The 1979 pornographic period piece Caligula has garnered many descriptions over the years, from famed film critic Roger Ebert calling it “sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash,” to star Helen Mirren referring to it as “an irresistible mix of art and genitals.” The history of this project is wild (it was the only feature film produced by Penthouse), and now a new limited edition coffee table book is in the works which highlights more than 200 photos from the making of the production.
/Film is debuting several of those photos below, so check them out and learn more about this infamous movie.
What is Caligula?
The film tracks the rise and fall of the titular Roman Emperor, a hedonistic, tyrannical ruler who is said to have openly engaged in sadistic murder, sex, and attempts to bolster his own power. (Think Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones, only older.) Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, who produced this film, wanted to make an erotic movie with mainstream actors and high production values, and he was able to hire Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Helen Mirren (The Queen), Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), and eventual EGOT winner John Gielgud (Arthur) to star in it.
But the production was fraught with creative struggles: a writer sued to keep his name off the movie, the director was booted out of the editing room, and Guccione hired Penthouse pets to perform un-simulated sex scenes in reshoots that he oversaw and added to the movie against the director’s intentions. The film’s overtly pornographic content gave it quite a reputation across the world, and it has subsequently carved out a niche as a cult movie.
Caligula Behind the Scenes Photos
Now, more than 200 photos from the making of the film have been discovered and are being put into a new book by the deluxe art book publisher Century Guild, including the six images we’re happy to debut above. The photos were taken on the set by still photographer Mario Tursi, who went on to work with Martin Scorsese on The Last Temptation of Christ and Gangs of New York.
Only 2,000 copies of this book will be released, and it is very close to achieving its fundraising goal on Kickstarter. If it meets its goal, the book is aiming to be released early next year, when it will sell for around $65. These photos are chaste compared to others that will appear in the book, so keep that in mind if you’re interested in pre-ordering it.
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