Caligula received its world première at private screenings during the 10–24 May 1979 Cannes trade festival
(as distinct from the concurrent Cannes Film Festival):
“Doing the Cannes-Cannes,” Variety (weekly edition, 30 May 1979):
...Penthouse Productions sneaked three showings of “Caligula,”
which has been on ice more than a year following a spat between producer Bob Guccione and director Giovanni Tinto Brass.
Many distribs here figure the film is too explicitly sexy to play uncut....
Todd McCarthy, “Penthouse’s $16 Mil ‘Caligula’ Done but Pent-Up,” Daily Variety (12 July 1979):
...[T]he result of Bob Guccione’s
first plunge into film production unspooled
in near-secrecy in a Cannes
back-street cinema, with only a few hundred
selected international distribs and
exhibs — and no press — in attendance....
So now we know precisely how many private screenings there were,
from other sources we know that one screening (probably the second) was on the evening of 11 May 1979
and another (surely the third) was on 22 May 1979,
but that leaves one mystery screening, date unknown, though most likely 10 May 1979.
We don’t know exactly where these screenings occurred.
A few months later the weekly edition of Variety said something even more enticing:
Hank “Werb” Werba, Review of
Caligula, Variety, Wednesday,
21 November 1979, p 24:
...With the biggest
investment ever in porn to play with,
Brass (and the anonymous editor who
contributed a final 150-min. version
from the three-and-a-half hour edition
seen at Cannes), in a fit of paranoiac
obsession, sifts through the pages of
first-century Rome under syphilitic
Tiberius and epileptic Caligula to
demonstrate with violence and horror
the unlimited baseness of the human
condition and to illustrate an anthology
of sexual aberrations in which incest
is the only face-saving relationship....
Deletions from the 210-minute version
clandestinely screened at Cannes last
May, would indicate the filmmaker’s
intention to stage a “Fellatio Rise
and Fall of the Roman Empire.”...
Of course, “Werb” did not see the version presented Cannes.
Nobody from Variety saw it at Cannes or was permitted to see it at Cannes.
By the end of 1978 Caligula was pretty much in the form in which we now have it, about 156 minutes.
So what’s all this about a 210-minute version screened half a year later?
A claim of 210 minutes seems a bit extreme.
Were, perhaps, the numerous deleted scenes,
many of whose publicity stills were published in the May 1980 Penthouse and elsewhere,
put back into the print screened at Cannes?
That would seem to be a reasonable assumption, yet that is certainly NOT what happened.
Nonetheless, this unsubstantiated passing reference has gone into film history,
and “sources” from Ultimate Porno
to countless official listings matter-of-factly state that the print at Cannes was 210 minutes.
Other online sources mangled things and stated that the 210-minute version was actually released.
(I think those pages have all been taken down.)
How these stories grow!
In a desire to leave no stone unturned, back in about 1985 or 1986 I tried my luck.
I called Penthouse International and asked if I could get permission to view the 210-minute version.
The fellow who took my call (I wish I could remember his name) went silent for a moment, and then sounded totally confused.
“What 210-minute version?”
Was I perhaps referring to a rough cut?
No, I said, I was referring to the version shown at Cannes in May 1979.
He then sounded even more confused.
But, he explained, the version shown there was exactly the same as the version released in the US in February 1980,
which had been prepared and completed long before May 1979.
When I told him that Variety reported otherwise, he seemed to figure out what went wrong, and attributed the mistaken running time to a typo.
That would seem to make perfect sense.
Someone means to type “2 ½ hours” but mistakenly types “3 ½ hours” instead— et voilà,
history is invented.
In any case, from that day until 3 April 2003,
I dismissed claims of a 210-minute version.
But then I discovered Noel Bailey’s review of the film on the
Internet Movie Database,
in which he claims to have seen it.
Take a look:
Art or obscenity? Very much in the eye of the beholder!,
2 November 2002
When discussing CALIGULA...
it becomes necessary to distinguish
WHICH version you are referring to.
Personally I have had the (mis)fortune
to see all three and they vary
colossally—trust me! The original
Penthouse release which has been screened
at mostly underground art houses runs for
over 210 minutes and contains scenes that
would pale the most ardent voyeur or
paedophilic raincoater! Full-on rape with
full-blown (poor choice of words, I realise)
penetration, sodomy, erections every which
way and total hard-core sexual perversion.
Violence you just wouldn’t credit to
being filmable let alone able to be released
etc etc. I really don’t feel inclined
to “review” this particular
monstrosity. Just take it from me, it
projects sick filmmaking to
Certain that he was mistaken, I wrote to him and he replied as follows:
for your email. Nothing I
have ever written for the IMDb has attracted
the worldwide feedback I have had from
CALIGULA.... SIGNS came close but I have
probably had 100-plus people at their
wits’ end LOOKING for this elusive
version—some for 20 years—contact
me in the last few months.
your Penthouse contact
is either wrong or lying because I have
seen the 210-minute version TWICE. The
first time was late in ’79 at an
underground “dive” in London...
the kind of place you don’t ask the
age of the girls sitting beside you. The
other time was in Sydney at a private
screening of a friend of a friend (who
unfortunately died himself many years ago).
As I recall, the print had been illegally
pirated from the UK (probably the same one
I saw the previous year)... there must
obviously BE others out there!
me just tell you that
the 156-minute version by comparison to
the “uncut” monstrosity is little
worse than THE LION KING. What is contained
in those “missing 54 minutes”
beggars belief. Full-on, in-your-face
sexual intercourse, sodomy, graphic rape,
visceral violence... you name it... all
lovingly filmed from, at times, just
centimetres from the lens. As I recall,
even scenes of way-underage girls doing
stuff I’m sure their moms hadn’t
taught them. (Bear in mind I can’t
say for a fact that the
girls I saw were underage—I have a
16-year-old daughter myself that in school
uniform you would swear was 12/13... if
that!—and with judicious make-up you
can weave all kinds of magic.) What I SAW
could never have gained theatrical release...
my life has not been enriched by seeing
it (the second time I was well into the
Jack Daniels and ice!!!). Believe me, it
is NOT something you would want to take
your girlfriend, daughter or wife
yeah... it exists!
you have made the
study, investigation, analysis and
crucifixion of CALIGULA a life’s
work... the thing deserves no less!
Well, to put it mildly, I was flabbergasted!
If this report is true, then the print must have been made by some employee
of the lab that had performed the negative cutting and was currently holding that edited negative.
But what lab was that? According to all my research, that lab was, I thought,
(1, quai Gabriel-Péri, 94340 Joinville-le-Pont;
president: J.G. Noel; executive director: Michel Kaganski; contact: Jimmy De Brabant).
Yet I did not realize that once the neg was cut, it was transported to New York City.
After some strange adventures it ended up at
Guffanti Film Laboratories in NYC.
So was it GTC-CTM or Guffanti that would have worked on a padded edition?
The answer is easy: It would have been GTC-CTM, which still retained outtakes and trims.
Guffanti received only the edited camera neg and the master sound tapes
after the rumored Cannes screening of a lengthier edition.
What’s more, I have it on good authority that Guffanti had materials only for a single version,
namely the standard 156-minute release edition.
SIDEBAR: Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this is the GTC-CTM history:
The Guffanti story is one that I may never learn.
It was founded in 1929
went out of business in 1996 or thereabouts,
and I don’t know how to trace anyone who worked there.
Porn director Shaun Costello, effectively employed by the Gambino family,
posted a collection of jaw-dropping stories at the defunct
rec.arts.movies.erotica newsgroup. Here’s what he had to say about Guffanti:
“After a few bad experiences
we switched to Guffanti Film Labs, in the Film Center Building at 630 Ninth
Avenue, where we had our offices and editing room. Paul Guffanti Jr. ran the
business for his semi-retired father. Guffanti was the last lab in NYC to
process black-and-white film stock, and Woody Allen had his lab work done
there in the seventies. But porn was Paul Guffanti’s cash cow, and he was
happy indeed to put the wad of bills the porno producers gave him on a
regular basis into his pocket, providing no receipt, and having made no
record of the transaction.”
Costello has more stories on his blog.
Now, Paul Guffanti (Sr.? Jr.?) had worked
on When Comedy Was King (1960) and Days of Thrills and Laughter (1961) among many other above-ground projects,
and that proves that Guffanti was a perfectly legit operation.
As for the Gambinos being customers, well, we cannot and must not make any leap. Guffanti was not at fault.
Penthouse’s involvement was similarly casual.
When Penthouse could not reach an agreement with a more famous laboratory,
a temp worker shopped around for a lab that was more amenable and found Guffanti. It was as innocent as that.
Nonetheless, I cannot help but ponder:
Guffanti was the Gambino family’s preferred laboratory
and later became Penthouse’s preferred lab as well.
That would look like the purest coincidence, but there was a complicating factor:
the presence of Chuck Anderson, Jr., the longtime greeter and assistant manager at the 21 Club,
who in 1977 became an integral part of the Penthouse staff and served as Bob Guccione’s right-hand man,
as we learn from a
response to a FOIA request (which is a must-read). Further:
Anderson and Guccione even occasionally shared an apartment together (40 Central Park South).
I doubt that any folks at Penthouse HQ knew about that arrangement.
Everybody knew that Bob would occasionally disappear and become incommunicado, yes, but nobody ever found out where he had been or what he had been doing.
Does this answer at least part of the reason why? I wish I knew.
Despite this close business relationship, Anderson was not listed on the Penthouse masthead until about 1983.
For what it’s worth, Anderson had the peculiar habit of wearing unbuttoned shirts revealing massive amounts of gold necklaces on his chest.
Why does that remind me of something?
Anderson’s first cousin was Anthony “Nino” Gaggi, capo of the Gambino family.
Anderson’s job title, beginning in circa January 1983, was “National Field Sales Manager” and, a little later,
“Director, Eastern Regional Sales” for Penthouse and Omni and maybe some other Guccione magazines too.
An FBI informant explained what Anderson’s duties entailed:
“ANDERSON sets up broads, associated with Penthouse magazine, with rich businessmen.”
(An FBI agent summarized: “It appears that ANDERSON is running a high-class call-girl operation.”)
In the meantime, Gaggi was manœuvering to obtain “the limousine contract for the Penthouse Casino.”
When events did not go as planned, Anderson was shot during a “robbery” (nothing was stolen) at his Truffles Restaurant on 6 September 1983
and died as a result of his wounds three months later, on 18 December.
Nonetheless, he continued for a while to be listed on the Guccione mastheads as “Sales Director, West Region.”
“The source said he believed in the past that NINO GAGGI was unhappy with ANDERSON
due to ANDERSON’s well-publicized contacts with the FBI, CIA, and Washington, D.C.”
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
Or am I making a molehill out of a mountain?
Might Penthouse have chosen Guffanti based on Anderson’s recommendation? Maybe, but doubtful.
If so, did that have any deeper significance? I really doubt it.
But do you understand why I’m so curious about all this?
Leonard Buder, “Robber Wounds a Restaurateur on the East Side,” The New York Times, Wednesday, 7 September 1983, p. B4.
Leonard Buder, “Crime Update: Motive a Mystery in Killing on the East Side,” The New York Times, Sunday, 2 October 1983, p. 42.
(AP wire story), “Charles Anderson, 63, Dies; Formerly Greeter at ‘21’ Club,” The New York Times, Tuesday, 20 December 1983, p. B8.
On Thursday, 17 April 2003, I wrote back to Noel, asking for particulars on the when’s and where’s and how’s,
and especially about how the exhibitors announced it without getting caught, and how they got everyone to keep quiet about it.
screening in London was at some
late-night club not too far off Leicester
Square as I recall... might have been
along Shaftsbury Avenue. Never knew what
it was called... smoky, seedy and for
the most part mega-dingy. Late late
underground London Town club life
doesn’t usually come with
full-addressed memory hehe! Was there at
the invite of an acquaintance simply to
“see something pretty hot.”
The title CALIGULA was not mentioned
beforehand. HAD it been I might have
paid more attention as I was aware of
problems surrounding the film’s
production even then! It was shown in a
small private room just off the main
bar... perhaps 20 or 30 of us were there
in varying stages of inebriation. There
were no attempts at secrecy... just
looked to me like a private porn show in
the offing, “Debbie Does Tottenham
Court Road” or whatever! As it turned
out that’s basically what it
was... simply a
17-million-dollar work-out! Presumably
it was on 35mm film as it was just fed
reel to reel through a standard projector
and using a portable screen would barely
have been two metres square. Bear in
mind that particular night I, and as far
as I know no one there, had any reason to
believe that what was being screened was
pirated, contentious (well, beyond its
content, anyway) or in any shape or form
clandestine. It ran for
well over three hours...
that I DO recall! I saw no
one approached to keep their silence on
the matter! I certainly wasn’t.
was only when I actually
saw the film at a theater in Sydney the
following year that I realised what had
been cut out (and I think THAT screening
barely topped 120 mins).... I acquired
the 155-plus-minute version on Beta tape
5 years later.
I DO have a problem
unveiling details of the Sydney screening
for the simple reason that it was at the
home of a well-known (at that time at
least) Sydney television personality...
one I had known for well over fifteen
years in 1980. Being in the television
and entertainment industry... John (not
his real name) had “connections”
in the business obviously and he invited
me to see this “uncut version,”
quite unaware that I had already seen it.
At the time, I didn’t even know it
WAS the same “cut,” but on
viewing it, this proved to be the case.
He DID confirm that it had been shipped
from the UK and that there were
“those who would seek to refute its
existence.” It was screened at his
home in Sydney’s exclusive Eastern
suburbs. There were less than 10 people
there that day!
So the claim of “over 210 minutes” is here modified to “well over three hours”
with the proviso that the person making the claim was inebriated both times he saw it.
What the “visceral violence... [v]iolence you just wouldn’t credit to being filmable”
might have been remains a mystery.
Tinto shot only two violent moments that were deleted from the final film,
and we can see one of those two moments in the supplements to the deluxe “Imperial Edition” DVD box sets.
That, of course, was the sacrifice of the priest rather than the bull.
The other moment is one you’ve never heard of, during the Victory Banquet, held in honor of Caligula’s battle against Britain.
Caligula plays a Simple Simon Says game, only a meaningless fragment of which survives in the final film.
Almighty Cæsar says, take a grape and catch it in your mouth.
Fail — fail — fail.
Longinus, keep a note of all those who fail.
Yes, Divine Cæsar.
Almighty Cæsar says stand.
Almighty Cæsar says get down.
Almighty Cæsar says turn right.
Fail — fail — fail.
Almighty Cæsar says run.
Almighty Cæsar says stop!
Almighty Cæsar says hop!
Almighty Cæsar says stop.
Almighty Cæsar says crawl.
Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! You bastards. I hate them!
Almighty Cæsar says stop!
Almighty Cæsar says, to balance the State budget, we shall confiscate the entire estate of all those who have failed.
Read out your list, Longinus.
Chærea, they have failed me. They have failed Rome.
Arrest them. Almighty Cæsar says, arrest them.
Guards! Arrest them.
The scene then continues with stage directions that are not in any draft of the script.
Caligula, still standing astride the head banquet table,
gives orders for those who have failed to be paraded down the aisle between the two rows of the guests’ tables.
He then orders his Praetorian Guard to spear the losers to death.
Then follows, of course, the line you all remember:
Almighty Cæsar says, finish your dinner.
So much for Tinto’s violent scenes.
As for Guccione’s “additional scenes,” well, those consisted only of sex, not violence.
I showed Noel some photos of 35mm projectors
and 16mm projectors,
and that’s when he realized that he had been speaking of a 16mm print after all.
Noel saw that pirated 16mm print first in late 1979 in a London club,
and then later, at some time in 1980, at a private gathering in a house in Sydney.
Now, it would not surprise me in the least if a 16mm bootleg had been circulating as early as 1979.
The editing and mixing had been completed and the answer print had been delivered by mid-March of that year.
There was nothing to stop a technician from sneaking into the GTC-CTM lab late at night and running off a 16mm print
to show to his buddies or to sell on the black market.
Maybe he didn’t even do it late at night.
Maybe he did it during work hours when he knew that nobody would have any reason to question him.
And there is no reason why such a print would not have been screened at a sleazy London pub late at night
or at a private house in Sydney in 1980 prior to its release in the UK or Australia.
If such a print was actually shown, there would have been every reason for
the program host to introduce it by saying that there were those who would deny its existence.
Such a statement could have multiple nonoverlapping meanings and could easily be misunderstood.
It could mean that because the film on view was not available for release,
the distributor was denying that it could possibly be seen at such an early date.
Or it could mean that the producers or the pirates were denying the existence of the 16mm bootleg.
Such a statement could — and almost certainly would —
be misunderstood by noninitiates in the audience
as meaning that there were authorities who denied the existence of the film itself,
not merely the particular print or availability of the film.
For casual movie fans accustomed only to the bland Hollywood diet of cops and robbers and car chases and puppy love,
a movie that depicted a disembowelment (obviously faked),
sex and orgies (mostly mimed and with a few surprisingly convincing prosthetics), a (mimed) rape,
a (very phony) castration, a (mimed) torture, the mocking of and urination upon a corpse (portrayed by an actor playing dead),
and a scene of multiple beheadings (of obvious dummies)
could come as quite a jolt to the system.
Those who had grown up on The Wizard of Oz and The Maltese Falcon and My Foolish Heart
or even The Last Picture Show would have been in for a rude shock,
and they might well remember the film as being far more outrageous than it really was.
Indeed, that was a frequent response heard from many who saw Caligula in 1980 and 1981.
(And indeed, that was a frequent response heard from many who were deeply shocked by Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1975.)
The problem is what Noel remembers about that 16mm bootleg,
as well as what he misremembers about the edition of the film
screened publicly at the Barclay in Sydney “the following year,”
by which he meant the year following the time he first saw it in London in late 1979.
Actually, it was not “the following year”; it opened at the Barclay on 19 June 1981.
He also remembers the print that played the Barclay as having “barely topped 120 mins.”
In fact, it was 149 minutes long, with a few objectionable sequences shortened
and others softened by the use of alternative footage,
but still, all things considered, basically the same as the 156-minute version screened in the US.
With the most sensational images slightly diluted,
it would not be surprising if a viewer were to think he was watching an abridgment.
When Noel finally saw the Beta edition as released in the US, which was the 156-minute version (but time-compressed to 148 minutes),
it would not surprise me if, now that he was used to the thing, it no longer looked nearly as sensational,
leading him to believe that, once again, he was watching an abridgment.
For the sake of argument, let us assume that Noel is being honest,
if perhaps mistaken in his recall of events that took place years ago while he was under the influence.
We can then turn to another source that would seem to confirm Noel’s recollections.
Check out the interview with a fellow to whom the Caligula SuperSite provides the protective pseudonym of
He appeared in Guccione’s inserts, and states:
...The first time I saw the
finished film was at Cannes in the middle
of May 1979. I was on holiday from
university. My mail had been forwarded to
me, and there was a personal invitation
for a private screening. So off I went!...
[The next time I saw the movie was in]
September 1999, when Penthouse
re-issued it in theatres
again. It was then I noticed that the
version that was shown originally at Cannes
was three and a half hours long, and the
version that ended up in the theatres was
just over two and a half hours. The shorter
version was more interesting.
It is clear that he was reaching into the recesses of 20+ years of his memory
to recollect that the Cannes edition was “three and a half hours long.”
But in those 20+ years the “three and a half hours” claim had been published far and wide,
and could well have influenced his memory.
For the sake of argument,
let us assume, for the moment, that there actually was a 210-minute version or something like it.
If there was, my basic question remains unanswered:
What was in that extra hour?
Could it have been the Temple of Jupiter?
The Consulship of Incitatus?
More of Tiberius’s torture ward?
More of Tiberius’s sex slaves?
Caligula’s destruction of his own statues?
Some other long-missing sequences?
The answer is definitive: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!
The negatives of those scenes had never been edited,
the music had never been composed,
and (except for the massage) the dialogue had never been revoiced.
Those sequences were NEVER shown prior to late 2007,
when excerpts from work prints and rough cuts and raw footage were allowed out of the vaults.
Besides, the edited movie NEVER ran much over two and a half hours.
So what on earth would this have been?
A padded version, maybe,
with another 54 minutes of porn, shot by Guccione, spliced into a print of the film?
To say the very least, that does not seem at all likely.
Considering all the information above,
it would seem reasonable to conclude that the longest version of Caligula
ever screened anywhere was 156 minutes,
and that any claims of longer editions are so suspect that they should be dismissed.
Indeed, for the longest time I was certain that the Cannes version was the same one that you and I saw in the cinemas in 1980
no longer, no shorter, no different in any way.
There was no 210-minute version.
We shall demonstrate that to any reasonable person’s satisfaction as we proceed.
BUT... this quest for a 210-minute version has revealed something hitherto unknown,
something equally exciting, something equally strange.
For in our search we discovered different information, which we were not expecting, and it comes from a reliable source.
Before we look at what this reliable source said,
let us look at what his nemesis said in a UPI wire story by Kenneth R. Clark:
And paraphrased by Paul Sullivan:
So... Malcolm had been clamoring to get a screening prior to release,
and Bob Guccione continued to refuse as late as late January 1980.
The UPI wire story above surely appeared on the
Teletype on Monday, 28 January 1980, for publication the following day,
which means that Guccione made his comments earlier on that Monday.
So now, with that background established, let’s look at some interviews given by Malcolm McDowell
over the following year or so:
Roderick Mann, “Heaving a Yellow Brick at Studio 54,” The Los Ángeles Times,
Thursday, 10 April 1980, sec 6 p 1:
Andrea Chambers, COUPLES: “Malcolm McDowell’s Romance with Mary Steenburgen Has Gone Just Like Clockwork,”
People magazine, 1 September 1980, p 66:
Sebastian Cody, “Oh, Caligula!” The Tatler, October 1980, p 80:
Roderick Mann, “Malcolm McDowell: Nervous as a Cat?” The Los Ángeles Times,
16 April 1981, p 11:
So far it looks like he’s exaggerating, to say the least,
because there are only about six minutes of hardcore in the movie,
and the editors in London never — NEVER! — included more than about six minutes of hardcore in any copy of the film,
no matter how rough or early or preliminary.
But when did he catch this “private showing”?
Certainly after about 28 January 1980, and, as we shall soon see, certainly before 7 April 1980.
There had been private trade screenings beginning in November 1978 (an unfinished print in London),
and then in Cannes (May 1979),
and here and there in the US (beginning in May 1979?).
So Malcolm saw a PRIVATE showing of the movie as early as the tail end of January, possibly in February,
possibly in March, or in the first few days of April at the very latest.
Would there have been private screenings between January and early April 1980?
By January 1980 the film had already landed a distributor, Analysis Film Releasing Corporation,
and once that happened, exhibitors would want to take a look before booking the film for extended runs.
Further, international distributors would also want to take a look, and their deputies were stationed in and around Hollywood.
At least we now know from this quote a detail we never had before: McDowell’s agent, David Wardlow, accompanied him.
But then years later McDowell added a statement and changed his story, and with this the pieces begin to come together:
...The first time I saw it was at a sneak preview in Hollywood.
The people from Penthouse refused me admission.
But Guccione said, “Let him in.”
They had included two 20-minute segments of hard-core porn.
I now have some idea what it must feel like to be raped.
The second time around they had taken out the porn and it was much better.
What on earth does that mean?
There were no sneak previews.
Bob Guccione was adamant about never sneak-previewing the film
and about never permitting press screenings.
So as we surmised above, McDowell must have crashed a private trade screening
(for distributors, exhibitors, and select VIPs).
The Penthouse people would certainly have been gatekeepers at all the trade screenings,
and they certainly would have wanted to keep a gate-crasher out.
Guccione would also have been at most or all of the trade screenings as well.
This begins to make some sense!
Now, how does one find out where this Hollywood screening took place?
It was a private event. There were no ads, no brochures, no publicly available announcements, nothing.
The most there would have been were a few interoffice memos and maybe some telephone calls — rather ephemeral evidence.
There is no mention of this event in Franco Rossellini’s files, probably because he never knew about it.
So how does one find out? One needs three ingredients for this recipe.
The first ingredient one needs is relentless tenacity.
The second ingredient one needs is even more important — as a matter of fact, it is the most important ingredient of all;
it is the single ingredient without which one can accomplish nothing in life:
a stroke of the most jaw-dropping luck coming from entirely out of the blue.
The third ingredient is much more important than the first ingredient, though slightly less important than the second:
knowing where to find a genius librarian.
Ingredient Number One is irremediably with me.
Ingredient Number Two stumbled into my lap in two phases, on 30 July and on 4 August 2014.
I shan’t breach that confidentiality.
Ingredient Number Three came along on the evening of Tuesday, 5 August 2014.
So, after years of wondering, I was at last able to discover where this private trade screening took place.
It was at the Preview House, 7655 W Sunset Blvd, Hollywood CA 90046.
The venue is for special events only, primarily private studio screenings.
It is not open to the public.
I have not been able to get the exact date of this screening,
but I have narrowed the time frame down to the last few days of March or the first three days of April 1980.
For the record, we should note that the Preview House opened in 1970, closed down from about 1996 through the first part of 1998,
and then reopened sometime in 1998 as the
Harmony Gold Preview House.
Now I need to find out who the projectionist was that day, hope that the person is still alive and well,
and discover where the log books are kept.
Exterior image grabbed from Google Maps.
This is five blocks east of Fairfax Avenue, between Courtney Avenue and Stanley Avenue.
The camera is facing north. The cars are heading west.
The staircase leads to the screening room’s entrance.
Now back to Malcolm’s story.
How did the “twenty minutes of porn” suddenly become “two 20-minute segments of hard-core porn”?
Ten years had passed, and McDowell’s memory was acting up.
He remembered that there were two porn sequences, and he remembered something about twenty minutes.
He merely conflated the two memories.
Either that or he was misquoted.
Even more confusing is his statement that the “second time around they had taken out the porn and it was much better.”
What was this second time around?
Was he talking about the R-rated version?
No, he was not.
If we leaf back through ten years of dusty pages, we find yet another statement he made, which helps put things into perspective:
Now at last we can begin to understand.
He had gate-crashed a private trade screening in the last few days of March or in the first few days of April 1980 in Hollywood,
but he could not possibly have “anted up at the boxoffice” when he saw it that day,
because the Preview House, a private venue never open to the public, did not have a boxoffice.
So what was this about anting up at the boxoffice to purchase a ticket?
He “anted up at the boxoffice” when he went to see a public screening the “second time around,”
and the “second time around,” as we can see from the date of the article,
was in the first part of 1980, prior to 7 April 1980, most likely on Saturday or Sunday, 5 or 6 April.
(The UPI story unquestionably came through on the Teletype on 6 April 1980 for publication the next day.)
That’s when “they had taken out the porn and it was much better,”
though still not at all good, if we are to judge from his other statements.
Clearly, of course, they had NOT “taken out the porn”; they had taken out MOST of the porn.
But Malcolm was simplifying for the press or, again, he was misquoted by a journalist whose shorthand left something to be desired.
Where did he ant up at the boxoffice? Certainly not in or anywhere near Hollywood.
Caligula had not yet opened in Hollywood by 7 April 1980.
Its first public screening in Hollywood was on 18 April 1980
at the Holly Theatre.
So that means that there were only three cinemas anywhere in the world
where McDowell could have seen a public screening of the movie:
The Penthouse East in Manhattan NY,
the Lumiere in San Francisco CA,
or the Georgetown in Washington DC.
He and Mary Steenburgen were living in an apartment in NYC in the spring of 1980
because he was trying out for stage parts, and as we can see from the above UPI story,
his best bet was off-Broadway in Look Back in Anger, which is indeed the part he was hired for.
(Previews began Friday, 6 June 1980, the show opened Thursday, 19 June 1980, and it ran through Sunday, 12 October 1980).
So he probably saw the movie at the Penthouse East, though that is by no means certain.
So let’s summarize:
28 January 1980: Malcolm McDowell is still demanding a pre-release screening,
and Bob Guccione is refusing.
Sometime in the last few days of March or the first three days of April 1980:
Malcolm McDowell and his agent David Wardlow
gatecrash a trade screening of a padded print in Hollywood.
Circa 5 April 1980: Malcolm McDowell stands in line to purchase a ticket
to the standard 156-minute version,
probably at the Penthouse East in Manhattan.
SIDEBAR: Like Vidal, like Brass, like others,
McDowell occasionally changed his story,
most likely under the advisement of legal counsel.
In 1995 he denied having seen the film when it was new.
Here is what he said to John Naughton for “O Lucky Man?,” in the UK edition of
Premiere: The Movie Magazine 3 no 2,
March 1995, p 60:
“...I found it to be an extraordinary betrayal.
It took me many years to get over it.
In fact it was years and years before I even saw the movie.”
A few years earlier he said something else equally intriguing.
Mike Bygrave, “Life without Alex,” The Guardian, 23 March 1989, p 29:
“I was at a dinner party in Hollywood sitting next to a very distinguished screenwriter [Wolfgang Petersen?]
who told me I’d been in one of his favourite films.
I thought ‘Oh, if.... or Clockwork Orange,
maybe O Lucky Man! — the usual.’
But he meant Caligula.
He talked to me about it all night, so I went out and rented a video.
It’s not as bad as I thought. In fact, it could have been a great film.
But, for all Guccione’s horrible editing and the porno sequences he put in,
it actually remains an interesting failure.”
That’s not enough for you, is it? You want more, yes?
Here is what Malcolm McDowell said to Glenn O’Brien in “A Man or God of the Moment: Caligula,”
AnOtherMan no 2 (Spring/Summer 2006), p 178:
“I once sat with the producer of Das Boot [Günter Rohrbach?] and he said,
‘Malcolm you were in my favourite movie of all time,’ and I said,
‘Thank you very much,’ expecting him to mean Clockwork Orange,
and he said, ‘Caligula was the best film I’ve ever seen.’ ”
If that reconstruction of events is correct,
and I don’t see any way around it,
that means that Guccione, who was licensing a cinema and who could therefore have
shown anything he pleased, chose to run the 156-minute final cut,
while he was still attempting to entice domestic exhibitors and international distributors
with a padded edition.
No, that doesn’t make any sense at all.
But then, nothing about Caligula makes any sense.
We need to wonder about something else too.
McDowell saw a private trade screening and was horrified by it.
Why then, shortly afterwards, would he stand in line and purchase a ticket for a public screening?
I had long thought that a possible reason is that at the trade screening
some Penthouse representative explained to the exhibitors and distributors in attendance
that what they were about to see was a version somewhat different,
somewhat stronger than the one currently being shown to the public.
Admittedly, that was just my guess, but it was an educated guess and a reasonable one.
That’s precisely the sort of introduction that would induce McDowell
to see for himself precisely what those differences were.
And yet, I admit, I have discovered that no such thing happened.
Nobody at that screening said a syllable about the trade print being any different from the release print.
The most likely possibility, of course, is much more prosaic and much more believable:
Malcolm may simply have noted that critics wrote about the “six minutes” of porn rather than twenty,
and he may have noted that the running time as listed in the reviews was shorter as well.
He was more than intelligent enough to suspect that the trade print he had seen was spiked,
and he was right to check it against the release version.
Let’s do some arithmetic.
The usual 156-minute version has about six minutes of porn.
If McDowell saw 20 minutes, and if the print was like the usual one in every other way, then it ran about 170 minutes.
If McDowell’s claim is, in essence, correct, then in the first part of 1980 there was a trade-show print
with an extra 14 minutes or so possibly of the lesbian tryst and certainly of the Imperial Brothel.
That would mean that after editing had been completed, and after the final 156-minute version settled upon,
Guccione would have hired a fly-by-night editor to fly by night to Joinville-le-Pont to run off a padded print with extra materials.
Since the dialogue and music and effects tracks had never been recorded for a padded version,
in all likelihood the soundtrack was artifically lengthened for the extended sequences.
That would not have been at all difficult.
The lesbian tryst had no sound to speak of,
and the ominous music could easily have been extended by repeating passages.
As for the Imperial Brothel,
it would have been easy to re-edit the percussion music and extend it 10 minutes
or 15 minutes or even more, without the audio splices being noticeable.
Actually, the Imperial Brothel scene was greatly padded even in the 156-minute version.
It should have run no more than three or four minutes,
but the needless additions stretched it out to 11 minutes.
To accomplish further padding, Malcolm’s ten-in-onecarnival-talker routine
(“Only five gold pieces!”)
could have been extended by what would now be called sampling,
and such sampling could have been continued ad infinitum.
This would not have been a challenge for a competent sound editor,
for at that time all the master tapes were still on file
and could without difficulty have been re-edited and remixed.
Now, I’m trying to think this through.
If there was a padded print,
then it was most likely physically hot-spliced together from two different sources.
I say that because to make a finished print would require printing it
from a finished negative or internegative or CRI.
Surely the negative was not tampered with again.
That limits the possibilities: a new internegative or a new CRI
was created with the extra material inserted probably courtesy of A-B rolls.
Yet it is not cost-effective to create such a new internegative or CRI for a single trade print
that might never be released.
The most cost-effective thing to do would be to run off rolls of the extra material
with markings for where they should be spliced in.
To make the extra material even more cost-effective, the best thing to do
would be to have only a single piece — or two single pieces — to cut in.
And that, indeed, is what I suspect happened.
To understand the argument, you need to realize that at the editing facilities Caligula
was assembled onto sixteen 1,000' reels, numbered 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 6A, 6B, 7A, 7B, 8A, 8B.
These sixteen reels were in turn printed onto eight 2,000' rolls of film.
The beginning of Reel 1 was labeled “1A” and the end of Reel 1 was labeled “1B.”
The beginning of Reel 2 was labeled “2A” and the end of Reel 2 was labeled “2B.”
That pattern continued all the way through Reel 8 being labeled as Reel 8A and Reel 8B.
SIDEBAR — This is only for those who really enjoy movie history.
If that doesn’t apply to you, skip over it.
To understand the changing conventions of reel numbering
you need to know not the way things are done now, and not the way they’ve been done over the past few decades.
You need a brief history lesson.
Movies were shipped basically two different ways.
Sometimes films arrived in crates that contained cans, in each of which was a roll of film wound onto a core.
More often, though, films arrived in dented shipping cases, sometimes square, usually octagonal,
crammed far too tightly with cheap warped shipping reels with sharp burrs.
In the old days the reels (whether wound onto cores or mounted onto shipping reels)
were a little over 1,000' long at most.
By the 1910s it became practice for cinemas to splice two 1,000' reels onto a single 2,000' reel.
By the mid-1910s the typical projection booth had two or more projectors.
Reels had onscreen cues, and when a reel was coming to an end
the projectionist merely had to follow the cues to know when to kill the old reel and go live with the new one.
If done properly the change-over was seamless.
(In the silent days the cues consisted of onscreen title cards:
“End of Part One” “Part Two” “End of Part Two” and so forth —
except at MGM, which had a different method.
Beginning in 1930 studios began to drop the old “Part Title” system
in favor of serrated circles in the upper-right corner of the screen.
By 1936 that new cue system was universal.
Because automation and
platters had long been ubiquitous,
visible cues were finally dropped in the past decade or so.)
I think it was by the early 1940s that it became common practice
for distributors to dispatch films prepared for such combining,
though projectionists, of course, were still expected to disassemble the combined reels
before sending the movies back.
I think it was later in the 1940s that it became common practice
for the distributors and/or exchanges themselves
to combine the 1,000' reels onto 2,000' reels.
That’s when the numbering system began to change.
Instead of Reels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and so forth, there would be Reels 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B, and so forth.
Until the mid-1970s there was thus a noticeable hot splice in the middle of every 2,000' reel that a cinema received.
(There was also frequently the phenomenon of the sound from the old reel continuing a moment into the beginning of the new reel,
since sound and picture are separated by 21 frames.
For films in which picture and sound began and ended at the exact same moment,
with sound printed on the 21 frames of leader immediately preceding the image
and with the sound stripe going blank for the final 21 frames of film,
there would be a moment of silence at each reel join, sometimes resulting in the loss of dialogue.
Then in the mid-1970s there was a new practice, as rolls of film began to be manufactured in 2,000' lengths.
But because editing facilities still operated on a 1,000'-reel basis,
for some years after it still remained common practice
to have a 2,000' reel be labeled, for instance, “1A” at the beginning and “1B” at the end.
Younger projectionists couldn’t understand why and so I had to explain, not that they ever cared enough to remember what I said.
Now that you’ve digested that, you can understand that the final edited Caligula was
eight 2,000' reels, with each reel having an A at the beginning and a B at the end.
That is how the reels are numbered in the cutting continuity,
though that may well have been altered by the time the labs made prints for sending out to cinemas.
We need to learn now about Caligula’s musical history.
Tinto Brass had commissioned Fiorenzo Carpi to do the music.
Carpi wrote up some skeletal drafts of what were later to have become orchestrated compositions,
and we can hear brief moments of some of those drafts played in the background of Giancarlo Lui’s
making-of promotional film,
specifically during the Sacred Dance of Isis and during Cæsonia’s dance.
Carpi planned to complete his compositions only after Tinto had completed editing the film,
but as we know, that never happened.
Once Tinto was gone, so was Fiorenzo.
Did Penthouse and/or Felix fire him? I don’t know.
Did Fiorenzo resign? I don’t know.
Did Penthouse and/or Felix simply never bother to call him back into service? I don’t know.
What we do know is that Fiorenzo never completed his score.
A few years later, once Nino Baragli completed his rough cut,
Franco Rossellini hired his preferred composer, Franco Mannino,
to write a score in a matter of weeks, and Mannino miraculously complied.
Penthouse flatly rejected this score immediately upon hearing it,
and decided instead to assemble and commission an entirely new score.
Penthouse was delighted to be informed by legal counsel that
Prokofiev’s ballet music and Khachaturian’s “Spartacus” were public domain in the US.
These pieces, you see, had been created and premièred prior to the copyright agreement between the USSR and the US.
Penthouse was less than delighted to receive summonses in the mail, for the pieces had actually been copyrighted in France.
Soviet composers, apparently, knew how to protect their works!
That matter was quickly resolved with money settlements.
Felix, meanwhile, licensed the rights from G. Ricordi & C., SpA, for showings in Italy.
Penthouse licensed library music composed by Arvay and Snell, though it ultimately dumped the Snell piece
(“The Millpond,” side 2 track 3 from The Early Birds — Small Group Sounds,
Chappell International Series, Chappell Recorded Music Library — CAL 4007, released in 1974).
Then Penthouse hired a certain “Paul Clemente” to compose the remainder of the incidental score.
As you all know by now, “Paul Clemente” was Bruno Nicolai’s new pseudonym.
In the past he had once called himself Leo Flag; this time around he was Paul Clemente. So it goes.
Nicolai submitted some of his pre-existing music,
some of which was copyrighted by Edi-Pan Edizioni Musicali and some of which was copyrighted by Edizioni Musicali Gemelli Srl.
Somehow Gemelli was authorized to sell utilization rights to those particular Edi-Pan pieces.
At the last minute Penthouse rejected all those cues,
but it did accept the new pieces that Nicolai composed specifically for Caligula,
which Nicolai had copyrighted through Edizioni Musicali Gemelli, Srl,
which was owned by a certain Alberto Nicolai
(“gemelli” is Latin for “twins,” and so I presume they were twin brothers, but I don’t know for certain).
Edi-Pan Edizioni Musicali also owned the rights to an interesting piece of music by John Leach called “Spartan War,”
of which Gemelli had authority to license an excerpt (for the Papyrus Cane scene).
So now that you’ve got that information under your belt, you’re prepared to continue the investigation.
I strongly doubt that the lesbian scene was lengthened.
It would have been easy to pad out the sound, but the image presented a problem.
The sequence began a little bit into Reel 5A and would not have been easy to expand without recutting the camera negative.
Yes, it could have been done, but only with difficulty.
I suspect, though, that the Imperial Bordello was padded by a single 14-minute stretch.
So let’s first remind ourselves about the Imperial Bordello as it was supposed to be in the original film.
Caligula calls Longinus to his private suite to propose that he raise funds for war
by establishing an Imperial Bordello.
He then leads Longinus and the rest of the retinue
through a draped doorway and directly into the Imperial Bordello!
The boat-shaped Imperial Bordello, you see, was built into Caligula’s private dining room.
All is dead silence, and everyone in the Imperial Bordello is frozen in midmotion, still as a statue.
Caligula, Cæsonia, and the Little Giant climb aboard, Caligula shouts out “Action!”
and then suddenly everyone bursts into life.
For the final edit of the movie, that’s not what happens, for footage was scrambled and deleted,
and the sound was recorded entirely differently.
In the final edit, Caligula proposes establishing an Imperial Bordello and then walks away.
There is a jump cut as we see Caligula burst through a draped doorway,
and this is accompanied by the sound of a loud gong that takes forever to diminish.
It is the jump cut combined with the sound of the gong that makes it seem we have skipped ahead to a new scene,
though in reality are just continuing in the same scene.
By mixing the shot sequence up, everyone is already making whoopee as Caligula, Cæsonia, and the Little Giant climb aboard,
with Caligula already loudly hawking his wares.
The remainder of the scene consists of fragments of shots that are almost entirely out of sequence,
intercut with numerous shots of hardcore porn done in a completely different style.
I decided to check the cutting continuity to learn precisely where the Imperial Bordello begins and ends.
That’s when I learned that it begins 8 minutes (706') into Reel 7A and continues through the bulk of Reel 7B.
A ha! So Reel 7 is the prime suspect in this case.
This called for further examination.
The total length of Reel 7(A&B) is nearly 20 minutes (1,764'9fr).
Reel 7A is nearly 11 minutes (948'), ending with Valerie Rae Clark servicing a midget,
and Reel 7B is just over 9 minutes (816'9fr),
beginning with Anneka di Lorenzo laughing just before Caligula says, off-screen,
“Enjoy the rights of those who govern you! Take their wives! Use them! Confuse them!”
(Or does he really say “Use them! Abuse them!”? Hard to tell.
Half the times I listen to this I clearly, unmistakably hear Malcolm say “Confuse,”
but the other half the times I listen to this, I clearly, unmistakably hear Malcolm say “Abuse.”
Now that I listen to it some more, it sounds like Malcolm misspoke and said “Combuse.”)
That was most intriguing, because that brought something back to mind.
The first time I saw the movie was at the 4 October 1980 matinée in Albuquerque.
The projectionist had to sneak me in because management wanted me dead —
that’s how I came to be one of the rare people who got to see the movie for free in its first run.
At that screening I noticed something strange at that particular moment in the movie, right between those two shots.
And I’ve noticed that same strange thing every time I’ve watched the movie since,
but I never thought it significant and so I paid it no real attention.
Now that I have obsessed on the above hypothesis, though,
I can see clearly that what I noticed is significant after all!
You see, I distinctly remembered a jump in the music between those two shots.
So I plopped in the DVD to check, and of course! My memory was correct!
The music at the end of Reel 7A abruptly cuts off two beats into a 4/4 measure,
and the music in Reel 7B starts all over again at the beginning of a different movement of that same piece.
The cut would be bothersomely noticeable except that it is masked
by the sound of a gong that takes forever to diminish.
That is the same gong sound that was used a few minutes earlier
to make Caligula’s entrance seem like the beginning of a new scene.
When we listen to both instances of the gong, we can hear that it was not part of Bruno Nicolai’s score,
but was added by the sound-effects department.
In both instances the gong covers a gap.
So now there is no question about it.
There is definitely something missing between Reel 7A and Reel 7B.
The extra 14 minutes must have come right between those two moments.
Thus Reel 7(A&B) would have been expanded to become two reels consisting of
7A, 7A.1, 7A.2, and 7B.
With that assembly, 7A and 7A.1 would be spliced together to make a new Reel 7,
and 7A.2 and 7B would be spliced together to make a new Reel 8.
The original Reel 8(A&B) would have been renumbered Reel 9(A&B).
Reel 7A, Japanese Imperial Edition, Disc 1, 2:09:21
Reel 7A, Japanese Imperial Edition, Disc 1, 2:09:31 This is the end of Reel 7A. The music comes to an abrupt end in mid-measure. The camera negative here would have a lab splice leading into...
Reel 7B, Japanese Imperial Edition, Disc 1, 2:09:31 A different movement of that same piece of music that was suddenly chopped off now begins, from the top.
Reel 7B, Japanese Imperial Edition, Disc 1, 2:09:37
Now, of course, that somewhat destroys my previous theory that the extra material was added later.
Nicolai composed his score to synchronize with Baragli’s cut of the scene.
If material had been added later, then there would be a noticeable break in the sound
only if the extra footage were spliced in.
Instead, though, the discontinuity occurs in the standard Baragli version as polished by the Twickenham crew.
That means that something happened during the mixing sessions at GTC-CTM.
When the members of the GTC-CTM sound crew mixed the music,
they re-edited the music to synchronize it with a version longer than the one edited at Twickenham!
And after they thus mixed it, they crudely chopped the extra 14 minutes out again to match the scenes and reel breaks
as finalized at Twickenham, thus causing a distinct break in the music!
And speaking of music...
...Take note of something else.
One of Caligula’s statements was edited into incomprehensibility:
“And for only five gold pieces to any one of you!”
We’ll never know what the original line was, because it was never in the looping script;
Malcolm McDowell ad-libbed it during post-sync.
That is a clue that leads us to notice a similar problem, for there are other strange anomalies in the sound editing during this scene.
Pay attention to
the musical accompaniment during this scene.
Passages repeat, and the music occasionally fades out and then back in again.
At first I thought the volume was faded down to make way for the actors’ lines,
but that’s not the case at all!
The volume was faded down to facilitate splices to make repeats where the original recording did not have repeats.
At a low volume, underneath all the other noise, the cuts are unnoticeable.
Instruments that were separately miked were mixed back in differently so that repeated passages would sound new,
generally courtesy of overlays and cross-fades.
Oddly, there are a few moments of Franco Mannino’s earlier rejected attempt at a score for this scene.
On regular speakers it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the brief overlays from the underlying score.
So listen here to Mannino’s earlier version:
Mannino’s cue M.21.
Sorry. I don’t have the entire piece of music, only the beginning. The tape cuts off after a few minutes.
But you get the idea anyway. And it’s interesting, yes?
Now put on your headphones or earbuds, and listen once again to the music as it appears in the final film.
Pay especial attention to 4:25, 4:43, 4:59, and 6:13.
The Mannino clips are tampered with, as only a few tracks of the original multitrack recordings were used,
and they are overlaid with great precision over Nicolai’s version, with the beats perfectly synchronizing.
Those overlays are only a few measures long each, else the sync would have been lost.
Clearly Nicolai’s music was re-edited
better to match the editing crew’s post-Baragli polish of this scene.
When the new editing crew at GTC-CTM expanded the scene,
they tampered with the music again,
and when they recut the scene to match what the Twickenham crew had done,
they did not revert to the earlier mix, but simply chopped the padded music up.
It was — and remains — impossible to know precisely what those changes were,
and in part that’s because we are not permitted to listen to the original unaltered recording.
That is what we so hoped to do, at long last, except...
...It was Friday, 14 November 1980 (I’m pretty sure that was the day,
though my memory is admittedly a little bit foggy after lo these many years).
We all eagerly leapt out of bed that morning to dash out to the nearest record shop and grab the gatefold OST LP.
To heck with school. To heck with work.
This was a big day and we were going to stay at home listening to tunes.
Nothing else mattered. Who could ever forget that day?
We paid for the album, hopped onto the bus, ran the several blocks back home,
and then with bated breath we excitedly dropped the needle onto our lovely new purchase.
But... what... happened? Something was wrong.
Where was that beautiful
piece that accompanied Mnester’s Pyramid of Power and its momentary
Where was that aforementioned hilarious
rhythmic percussion piece that accompanied the Imperial Brothel?
Where did they go?
Those pieces constituted the main reason we all played hooky that day.
We felt cheated. And therein lies another story.
For, you see, I am convinced that we have all had a missing piece of the movie
on our shelves at home for upwards of 30 years — and that we never noticed.
Billboard 92 no 47, 22 November 1980, p 81.
Note that the coin is lopsided, and that the blood is not dripping straight down, but is descending at an angle.
So here’s the story.
By now you should know that, despite all the hype, the producer of Caligula was Franco Rossellini of Felix Cinematografica, Srl, of Rome.
It was Felix that had originated the project, obtained the rights, gotten the government licenses, owned the copyright,
did most of the hiring, performed the logistics, and raised three-quarters of the funds.
Penthouse Films International, Ltd., of Manhattan arranged some additional sources of funding
through offshore bank accounts and offered collateral to Italian investors.
In return, Felix granted Penthouse almost total artistic control,
gave Penthouse presenter credit, and granted Guccione a coproducer credit
(which, by the way, effectively made Guccione an employee of Felix, not the other way around).
Felix also agreed, verbally, to keep out of the limelight and let Penthouse have all the namebrand PR.
(Penthouse’s execs, including even Jack Silverman and Giancarlo Lui and even Penthouse’s UK attorney Ben Baker,
had been force-fed the information that Penthouse supplied ALL the monies, and that Franco Rossellini was merely line producer,
which is to say, in a nutshell, just a supervisor on Penthouse’s payroll.
And they believed that claim. And they were wrong, because the claim was totally bogus.
But everybody believed that claim, and it got reported far and wide. And it was totally bogus.
And the truth got reported nowhere at all. Nowhere. Nowhere. Ever.)
Since it was Penthouse and only Penthouse that had commissioned Nicolai to do a new score,
it was Penthouse’s and only Penthouse’s obligation to secure the rights to said music
as well as to Leach’s piece. Penthouse neglected to do so, thus putting the film and Felix in danger of lawsuits and worse.
It’s actually rather amazing that the film wasn’t impounded for this breach of contract.
When Felix made this discovery more than a year later, it immediately set about rescuing the situation.
On 8 September 1980 Felix Cinematografica obtained synchronous and nonsynchronous utilization rights
to 22 pieces of music from Edizioni Musicali Gemelli.
(Synchronous rights are the rights to use the music synchronized to a moving image.
Nonsynchronous rights are the rights to use the music anywhere else, generally in Original Soundtrack albums.)
Peculiarly, the rejected pre-existing cues were included.
Inexplicably, not all the Caligula cues were covered by the license!
The full list of the cues follows, and the pieces that Felix licensed are highlighted in bold.
Since this music score was properly Penthouse’s baby and should never have been Felix’s expense,
Felix Cinematografica offered to sell Penthouse International the utilization rights
with the contract to take effect upon approval by the Ufficio Italiano dei Cambi (a/k/a Cambital, or Italian Exchange Office).
Penthouse signed that contract on Sunday, 16 November 1980,
and the Italian Exchange Office authorized it on 20 February 1981.
Penthouse couldn’t be bothered with such formalities, though, and released the OST on or about 14 November 1980,
as Guccione had no patience to wait for a government authorization that wouldn’t come through for another three months.
Penthouse then refused to pay Felix for the license until several years and several lawsuits later.
Then by some form of logic that my feeble mind is incapable of following,
Penthouse argued in court that this music-utilization contract
vested it with full rights and full worldwide copyright to the motion picture Caligula.
That argument succeeded brilliantly in the US courts but failed utterly in the Italian courts —
until after a decade of judge shopping Penthouse finally found
an Italian magistrate who was willing to overturn previous unappealable rulings.
I love the law.
So back to the story:
There we were, sitting in front of our stereos, dumbfounded, heartbroken, re-reading the track list over and over again
hoping that there we had just dropped the needle improperly and that our favorite pieces were there after all.
We looked yet again. We tested each track one by one, but, alas, our favorites were gone.
Nonetheless, we could use the process of elimination to determine something:
The missing Imperial Bordello piece must have been entitled
“Orgy on Ship — Part I.”
We could work out its title because of two anomalies.
Keep in mind that Penthouse was notorious for typos, grammatical errors, and proofreading gaffes
(for instance printing “Egiziana” as “Equiziana”
in its Original Soundtrack Album).
With that in mind, let’s examine our circumstantial evidence.
First, Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” was wrongly entitled “Orgy on Ship” in the track listing.
Yes, there was an orgy during that music, but that was just the tail end; the focus of that sequence was on a precision military display.
Second, there was a different piece on the album that was never in the movie that we saw:
“Orgy on Ship — Part II”
(2:25, side 2 track 3).
Where on earth did that piece of music come from?
It was definitely composed for the Imperial Bordello scene,
as we could determine by the sound effects of the creaking ship boards along with the sound of a ship’s bell.
Interestingly, it too has a few notes from Mannino’s M.21 overlaid!
Pay especial attention to 0:03–0:08,1:01–1:02, and 2:17–2:19.
It must have been the editing team at GTC-CTM that overlaid those few notes.
That odd piece must have been included somewhere in that missing 14 minutes.
Interestingly, once the editing was in nearly its final 156-minute shape,
a crew member typed up a list of the music cues as placed into the work print.
For the Imperial Bordello, this list cites only two pieces of music:
Prokofiev’s Cinderella and Nicolai’s romantically entitled “M.21.”
The notations make clear that by this time “M.21” had been chopped into three fragments, two of them in the Imperial Bordello.
The first Imperial Bordello fragment was 3 minutes 9 seconds long,
and the second was 5 minutes 20 seconds long.
Those timings pretty much match what is in the film as it currently stands (3:11 and 5:35).
Despite having this complete catalogue of music cues, “Orgy on Ship — Part II” remains a mystery,
for it is nowhere mentioned.
Except for Nicolai’s one-note “Effetto C”
and Arvay’s supernumerary piece, the music cues are numbered “M.1” through “M.27,” but there are gaps.
There is no “M.5” and there is no “M.13.”
It is common for music cues to be dropped during the editing and mixing of a movie.
Should we assume that “Orgy on Ship Part II” was either “M.5” or “M.13”?
Or was it, instead, perhaps called “M.28,” written as an afterthought,
after the extra 14 minutes had been added in?
That leads to another suspicion.
Nobody ever understood why Guccione suddenly decided
to ship the master elements from Twickenham in the UK to GTC-CTM in France
for laying down the music score and for negative cutting, which could more conveniently have been done in the UK.
Guccione made excuses that there was an effort by “the unions”
(or “sanctimonious bastards” as he called them) to confiscate the material,
or that “the labs” were attempting to seize the material for some legalistic reasons.
He said that he had to conduct a “midnight raid” on the vaults to rescue the movie.
But that was all nonsense.
The reality is that he and Rossellini had just signed an out-of-court settlement with Tinto Brass,
by which Tinto legally disclaimed any interest in the movie.
That freed up the negative and other master materials, which had all been under a British High Court injunction.
As soon as the masters could be moved, Guccione had them moved.
Once he shipped the raw masters away from the UK, preventing the Twickenham crew from getting near them,
he could hire a new crew to obey different instructions,
and one of those instructions would have been to create a padded version.
That would correlate with a marginal scribble in Franco Rossellini’s handwriting (July 1986)
indicating that the removal of materials from Twickenham on 5 February 1979
was for the purpose of preparing the Cannes print.
Another one of those instructions would have been to keep this secret from Giancarlo Lui.
The GTC-CTM crew had from about 6 February 1979 through about mid-March 1979
to add in a 14-minute stretch of material and to do foley on those 14 minutes,
lay down Nicolai’s score, cut the negative, and run off an answer print.
It might have been too risky to ship a padded print across borders.
If it was shown in different parts of the world
then a new print may have been hot-spliced together upon arrival in each country.
A more reasonable guess, though, is that there was only a single padded print,
and that the extra footage was cut out prior to shipping and then tape-spliced back in again upon arrival.
The 8-reel print could be shipped over in the normal way,
and the extra footage could be sent by post or FedEx
or could simply be packed into a Penthouse staffer’s luggage.
If the extra footage were ever to be confiscated, that would not constitute an emergency or a tragedy,
since the feature itself had crossed the border safely and could be shown without any further enhancements.
The extra footage could easily be reprinted, after all.
A 16mm print, of course, could be a reversal taken directly from a composite print,
thus eliminating the need for a new internegative or hot splices.
Something about the above reconstruction of events bothers me, though.
It bothers me terribly.
The people who claimed to have seen a longer version offered no specifics.
The implication is that there were numerous extra scenes or lines or longueurs.
It was only McDowell who was specific that there were only two hardcore segments,
by which he doubtlessly meant the lesbian tryst and the Imperial Bordello.
Apart from McDowell, to the best of my knowledge nobody ever said the simplest and easiest thing:
“The Imperial Bordello used to be a lot longer.”
If that was the sole difference, then why would witnesses not have said that? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Why would they just say that the trade screening was longer, or that the release edition was heavily cut, whitewashed, shortened?
If all the additions had once been lumped together into a single 14-minute stretch,
then the simplest thing to say is that “there’s a huge gap in the copy playing over on the east side.” Yes?
Am I right about that?
Why make a comment about a whole movie having been changed when it was only one scene that was changed?
This makes me suspicious of my own skills as an armchair detective,
for perhaps the changes were more all-encompassing, sprinkled throughout the whole of the movie. Maybe?
Maybe. But I don’t see how the known facts could fit with such a hypothesis.
As we all know, the original release prints in the US contained an anomaly that confused projectionists.
The leaders and tails did not say CALIGULA REEL 1 and CALIGULA REEL 2
and so forth. Not at all.
Guccione instructed the editing crews to “hide” the movie by mislabeling it,
and so when Caligula was first released in the US the leaders and tails all said
MY SON MY SON REEL 1 and MY SON MY SON REEL 2
and so forth, all the way up to MY SON MY SON REEL 8.
My old projectionist friend mused about that when he snuck me into the cinema.
He had never seen such mislabeling before and couldn’t fathom the reason for it.
I explained to him that the lab workers had intentionally mislabeled the film to prevent others from finding it.
Unfortunately, I never had a chance to examine that print, or any other Caligula print for that matter.
Nonetheless, I am tempted to wager that if we could ever somehow dredge up an original 1980 release print
(not a re-issue and not from a later year), we would probably see that the two instances of “8”
on the final reel — or the “8A” and “8B” — are paste-overs.
If the edge coding specified the reel number (on some prints edge coding includes the reel number,
and on other prints it doesn’t), I would be tempted to wager that it would indicate
that “Reel 8” is in fact “Reel 9.”
Incidentally, I now have it from one unreliable source and two reliable sources
that a few Caligula materials were also hidden away in cans mislabeled The Pecos Kid.
Both The Pecos Kid
(1936) and My Son, My Son! (1940) were real movies,
and I suppose that Guccione viewed them as a youngster at his local cinema
in or near Bergenfield, New Jersey, during the Saturday matinées.
I would be most curious to learn precisely when these movies played in or around Bergenfield,
and at which cinemas.
Well, it was there for a while.
Just discovered that one can was labeled “The Deer Hunter version Française,”
another was labeled “Invasion version Française,”
another was labeled “The Audience English subtitle overlay bw,”
another was labeled “One More Time,”
another was labeled in an illegible scrawl that seemed to be something like “Tenteropa,”
others were labeled “Monday Morning,”
and others were labeled “Yanks.”
This was all silliness.
There was no attempt to seize the film, and so there was no reason for such subterfuge.
Guccione just enjoyed playing his perennial pretend game of “They’re out to get me!”
That’s all. Nothing more.
We should be interested to discover that, as a matter of fact,
there was indeed a claim of Caligula running “170 minutes,”
though by itself it doesn’t mean anything.
Chicago critic Roger Ebert was perhaps the first person to publish a claim of such a running time.
But he did not see the entire film, and so he could not have timed it.
He was relying on other information.
But what other information?
The publicity materials he had been supplied with gave the running time as 156 minutes.
So why he provided a running time of 170 minutes is anybody’s guess.
Perhaps this was a typographical error.
Perhaps Ebert was so depressed that he neglected to double-check his sources.
Or perhaps this was a carry-over of some information from the trade screenings.
For whatever it’s worth, here it is:
Thanks to researcher extraordinaire Tom Ryerson of the Caligula SuperSite,
we discover a repeat of Ebert’s claim in The [Vancouver] Province of Monday, 4 May 1981:
Now that doesn’t mean anything either.
It is the most common thing in the world for running times to be misquoted,
and this anonymous reporter may well have just cribbed his info from Ebert’s review.
But Tom found more than just this.
Take a look at The Vancouver Sun of Wednesday, 24 June 1981.
I highlighted the most interesting paragraph:
That begins to make sense of Ebert’s claim as well as of The Province’s claim,
It also makes sense of McDowell’s claim of “twenty minutes” of porn,
most of which was removed by the time he stood in line and paid for a ticket.
The problem, of course, is that making sense of contradictory claims is not sufficient.
We need physical evidence, and we do not have any.
Here’s something that doesn’t qualify as physical evidence,
though it sure elevates the curiosity levels:
The above is Felix Cinematografica’s “Domanda di revisione,” which literally translates
“Application for Revision,” but a literal translation would be useless.
The “Revision” here is the revision of national status,
changing it from provisionally Italian to legally Italian.
So in layman’s terms, an “Application for Revision” is an
“Application for Nationality.”
As you can see, Felix submitted the application and
the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment (Ministero del Turismo e dello Spettacolo) received it on 9 July 1979.
The Ministry accepted the application and granted the film Italian nationality by stamping it with certificate number 73788.
Felix stated on the application form that the length of the film was 4,650 meters.
Well, 4,650 meters equals 170 minutes! (Or 169 minutes and 51 seconds to be exact.)
Of course, all these official lengths need to be taken with a grain of salt,
because they’re never precise.
The Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment routinely checked claimed lengths,
and in the case of Caligola filled a slot on the form to provide the confirmed length,
4,151 meters, which equals 151 minutes and 19 seconds, give or take a few seconds.
It is normal for a claimed length to be off by a minute or so, but this was off by over eighteen minutes!
There are two possible reasons.
Perhaps Felix mistakenly copied the wrong record when filling out this government application,
rather than its record pertaining to the shortened version designed for submission to the Italian authorities.
But what record did Felix mistakenly copy from?
The only reasonable conclusion is that there was some paperwork in the Felix office that reflected
Bob Guccione’s custom-cut padded version.
The other possibility is that “4650” was merely transcribed from a poorly handwritten “4150”
where a sloppily scribbled European “1” looked rather like a sloppily scribbled European “6.”
Of the two possibilities, I think the former is the more likely.
NOW FOR INSANITY TIME.
The only known review of the print shown at the Cannes Trade Festival
appeared in a British skin mag called Fiesta.
The Cannes screenings were strictly off-limits to the press,
and so we have to wonder how Fiesta journalist Bobby Dupea gained admission.
Or did he gain admission? I suspect he was playing a trick on us.
Something is wrong here, and you probably didn’t catch on.
Don’t feel embarrassed about that, because nobody caught on.
“Bobby Dupea” was the name of Jack Nicholson’s character in
Five Easy Pieces,
an upper-class concert pianist who chose to make a career of working with lower-classmen on an oil rig.
“Bobby Dupea” is also the stage-name
of current young actor/rock star/heartthrob Robert Thomas-Pattinson,
who idolizes Nicholson.
Fiesta’s “Bobby Dupea” was a nom de plume,
and sources suggest that his true identity was Rome-based British journalist James Ruscoe.
Do any of you know how to get in touch with him?
Anyway, this “Bobby Dupea” wrote a scathing attack on censorship,
condemning the BBFC for demanding cuts and condemning Guccione twice as much for going along with them.
He compared the British release version with the “original” that he claimed to have seen at Cannes,
and which he assumed — assumed —
was identical to the edition released in the US.
Bobby Dupea, “Caligula Cometh (Though Not as Much as It Used To),
Fiesta 15 no 2, nd [though surely November or December 1980], pp 38–39:
...A much cut, whitewashed,
not to say downright castrated adaptation of the lusty original....
...Obviously Guccione wants to earn all
his money back, and as many times over
as he can manage. But he should have
held out, fought our archaic censorship,
rented his own theatre, turned it into a
club if necessary — and, dammit, finally
broken the back of the Establishment
which is still banning hard-core films in
normal cinemas. He’s right when he
complains that British critics may not like
his film — but then they’ve not seen it.
The original (close on three hour) version
had some of the finest porno action
ever filmed, and utilised its hard-core in a
winning fashion of gradual exposure.
First a little... then a lot. Whether real
f■■king and s■■king is offensive,
obscene or just plain nasty is a debate I
don’t need to get into here — obviously
it’s not so for Fiesta readers.
My argument is that Guccione should
have gone to court to win the freedom to
show this film, uncut, as he has done in
various American courts. He would then
have won our respect, become the champion
of our civil rights....
Mr. “Dupea” made a further claim, which I find puzzling,
and which makes his other claims a little less easily acceptable:
“I first saw the film when [Guccione] first unveiled it to the world during the Cannes festival of 1979.
I’ve also seen the version he’s running in Paris which is,
give or take the odd snippet, the same as is now unleashed upon Britain.”
Now, unlike Mr “Dupea,” I have not seen the original French version,
but I have read the wildly conflicting stories about how much it was chopped
(36 minutes, 25 minutes, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 14 minutes, 12 minutes).
Despite all that, I know definitively that it was chopped by 20 minutes and ran a mere 136 minutes.
That was partly an economic decision, as violence would raise the VAT from 7% to 33%,
but it was also a business decision, as Paul Rassam of
AMLF calculated that a shorter version
would allow four screenings per day rather than three.
The French version, in 1980, was 13 minutes shorter than the UK version,
and that should count for more than “the odd snippet.”
SIDEBAR: You’re curious about the claimed French running time? Okay.
Stephen Klain, “Caligula Banned in Boston,”
Variety (weekly) 299 no 8, 25 June 1980, p 39:
“Guccione expected the film to pass the French censors without getting an ‘X’ certification,
having cut the pic from 158 minutes to just two hours.”
(Don’t get too excited; “158” was just a typo.)
“Tobis Leads German Distribs,”
Variety (weekly) 299 no 8, 25 June 1980, p 42:
“Pic just cleared the French censors and opens next week (2) in Paris via AMLF,
but with about 14 minutes chopped out.”
“ ‘Caligula’ Leads in Paris
with 384G; ‘Tales’ $143,800, 2d,”
Variety (weekly) 299 no 11, 16 July 1980, p 55:
“The Bob Guccione production of ‘Caligula,’
released here by AMLF and shorn of about 12 minutes of footage,
usurped the lead at the Paris boxoffice in its premiere week,
and took a commanding $383,800 at 12 city and 10 suburban celluloid forums.”
“Caligola, il più porno dei kolossal all’estero sta rastrellando quattrini,”
Il Messagero, Domenica 3 agosto 1980 Pag. 10:
“...In Francia ha un notevole successo di pubblico
(anche se la censura ha imposto 15 minuti di tagli)....”
So which is right? They’re all wrong.
Let’s look at something that, despite the author’s confusion,
settles the matter:
Pascal Mérigeau, Review of Caligula, La revue du cinéma: image & son, ecran no 352,
July/August 1980, p 49:
“émasculée, de près de 25 minutes par rapport à
la version originale sortie aux États-Unis,
qui durait environ 2 h 40....”
That doesn’t help much, does it?
Well, fortunately Mérigeau timed the result: “136 minutes.”
Better yet, according to the AMLF’s sublicense of 12 March 1985 to Canal Plus for TV-broadcast rights,
the length of the film as released to French cinemas in July 1980 was 3,741 meters (rounded to the nearest meter),
which equals 12,273' and 10 frames (approximately), which equals 136 minutes and 22 seconds
(or, at SECAM video speed, 131 minutes).
This is pretty much confirmed by the listing by
ANICA (Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche ed Affini,
or National Association of Cinema and Related Industries), which lists the French running time as 136 minutes.
What do we know about this “Bobby Dupea”?
Well, he knew that the uncredited Russell Lloyd had originally edited the film,
which is not something that the average critic could possibly have known,
but it is something that James Ruscoe certainly knew and was trying, without success, to investigate further.
“Dupea” wrote that Vidal’s “script is better transferred to the screen than the over-campy
Hollywood version of his Myra Breckinridge book was.”
How could he possibly state such a thing unless he had read Vidal’s script?
So it seems he had enough insider contacts to get access to some draft of the screenplay.
There is every indication that James Ruscoe had access to Tinto’s copy of the shooting script.
Also, “Dupea” had extremely rare, almost entirely unknown interview quotes with Tinto Brass,
from an interview conducted by James Ruscoe.
(Okay. Glad you asked. James Ruscoe, “Consumption: Tinto Brass Interviewed in Rome,”
Boulevard vol 1 no 1, nd [but obviously September 1978], pp 29–30.
Managing editor Willy Daly, features editor Duncan Fallowell, published by Baron S. Bentinck,
Legion Publishing, Ltd., 186 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9QR.
To the best of my knowledge, this magazine failed after the first issue and was indexed nowhere,
and only three libraries in the world hold copies:
The British Library, St Pancras;
Trinity College Library, Dublin; and the University at Oxford.)
But did he see Caligula at Cannes?
Maybe. Here’s a quote that makes it seem he actually did see it at Cannes:
“Not an event I can easily forget. Friday May 11, 1979, was one helluva day:
Apocalypse Now in the morning... Caligula in the early evening!
You could go blind that way....”
But did he see a “close on three hour” print of Caligula?
Did he really mean “close on three hour”
or did he simply mean that it was 156 minutes
and that anything a little over two and a half hours was by his definition “close on three hour”?
It was the 156-minute edition that was picked up at GTC-CTM and driven to Cannes
and hand-delivered to the screening room’s personnel
by none other than Giancarlo Lui himself just moments before the lights went down.
Giancarlo would surely have noticed if there was an extra reel!
But what may have happened once Giancarlo turned his back?
There’s a vanishingly small chance, of course,
that Guccione snuck the projectionist a few replacement reels
just before or during the course of the show, but that hardly sounds likely.
Guccione was the world’s greatest master at slipping things by behind everyone else’s back.
No. I take that back.
He was the world’s second-greatest master at slipping things by behind everyone else’s back.
But I really doubt he could have pulled off this particular stunt.
Of course, we should wonder about the second screening — and the third.
Might something have been switched between the first screening and the second?
I suspect something was. I really suspect that something was switched.
Now here’s something that nobody ever talks about.
An uncensored Caligula was scheduled for the London Film Festival,
which ran from 14–30 November 1980.
Here’s the announcement from
Daily Variety 188 no 5, Friday, 25 July 1980, p 20:
The above does not indicate definitively whether the screening proceeded as scheduled.
You see, at the time the festival screening was originally scheduled,
Caligula had yet to pick up a UK distributor.
One purpose of the screening, of course, was to entice a UK distributor into licensing the picture.
Brent Walker had shown interest but had not made a commitment.
Then prior to the festival, Laurence Myers of GTO licensed Caligula for UK release beginning in October 1980,
and once that happened the festival screening may have been canceled.
But it was not. Rossellini and Guccione let the screening go ahead
because it would serve other purposes as well.
It would help land further international distributors and UK exhibitors,
and it would entice exhibitors too.
Inexplicably, the above article contains an anachronism.
You see, two days BEFORE the above article, the weekly edition of Variety
published a more accurate and more current version of that article:
That means that the Caligula booking was scheduled to go ahead
even after Laurence Myers of GTO had licensed the UK cinema rights for a UK première that would precede the London Film Festival.
Still, though, we do not have any further information, and so for all we know the screening may have been canceled after all.
We do not know, and my inquiry to the affiliated British Film Institute (BFI) was unanswered,
though my other inquiries to the BFI are answered promptly and courteously.
Apparently this is a touchy subject.
So let us ponder something. Let us ponder two things.
(1) Did the London Film Festival screening happen?
(2) When was Fiesta vol 15 no 2 published, before or after the London Film Festival?
If the screening went ahead as scheduled, and if Fiesta 15 no 2 was not set in type until afterwards,
then that is perhaps where and when “Bobby Dupea” actually saw it.
And if that’s where he saw it,
then I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it were indeed “close on three hour.”
This is all so bloody vague, isn’t it?
I would like to chat with this “Bobby Dupea.” So Mr. Dupea, if you chance upon this page,
please write to me. A million thanks!
That’s all too easy, isn’t it? Too snug.
Everything fits together too well.
Any unintelligent five-year-old could gather this information over the course of an afternoon and come up with these conclusions, yes?
So we might as well face the complicated facts and provide more of the story, for we need to take into account
The Tale of Phillip Bergson.
Ready? Back in 1979, as representative of BBC radio and other media,
Bergson made his third trek to the Cannes Film Festival
where “André Previn’s movie-exec brother”
(Steve Previn) invited him to
“an off-Market screening, in one of those discreet private cinemas, dotted about the Festival”
to see the original full-lengthCaligula.
So now we know something we did not know before.
The cinema was not a commercial cinema, but a “discreet private cinema,”
surely a screening room for technical checks and rushes and rough cuts
and demonstrations of new product for studio execs and distributors and exhibitors who were considering putting in bids.
Maddeningly, though, we still do not have the exact name or address of the establishment.
Further, Bergson does not give us the precise date and time of the screening.
In order to learn about this peculiar edition of Caligula,
we need to know the name and address of the screening room as well as all three dates and times the film was screened.
Now, just as Bergson’s story starts to get exciting, his memory begins to get spotty,
for he claims he tried to get the film shown at the 5th Oxford Film Festival in the UK
“later that summer” (1979) for its “public world première in competition.”
But it was not later that summer.
It was more than a year later, in the summer of 1980, that he attempted to get the film shown at Oxford,
and that was long after Caligula had been released in Italy and in the US and in Austria and in Germany.
So why would Bergson misremember this as the planned “public world première”?
Yes, memories get mixed up. Mine certainly do.
But this is not the sort of thing one would tend to misremember.
He does remember correctly that because of censor-board problems it was withdrawn.
Bergson claims that the cancelation of Caligula from the Oxford schedule led to
“the fury of jurors Walerian Borowczyk and Lina Wertmüller
(who had seen the film privately in Rome and were determined to award it a prize
even if the Oxford Film Festival was not to be permitted to screen it)....”
That’s such an odd claim.
Borowczyk had suffered mountains of producer interference
and was not a likely candidate to award a prize to a movie that consisted entirely of producer interference.
Wertmüller was an even less-likely candidate to give the film an award, for she hated Gore Vidal’s script.
Further, Wertmüller had been all set up to shoot her own script of Caligula in 1976
when Warner Bros. pulled the plug on her production
because the Felix/Penthouse Caligula had beaten her to the punch.
Why would she wish to give an award to a movie that had killed her own cherished project
and that was based on a script she despised? I’m confused.
Nonetheless, we can gather from Bergson’s comments that he had won Guccione’s trust,
for he “became the only critic in the world who received a free ticket to see the film
on its subsequent (but heavily cut) release in New York.”
That’s an interesting story, isn’t it?
So at long last we get an account from a person who attended both a Cannes trade screening
and the Manhattan run at the Trans-Lux/Penthouse East in 1980
who confirms that the Cannes trade print was significantly longer.
That is important.
But as we can see, it is at least as problematic as it is important.
How much can we rely on these sources, anyway, especially the ones that are third-hand?
Todd McCarthy, in “Penthouse’s $16 mil ‘Caligula’ Done but Pent-Up”
(Daily Variety, 12 July 1979), reported as best he could on the Cannes screenings
to which he was not permitted.
He apparently got some information, second- or third-hand,
from people who had talked to people who had attended the Cannes screenings.
He also reported on the screening in Brooklyn at the US Attorney General’s Office (New York Eastern District)
as well as on the screening in Washington DC for the US Department of Justice.
His unstated conclusion is that all these screenings were identical,
with a “151-minute running time.”
Where did that 151-minute figure come from?
No one from Variety was permitted anywhere near the film,
and so journalists had to rely on the best information they could gather, which was quite spotty.
As we can guess from what we learned above,
McCarthy simply got that figure from the Italian version
as it had been approved just days earlier by the Italian Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment.
The Ministry had ordered a few deletions and subsequently ran the resulting film through a measuring machine,
thus determining that it was 4,151 meters long, which is 151 minutes and 19 seconds, give or take a few seconds,
and then ordered a further 35 seconds of cuts, resulting in a movie 150 minutes and 44 seconds.
Either version would be rounded to 151.
Because this information was not yet public, McCarthy apparently called the Felix Cinematografica office in Rome
and asked a secretary about the length of the movie.
That is how and why McCarthy inadvertently garbled the story.
By the way, if you have access to the files relating to the Customs inspection, or to the AG or DOJ files relating to these screenings
and the clearance, please write to me.
I think we’ll become friends. Thanks!
In his commentary track on the Imperial Edition DVD,
former Penthouse journalist Ernest Volkman claimed that the trade-show print,
from the very first, had run four hours,
with the extra 84 minutes consisting only of porno padding.
He is certainly wrong about that.
About 96 hours were shot for Caligula.
During the course of the shoot, Elsa Armanni and her crew pieced together, in story sequence,
a preliminary assembly consisting of every potentially usable moment of every camera angle of every take.
The result, we understand, was about nine hours long.
After some time that was whittled down to 22,908'+14 frames, which equals 4hr 14min 54sec.
That was not an edited version of the movie.
That was just the second attempt to trim the fat off of the rushes.
Such an assembly would never have been shown to outsiders.
The first trade screenings in London in November 1978 were of a work print, which was essentially the movie as we now have it,
though minus most of the music, probably with a few extra moments (the massage, for instance), and with a few scenes in a different order,
and I doubt that Volkman was in attendance.
If we are to give Volkman the benefit of a doubt,
we might guess that he once saw part of the early four-hour+ assembly on a
and then maybe he caught later trade screenings of the 170-minute print,
and years afterwards he must have misrecalled what exactly he saw where and when,
after which his imagination took over.
His tale also took over the imagination of the satirical writers of the “China Daily Show,”
as you can see by
It’s a joke, folks.
Why do I have the premonition that this joke will spawn yet more wild claims?
Yet none of the above correlates with the claim of a 210-minute print shown at Cannes in May 1979.
Variety is not known for inaccuracies, not even small inaccuracies.
Yes, the Variety people are human, and they make mistakes, and they have been fooled at times,
but a running time is not something about which Variety would normally make an error.
But as we see, not only did Variety make an error with Caligula’s running time,
Variety made TWO errors!
Two? No! What am I saying? Variety made THREE errors!!!!!!
Go back to the top of this web page and look again at the excerpt from Hank Werba’s review as published on 21 November 1979.
He stated that the film he saw was 150 minutes, but it wasn’t.
The Ministero del Turismo e dello Spettacolo approved a version running 150 minutes and 44 seconds (4,135 meters),
and yet the prints shipped out to the cinemas were shorter by 3 minutes and 20 seconds,
leaving a running time of 147 minutes and 24 seconds, give or take a few seconds.
Why did Werba give the running time as 150 minutes?
We have the missing piece of the 210-minute claim, though.
Nobody from Variety was at the Cannes screening,
and so unbeknownst to its staff writers
the Cannes screening included Giancarlo Lui’s behind-the-scenes promo.
That little bit of information was never known until documentation concerning the screening program was unearthed in the vaults.
(I would love to see that documentation with my own two eyes,
but, alas, those documents are still locked away inside the vaults,
and I’m still locked away outside the vaults.
I have to rely on the word of a trustworthy colleague who saw those documents.)
The release version of Lui’s documentary runs 61 minutes.
The complete version of Lui’s documentary ran 67 minutes,
but it has never been seen by the public and may no longer exist.
It was surely the 61-minute edition that was shown at Cannes.
156+61=217, but we need to factor in two approximations.
The movie was roughly “two and a half hours long,”
and the promotional making-of was roughly one hour long.
Two and a half hours plus one hour equals three and a half hours, which got reported as 210 minutes for the rumor mills.
And there you have it. There’s your 210-minute version.
I rest my case.
UlyssesRex who claims to have the 210-minute version on videotape, no.
I’m sure he doesn’t.
He should watch that tape again and time it.
It’s about 149 minutes. Of that am I certain.
Now that I think about it, Variety made FOUR errors regarding the running time!
There was also the incident of the approximate running time of the “R”-rated version from October 1981.
I attended the Lobo in Albuquerque on Saturday, 24 October 1981, and sat through the movie I think three times in a single sitting.
Back in those days, if you recall, auditoriums were not cleared after each show.
You could stick around and watch the movie over and over again all day if you so chose.
So as I watched the movie those multiple times that day, I timed it. But I lost my notes. Drat!
My memory is that in my notes I jotted down that the movie was 103 minutes.
But that’s a 34-year-old memory of an event that was far from monumental.
Even had I kept my notes, they would have proved nothing.
You see, as any projectionist knows, movie projectors do not run film at exactly 90'/minute. Not at all.
Projector #1 might run at about 88.3'/minute, while Projector #2 might run at about 90.7'/minute.
And the speeds drift, which is one of the two reasons why every couple of months the change-overs need to be retimed.
The other reason, of course, is that the older a motor gets, the longer it takes for it to get up to speed.
So when I clocked the movie, the timing could have been off by two or three minutes just because of those mechanical anomalies.
Also, the projectionist at the Lobo didn’t know how to make change-overs.
When threading the projector, he skipped the entire leader and put the beginning of the film proper over the aperture.
He hit the motor switch at the first cue and then half a second later changed over to the next reel.
I tried to explain to him that he should lace up the second reel at about the 10 mark on an Academy leader
and wait the seven and one-third seconds for the second cue, but he looked at me blankly, as though I were an idiot.
And I guess I was an idiot, because he was a well-paid union projectionist
with a good retirement plan while I was a jobless nobody
who had been fired as a projectionist a few years earlier and was widely regarded as a laughing stock in Albuquerque’s theatre/cinema world.
(And yes, I literally heard the laughter, more than once.)
What further proof did he need of his superiority and my utter lack of credentials?
I could tell more horror stories too, but what’s the use?
So, in a nutshell, he skipped about 8 or 9 seconds at every change-over.
Fortunately, he was running Caligula on 6000' reels, and so he had only one change-over.
When joining 2000' reels onto larger reels, the tradition is to leave one frame attached to every leader and tail to facilitate proper reassembly at the end of the run.
In my experience, which I witnessed hundreds of times at countless cinemas, projectionists never did that.
They left a foot or more at every leader and tail, and then, for no reason at all, cut three or four feet from the beginning and ending of every reel and threw it in the trash.
They would see me get flustered when they did that, and they found my reactions amusing, which just goaded them on.
So after a film print had played at just two or three cinemas, there would be half a minute or more missing at every reel change.
But at the Lobo that didn’t happen. The print was brand new, fresh from the lab, and pretty much all the footage appeared to have been retained at the reel joins.
Anyway, for the record, the Lobo used Century heads and sound, with the factory motors, which were in as-new condition.
So how long was the “R” version? Fortunately, many sources on the Internet provide the running time as 105 minutes, which is close to correct.
If the 100min46sec Vestron VHS of the “R” version is time-compressed
the same way that the Vestron full version was time-compressed (on average about 25.236 frames/second, or 105.1495%),
then simple arithmetic tells us that at cinemas, assuming a speed of exactly 90'/minute,
the “R” version would have run 105 minutes and 47 seconds.
Yet Variety reported that it was “approximately” 117 minutes.
For this unique reference, see “Marketing Sanitized ‘Caligula’ as an ‘R’ in 170 Situations,”
Variety (weekly), 21 October 1981, page 34.
Apparently the Variety reporter had been fed information about Nino Baragli’s original attempt at an “R” version.
Unknown to the Variety reporter was that the film as already released had been shortened even further.
At the last moment before release, six consecutive scenes were removed:
SCENE 37 (fragment)
Caligula gets ill in the stable.
The courtiers hold an all-night vigil around the bed upon which lie Caligula and his horse. Inexplicably, the introductory shot of a crowd holding vigil in the Baths of Caracalla was retained.
Chærea, Longinus, Acesius, Bergarius and others quietly confer on the veranda.
Caligula makes out his will.
SCENE 34 (fragments only)
Caligula visits Longinus’s office. (“Drusilla tells me I’ve been neglecting my work; so I report for duty.”)
The torture and execution of Proculus.
In the 156-minute edition, those consecutive sequences run a total of 12 minutes 20 seconds.
To qualify for an “R” rating, scene 37 would probably need to be trimmed by about five seconds,
and scene 36A would probably need to be trimmed by a little over a minute.
Baragli’s original attempt at “sanitizing” that stretch of film
probably resulted in something around 11 minutes or just a few seconds over that.
So the end result was probably “approximately” 117 minutes (105:47+11:??=117approx).
But that’s not what anybody ever saw at the cinema.
We may never learn who chopped out that circa-11-minute stretch of film, or on whose orders.
Hey wait! It wasn’t just four errors. Variety made SEVEN errors! See above for the sidebar concerning the French version.
Why would the impeccably accurate Variety make so many errors?
Surely because its reporters were being fed inaccurate information.
So, if we are to trust Malcolm McDowell’s word (and I do),
there was indeed a slightly longer padded version floating around in early 1980.
Was this padded version shown at Cannes?
Remember also that there were three private screenings at Cannes,
and different screenings may have been of different versions!
The first screening must have been — MUST HAVE BEEN — the standard 156-minute edition,
because that’s what was shipped over — unless, as mentioned earlier, there was a switcheroo.
The subsequent screenings, well, I don’t know.
There is no way to know for sure one way or the other.
Did the 16mm bootleg that Noel Bailey saw derive from the padded version?
Quite possibly, but maybe not.
Can we find this padded version?
I am not too sanguine about the prospect.
There is now no trace of any version longer than the usual 156-minute version
in the Penthouse vaults.
The whereabouts of the trade-show print are unknown.
If the 16mm was truly a bootleg, then in all probability was a one-off print directly from a 35mm CRI.
If there were more than one 16mm bootleg print, that would have required the creation of a 16mm dupe neg from a 35mm interpositive,
and I doubt that an employee at the GTC-CTM Lab would have had the luxury of creating such
while under the not-so-watchful eye of a supervisor.
He would instead have quietly run off a 16mm pos from a 35mm CRI while working on other projects,
and then developed it and breathed a sigh of relief at not having been caught.
There is a possibility, of course, that further 16mm copies were derived from the 16mm bootleg,
though they would have looked awful.
The print that Noel saw has probably been chewed to oblivion by now,
or it’s in the closet of a collector who doesn’t realize exactly what he has.
(Now that I think about it,
I would not be at all surprised to discover that it was Guccione himself who commissioned
one or more 16mm prints for clandestine showings at private clubs and gatherings.
With such a strategy Guccione would beat the film pirates at their own game.
He could pirate his own movie, get it shown clandestinely, and earn inordinate amounts of cash for so doing.
It would be income he would never need to report and on which he would never need to pay royalties.
Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood studios ever perform this stunt.)
If you have any clues as to where any work prints, longer prints, the trade print,
the print sent to Customs, or the bootleg print might be found,
please write to me!
Many, many thanks!
P.S. There are persistent claims
that prints circulated showing an extra moment in the beauty-cream sequence,
in which Ennia mimes pouring the goblet over her face.
As far as I can tell, that is only a rumor, an urban myth
that eventually saw its way into print in Tom Dewe Mathews’
Censored: A History of British Film Censorship (1994).
Unless someone can find that footage and demonstrate that it ever existed,
we would do best to ignore the story, as there is no good evidence for it anywhere.
Also, a misprint has been replicated for far too long.
Regardless of what Tom Milne published in the BFI’s Monthly Film Bulletin
(47 no 563, December 1980, pp 232–233),
the print that the BBFC received from Penthouse was exactly the same as the print shown in the US,
155 minutes and 52 seconds (14,029' and 7 frames).
It did not run 160 minutes.
The claim of 160 minutes was just a typographical error, nothing more.
NOTE ADDED THURSDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2007:
Dutch filmmaker Maarten van Druten of UltraGore Pictures
is actively on the lookout for more Caligulan footage and for any trade prints that may have been different from the versions now available.
He once devoted a web page to this material,
and you can read remnants of that web page here.
For those who are curious:
What shall it profit a man....
Oh... dance for me... delight me...
Will be, grandfather?
(Just after Tiberius has walked off) MCS Caligula by Nerva’s bath
(Just after murder of Tiberius) CS Caligula, camera pans down to ring on his finger
(Immediately after Caligula calls Macro a murderer) MS Caligula cam.R, Macro cam.L
Sacred dance of Isis
(A few moments into the wedding feast) CS People moving, with Proculus in bg
Maids undress Caligula, Cæsonia, Drusilla
MS Caligula drops food into his mouth. And they weren’t even poisoned.
CS Caligula looking o/s towards Drusilla who has just died
Wide angle Longinus’s office as Cæsonia enters
MCS Anneka with arms in air, laughing
After all, we must have some proof that I conquered Britain