Caligula (Italian: Caligola) is a 1979 erotic historical drama film focusing on the rise and fall of the Roman Emperor Caligula. It stars Malcolm McDowell, Teresa Ann Savoy, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole, John Steiner and John Gielgud. It is the only feature film produced by the men's magazine Penthouse. Producer Bob Guccione, the magazine's founder, intended to produce an explicit pornographic film with a feature film narrative and high production values. He also cast Penthouse Pets as extras in unsimulated sex scenes filmed during post-production by himself and Giancarlo Lui.
Guccione hired screenwriter Gore Vidal to draft the film's script and Tinto Brass to direct the film. Brass extensively altered Vidal's original screenplay, leading Vidal to disavow the film. The final screenplay focuses on the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely". However, both Brass and Vidal disagreed over Guccione's use of unsimulated sexual content, which Brass refused to film. Because the producers did not allow Brass to edit the film, they changed its tone and style significantly and added hardcore sex scenes not filmed by Brass, thus turning Caligula into a pornographic drama that disregarded the director's intentions to present the film as a political satire. As a result, Brass also disavowed the film.
Caligula's release was met with legal issues and controversies over its violent and sexual content. Its uncut form remains banned in several countries. Although reviews were overwhelmingly negative (though McDowell's performance as the title character and O'Toole's performance as Tiberius were praised), Caligula is now considered to be a cult classic in retrospect, and its political content is considered to have significant merit.
After discovering that Caesonia is pregnant, Caligula suffers severe fever. Drusilla nurses him back to health. Just as he fully recovers, Caesonia bears him a daughter, Julia Drusilla. During the celebration, Drusilla collapses with the same fever he suffered. Soon afterward, Caligula receives another ill omen in the form of a blackbird. Despite his praying to Isis out of desperation, Drusilla dies from her fever. Initially unable to accept her death, Caligula suffers a nervous breakdown and rampages through the palace, destroying a statue of Isis while clutching Drusilla's body.
Malcolm McDowell as Caligula
Teresa Ann Savoy as Drusilla
Helen Mirren as Caesonia
Guido Mannari as Macro
Patrick Allen as Macro (English dub voice) (uncredited)
John Gielgud as Nerva
Peter O'Toole as Tiberius
Giancarlo Badessi as Claudius
John Steiner as Longinus
Paolo Bonacelli as Cassius Chaerea
Joss Ackland as Cassius Chaerea (English dub voice) (uncredited)
Leopoldo Trieste as Charicles
Adriana Asti as Ennia
Mirella Dangelo as Livia
Richard Parets as Mnester
Donato Placido as Proculus
Osiride Pevarello as Giant
Anneka Di Lorenzo as Messalina
Lori Wagner as Agrippina
Bruno Brive as Gemellus
Paula Mitchell as Subura Singer
Davide as Caligula's horse (uncredited)