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This lavish big-budget epic was the pinnacle of a uniquely Italian subgenre, the historical hardcore gore/porn extravaganza. The star-studded cast, perhaps lured by the high-profile involvement of producer Bob Guccione and screenwriter Gore Vidal, includes such luminaries as John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, and Helen Mirren. Director Tinto Brass, whose similar treatment of Nazi Germany in Salon Kitty won him the job, did his best with the mammoth enterprise, but numerous production problems and re-edits took their toll on the finished product. When Caligula works best, it works because of Malcolm McDowell, whose crazed portrayal of the title Emperor is the embodiment of villainous corruption. McDowell raises his performance level to match the gaudy spectacle around him, which led to charges of overacting, but there are moments when he is absolutely riveting.

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ID4160GM Caligula The Unrated Edition DVD (1979/Malcolm McDowell/Helen Mirren) $19.99 $18.99