Written by Gore Vidal, the famed U.S. novelist and playwright, Caligula was originally a project ala BBC's 1976 miniseries I, Claudius, and was picked up by Penthouse owner Bob Guccione. The basic plot of Caligula is to trace the events of the short-lived decadent Roman emperor, the adopted grandson of Emperor Tiberius, who ruled the empire for four years between 37 and 41 AD. From the moment he ascends to the throne as Emperor, Caligula enforces a reign like no other, as power and corruption transform him into a deranged beast whose deeds still live on as some of the most depraved in history. Caligula is a reputedly faithful cinematic depiction of the historical events of Caligula's Rome, including the astounding decadence, sex, and debauchery that marked his reign. Financed by Penthouse Magazine magnate Guccione, who was accused of inserting hard-core sex scenes after completing photography with the impressive and esteemed cast of British actors. Contains graphic sex and violence. (Gary Reber)
Special features on Disc One include the unrated, uncensored theatrical release (156:00) and the alternate feature (153:00) sans the hard-core sex footage; the theatrical teaser (SD 1:09) and R-rated trailer (SD 1:01); an alternate pre-release version; audio commentary with Malcolm McDowell, moderated by Film Writer Nick Redman; audio commentary with Helen Mirren, moderated by Film Writers Alan Jones and James Chaffin; audio commentary with Ernest Volkman; and 12 deleted and alternate scenes: Tiberiius' Grotto, Satyrs, Nymphs & Little Fishes, Killing Tiberius (Unfinished Workprint Edit), Tiberius' Deathbed (Extended), Caligula's Counsel With Longinus, Drusilla Comforts Caligula, Proculus Runs The Gauntlet, Macro's Execution (Extended), Death Of Drusilla (Alternate Angeles), Arriving On the Bordello Ship, Bordello Ship, and Temple Of Jupiter. Disc Two (DVD-ROM) contains the standard-definition extras, including My Roman Holiday with John Steiner (24:21); Galigula's Pet: A Conversation with Penthouse Pet of the Century Lori Wagner (28:19); Tinto Brass: The Orgy Of Power (34:27); The Making Of Caligula documentary (61:45) and featurette (9:56); behind-the-scenes footage (35:00); still galleries; press kit notes; and cast and crew biographies. Also included is a 14-page booklet covering the making of the film, its history, post production tampering, repairing the movie, and the retitled "Io Caligola" version released in Italy with material that does not exist elsewhere.
The 1080p AVC 1.96:1 picture is by far the finest version of the film presented on a home medium. Noise and film grain permeates throughout, but previous artifacts, such as specs and flickering, are not noticeable. Resolution is decent for a film shot in the late 1970s, with generally soft focus and a dark design. Colors are warm, with rich hues. The cinematography and lavish set designs are haunting and captivating, often feeling like a stage play. This is a colorful spectacle of a picture that has the feel of a second-rate motion picture print. (Gary Reber)
Except for the opening symphonic orchestral music, the repurposed DTS-HD Master Audioô 5.1-channel soundtrack lacks a LFE .1 signal, thus the credit is limited to 5.0 channels. The film was originally released in monaural, which is not available as a setup option, only Dolby Digital 5.0. The repurposed DTS version dramatically enhances the experience. The music score is terrific and very thematic. The orchestra is spread to the stereo and, at times, the surround channels, providing effective envelopment. But most of the time the surrounds are absent a signal. The dialogue has a slight shift to the right front channel, when played in stereo without the center channel lock. pseudo stereo effects, at times, are effective and enhance the scene they occur in. Overall, this is a dramatic improvement over previous editions, providing a better experience. (Gary Reber)