comparison to the 125 minute German buy. Unfortunately as in the original merciless hack, by removing certain footage dumbs down the impetus of the narrative. It cruelly reduces the proceedings down to mediocre costumed melodrama proving the sex and violence are imperative additions to the plot.

Historically Rome was one of the most sophisticated but bloodthirsty and sexually liberated of societies my argument is – why can’t it be seen as such irrespective of un-admirable intention?

Remember they (Intermedia video) comment on the ‘unrated’ edition on the DVD not an uncut and uncensored edition. With the dubious, for a film of reasonable scarcity, price tag of bargain basement status, I really didn’t anticipate very much in the first place.

The print quality is crap too, taken from a fuzzy, washed out VHS copy, clumsily transferred with the eyes on the dimes than on the customer.

The best version to see is the region 2 limited edition disc set courtesy of X Rated Kult Video in Germany who has brought us a scrumptious print with all the naughty and violence intact. This can be procured on this link.

The edition is a 2 disc set and despite the pull on the on the purse strings is a worthwhile purchase.

Never expect to see this in the u.k and even when it eventually does surface the print will be as violated and hacked up by our strict censors as any Roman citizen in the plot ever was.

Remember with this one, buy German, buy tamper free – thank you for that. You have made a legion of fans very happy indeed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


The Lion of Thebes


Director & Writer; Giorgio Ferroni / Andrei de Coligny / Remigio Del Grosso / Jean Kelter
Musical Score; Francesco de Masi

Country; Italy and France
Duration; 89 mins (Original film aspect ratio; 2.35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark Home Video
Colour *FULLSCREEN*English Dub*

Hélène, reine de Troie, Lion de Thèbes, Le, The Lion of Thebes

The Players; Yvonne Furneaux (Helen of Troy), Mark Forrest (Aryan), Massimo Serato (Tutmes), Pierre Cressoy (Ramses), Rosalba Neri (Nais, Fiancee of Ramses), Carlo Tamberlani (Menophis), Alberto Lupo (Menelaus)

The Lion of Thebes is another decent outing by Ferroni which is highly adventurous and visually pleasing but that said - it does have its flaws. Don’t think you’re going gaga when watching Thebes as the action footage that featured in Ferroni’s The Trojan Horse and Hercules vs.the Moloch crop up here also.

I think if the scenes had been crap in the first instance I would find it to be a bit of a let down but because they are so well cinematographed it doesn’t really irk me much.

Ferroni creates a vibrant colourful Egypt and uses his trademark long-shots with the utmost respect for the surrounding area and its naturalistic beauty.

Mark Forest considers this to be one of his best performances and his favourite film he worked on. He admittedly does a decent job at bringing the hero ‘Aryan’ integrity and depth.

As ‘The Trojan Horse’ Ferroni uses this movie as a vehicle for the male lead and somehow brings out their individual talents. I have to say that this is accomplished so well, giving both actors freedom and scope changing the characters from the ‘stereotyped’ muscle heads to emotional, thoughtful heroes of myth.

The film follows, of sorts, ‘The Trojan Horse’ with the two protagonists Aryan and Helen of Troy fleeing the carnage carried out by their Greek victors.

Both wander, injured and dazed through the barren desert with the intention of settling in Thebes.

They find it a frying pan/ fire scenario as things aren’t too harmonious with
Egypt as Lower and Upper are locked in conflict. Both Pharaohs are intent of controlling both regions without compromise.

It’s not before too long Helen and Aryan are eventually captured by Rameses.

Ramses takes a shine to the beautiful Helen back at his courts; this does her know favours as she automatically gets up the nose of the bride to be Nais.

The Pharaoh is assassinated and the blame is anchored at the two new arrivals. The culprit is in fact the ruthless Tutmes.

Further court intrigue results in the two characters being separated. Helen is condemned to death via a crushing slab whilst Aryan is given over to the harsh existence of mortal combat.

Eventually both areas break their patience and with the current murder adding fuel to the fire a resulting war breaks out.

As Aryan becomes embroiled in the carnage at Thebes he is embroiled in deadly conflict where he has to save his own skin as well as ever nearing to saving that of his lover.

Unfortunately unlike Ferronis’ other forays into peplum this is done on the cheap and at times looks it. Lots of Gaudiness is chucked into the polychromatic whirlpool creating interesting but slightly vulgar set pieces, resembling an odd hybrid of ancient legend with wal-mart interior design.

The exterior sequences, as mentioned before are exceptionally handled but flaws in the interior shots. The desert could have had more time applied to it and lacks arid atmospherics to build up the tension a bit.

Despite a handful of poor-do’s The Lion of Thebes saves itself as being wholly entertaining with credible all round performances form the cast. A mention is also necessary with regard to Albert Lupos’ interpretation of Menelaus, it’s a show stealer.

Part of the region 1 TRIMARK box-set this little gem can be viewed in a good strong colour print but lacks the overall finesse as the print is disappointingly standard and not the original widescreen.

The U.K region 2 markets remains ashamedly barren of these peplum treats and The Lion of Thebes scarcity sadly reflects it.




Director & Writer; Giorgio Ferroni
Country; Italy and France
Duration; 105 mins (Original film aspect ratio; 2.35:1)
Available; DVD Region 1 Trimark Home Video
Colour *FULLSCREEN *English Dub*

Guerre de Troie, La, The Trojan Horse, The Trojan War, The Wooden Horse of Troy.

The Players; Steve Reeves (Aeneas), John Drew Barrymore (Ulysses), Juliette Mayniel (Creusa), Edy Vessel (Helen), Lydia Alfonsi (Cassandra), Warner Bentivegna (Paris), Luciana Angelillo (Andromache), Arturo Dominici (Achilles), Mimmo Palmara (Ajax), Nerio Bernardi (Agamemnon), Nando Tamberlani (Menelaus) Carlo Tamberlani (Priam)

After Steve Reeves ‘confident’ performance of Hercules he swapped characters, fortunately as well as this Reeves also changed his acting ability making his character of Aeneas one of his finest cinematic moments.

Previously in 1956 Robert Wise gave us ‘Helen of Troy’, although the production values were decent it concentrates more on the love aspect. The Trojan Horse seems to focus primarily on the psychology of the characters involved.

This makes the plot very interesting and gives Reeves enough scope to steal the show.

Despite its age the film knocks spots off any CGI monstrosity with Brad Pitt. Hollywood should stick to producing what they do best – vacuous shit like ‘Snakes on a Plane’ and avoid remakes and imitations of better films.

Due to the lack of CGI, we have a spectacle of imagination. This makes a refreshing change as Computer Generated Imagery looks impressive but on the whole is too overblown to be remotely credible.

The sets on display meticulously replicates the feel of ancient Greece and with Ferroni behind the camera brings Virgil’s written word to life with applaudible joie de vivre.

Ferroni brings his colour cinematography to us with such gusto, utilising the wonderful landscapes of Yugoslavia, Italy and France.

Some of the battle sequences filmed in long shot are awesome but due to the ratio we can only glimpse what would be a totally thrilling widescreen vista.

This is a super little movie and is possibly one of the best out of the Trimark box set, I couldn’t get enough of this one and time seemed to swish by me as I was so engrossed.

Of course, and with most peplum, this is a differing version of events from the original tale but one has to accept that this is part of the genre therefore we shouldn’t rely too heavily on using this as an accurate mythological reference guide.

I would hope none of us would sincerely be as thick as that in the first place.

I could mention the differentiations but it is far too boring and I would rather focus on the film based upon its own unique merit.

Set against a backdrop of the Trojan War the film focuses on Aeneas who is the representation of Virgil. It is through his wise eyes we witness this notorious piece of history.

Disillusioned by the constant bicker and bloodshed Aeneas wants an end to the wars after putting up with such carnage for the past 10 years.

Due to his close friendship with King Priam and the other rulers of importance he is pitted against the jealousies of Paris and Helen, both bitter and twisted portrayals due to the degeneracy in their love for each other.

Also at odds with Aeneas are the meritorious characterisations of Achilles, played by euro-fringe actor Arturo Dominici and John Drew Barrymore grabs a toga to play the dominant Ulysses.

The movies other strength definitely lays with the top brass supporting cast, fundamental for the intense chemistry that weaves amongst the main players.

The only nag is Achilles death happens, in my opinion, far too soon. The arrow in the heel that causes his demise is one highlight of many however.

On retrospect many characters fade from the narrative; Agamemnon, Menelaus and King Priam also suffer the same quick vanish.

As the roles are performed with such memorable conviction, this makes such events all the more noticeable.

Definitely worth the box set price alone which can be obtained from this link. This simply has to be one of sword and sandals’ finest hours.