Caligula, the Untold Story


by Tuna

Reviewing the Region 1 DVD.

One morning, Caligula (David Brandon), decides to rape virgin Fabiola Toledo in front of her boyfriend. When she tries to stab him, he kills both of them. This pisses off Laura Gemser who was close to the girl, so Laura decides to infiltrate the palace and kill Caligula. Meanwhile, he is planning a little urban renewal and needs cash investors, so he throws a fundraising party, and recruits a bunch of women, including the vestal virgins, Laura Gemser, and Ulla Luna to put the guests in a giving mood. Caligula falls for Gemser, and she in turns falls for Little Boots and elects not to kill him, after realizing that all of Cali's random killing and raping is just because he's misunderstood or something.

And they live happily ever after.

OK, I'm kidding. There isn't much room for a happy ending in a Caligula movie.

This was Joe D'Amato's attempt to capitalize on the publicity caused by the release of the other Caligula film created by his rival Tinto Brass. Yes, Caligula is suitably nasty here, but Gemser slept through a role in which her character arc made no sense to begin with and her change of heart was utterly inexplicable. The weak narrative might have sufficed for an exploitation film, but there are no real guilty pleasures to speak of in this truncated version of the film. There is not that much nudity or simulated sex, and the gore is mostly implied.

To top it all off, the poor quality of the film is compounded by an abysmal DVD. The English dub is awful and this is one of the worst transfers I have ever seen, obviously having been created from a poor VHS copy. To compensate for the poor quality, the producers attempted to oversaturated the transfer to such an extent that there's more bright pink and robin's-egg blue than a baby shower on Easter morning.

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Reviewing the German Region 2 DVD.

Tuna reviewed this film in the edited version on a 4:3 DVD mastered from a video tape. The uncut German DVD is a significantly different product, which alleviates or eliminates the problems Tuna identified:

1. Tuna noted that the DVD was possibly the worst of all time. The German version almost completely eliminates the problems he identified. I say "almost" because the uncut version was cobbled together from at least two different sources, perhaps three. Some scenes are ugly, but 80% of the scenes, perhaps more, are fine. The good scenes have not been brilliantly cleaned up like some of the old films we've reviewed, but they are presented in legitimate DVD quality, and the entire film is presented in a theatrical widescreen ratio. There is one problem with the DVD in that the fill-in portions are only available in Italian while the vast majority of the dialogue is in English, assuming you choose the English audio. (Two other choices are available.) It is distracting when the film switches from English to Italian with English subtitles, but one must understand the desire of the DVD producers to present the most complete version possible. By the way, it's kind of odd to see Caligula speak Italian in those scenes, because the actor who portrayed the mad emperor was English and obviously performed in English. Remember that Italian movies of that era were normally recorded without live sound and post-dubbed, so the actors just spoke whichever language they preferred, since all sound was added in post-production.

2. Tuna noted that the film had very little sex, gore, or nudity, and no debauchery at all. That is certainly not the case in the expanded version. (See the nudity report.)

There is also some explicit gore. One woman is beheaded on camera, for example, and a guy gets a giant pike rammed up his butt and out his chest. (The anal penetration is not shown, but the camera does not pull away until the last possible second, as the pike is just about to disappear into his anus.)

3.  Laura Gemser's character arc probably makes a little more sense in the longer version, given that her change of heart occurs immediately after the tender sex scene between Laura and Caligula, which seems to have been cut from the shorter version, judging from Tuna's captures. But her behavior still defies all logic.  Laura co-operates with the assassin, leads him to Caligula's bedside, allows him to raise his knife - then kills the assassin herself. Why did she change her mind? Just because Caligula threw her a good fuck? If so, why did she allow the assassin to get close enough that she might not have been able to stop him? Why not just call Caligula's bodyguard when the assassin first appeared in the palace? The only explanation which will allow the viewer some peace of mind is that she was apparently intending to go through with the assassination of Caligula until the very last second, then changed her mind.  Frankly, I didn't buy it. I think the writer was just inserting a moment of artificial suspense when the audience thinks Caligula is about to get offed. The screen shows a flashing blade, and blood ... and the body falling to the ground ... the audience thinks Caligula has been stabbed ... but it is then revealed to be the wrong guy, followed by a cut to Gemser with the bloody blade. It's not a bad scene at all, but completely inconsistent with behavior we might reasonably expect from Gemser's character.

One other item requires a passing notation. Caligula tries to pass some of his murders off on the "Christians." First of all, it is unlikely that the historical Caligula would have been aware of the sect at all. The emperor died only a few years after Christ himself, and the religion had by then gained no traction. Second, the Christian pictured in this movie was not Jewish. At the time of Caligula's reign, Paul had not yet begun preaching to the gentiles, and Christianity was still exclusively a sect of Judaism. Third, even if Caligula had become aware of the presence of the new religion, he would not have known them as Christians. That term was first used in Antioch during the great famine, which took place circa 45-48 A.D., some time after Caligula's death. (See Acts 11:26.) Our primary source of information about the lives of Caligula, Claudius and Nero comes from The Twelve Caesars, written by Suetonius. It appears that neither Caligula nor Claudius took any note of the Christians because there is no mention of them in the Suetonius work, by any name, until the reign of Nero.



notes by Tuna

  • Laura Gemser shows breasts.

  • Fabiola Toledo does full frontal while being raped standing with her back to a tree. That must have a 6X degree of difficulty, raping a virgin standing up.

  • Ulla Luna shows breasts as well.


notes by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It is important for you to realize that Tuna's nudity notes refer only to the highly edited version of the film which appears on the Region 1 DVD. The uncut and X-rated original is far naughtier.

The running time on the German DVD is 125 minutes in PAL format, which translates to 130 minutes in real time. That's about 25 minutes longer than the version Tuna reviewed, and all the additional material is sex and gore. Most of it consists of four long scenes before and during Caligula's big orgy. In the preliminary scenes, first the soldiers review the women who apply to be in the orgy, a process which mainly consists of lifting their skirts, then the candidates are forced to bathe naked, then one of Caligula's minions conducts a pleasure-giving class for the females who have been selected for orgy duty. The lesson includes a BJ on screen and many naked, masturbating women. In the actual orgy, just about every type of sexual act is shown on camera, including about a dozen BJs, cunnilingus, and penetration from many angles. It also has a dwarf with a hard-on, as was required in all sleazy European movies of that era. The highlight, if you want to call it that, is a plump woman masturbating a stallion on camera.

The explicit acts are all performed by unnamed extras, but Ulla Luna and Laura Gemser both do lower frontal nudity in the unrated version. The bad news is that there isn't that much additional nudity from the principals. Laura does have one additional sex scene with Caligula, but it is relatively inexplicit. In both of the sex scenes between Gemser and the emperor, the lion's share of the nudity consists of Caligula's butt. For such a depraved guy, he sure liked the missionary position! The good news is that the footage we do have of those women is in pretty good condition, a massive improvement from the version Tuna screened.


There are no major reviews online. (Or, to my knowledge, offline.)





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is an:


F for the Region 1  transfer of this film, which is incompetent in every possible way.

C for the German Region 2 release, assuming that the genre is Eurotrash sex movies. If you like vintage Italian sleaze, this film has lots of sex and flesh and sadism - and doesn't look bad at all! Throw in Laura Gemser, and it's not a bad overall package. You have to view it as a sex film, however. It would be an E as a costume drama. There's nothing to recommend it except the sleaze, which is why Tuna rated the other (sleaze-free) version an F, after adjusting the score further downward for the inept mastering of that particular DVD.



3.5 IMDB summary (of 10)


You do NOT want this.

Bottom of the barrel.

* full screen

* poor transfer

* no features



What you do want is this, the Region 2 DVD from xPloited Cinema. (I have ordered from them many times, and they are a reliable company.)