The first time I ever saw porno (just kidding mom, this is a made up story about jokes) was in junior high school. It was at a sleepover at my friend Matt’s house, and our other friend, Dorian, brought a VHS from his collection. His collection! It’s important for sixth grader’s to have extra-curricular hobbies I guess. I wonder whatever happened to Dorian. I mean, like, I wonder what jail he is in now? Anyway, the movie was called Girls of the USA, but the label had shortened it to GUSA, and to this day whenever I think of porno (just kidding mom, hahaha, I don’t even think about anything!), the name GUSA (pronounced Goose-a) still seems to me like the One True Porn Title. At some point, we lost the video in Matt’s basement? I don’t know how that happened. I also don’t know if they ever found the tape, because eventually I had to go home. I couldn’t just live in Matt’s basement forever solving the GUSA Emergency. Anyway, the point is that watching Caligula as an adult was similar to my first porn watching experience as a child. Like, very uncomfortable, surprisingly boring, constantly wondering when it would be over, and although I did not lose the DVD in Matt’s basement after watching it, I wish I had. I wish I had lost every copy in existence.

It should be noted that there is at least one NSFW image after the jump:

Caligula is about Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, who ruled Rome for 37-41 C.E. Very little is known for sure about him, and what few historical accounts of him exist are often in conflict with each other. So what better way to teach people about this historical figure than with an INSANE PORNO? Perfect, now you don’t have to go to college*. Basically, his great uncle, Tiberius, was the tyrannical emperor of Rome who had syphilis and lived on the island of Capri. Then he died, maybe by murder, but in the movie definitely by murder, and Caligula (whose name means Little Boots! He’s like a one man Fleet Foxes cover band!) became emperor. For the next two and a half hours he proceeded to fuck and kill everything. Often he would kill people during or right after he was done fucking them. At one point he got sick. But then he got better. And if anything, he only fucked and killed everything more. He really loved fucking his sister, but then she died, so he focused a lot of his attention on killing again. But also fucking, it’s not like he ever stopped fucking. Eventually, after a ton of fucking and killing, he was assassinated. The end.

Uh.

I suppose this could have been an interesting commentary on the old adage that power corrupts, but absolute power gives you a boner (I am pretty sure I got that right), except that it just isn’t? Like, just because you tack on a bible quote about corruption at the beginning of a movie doesn’t mean the movie actually has anything to say about corruption. “People who become rulers of the Western World should try and keep their heads on straight or else they will edit a fifteen minute long graphic sex scene out of nowhere in the middle of everything.” Right, got it. Lesson learned. I will put it in my Important Notes to Self in the Event of World Domination Notebook.

Nice try!

I did learn the historical fact that Rome was where erotic cakes originated:

And this makes me laugh so much:

I’m pretty sure this movie won the Academy Award for Best Sound Effects.

But everything else seemed like pretty much bullshit. Roger Ebert, in his original 1979 review, summed things up pretty nicely:

“Caligula” is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length. That was on Saturday night, as a line of hundreds of people stretched down Lincoln Ave., waiting to pay $7.50 apiece to become eyewitnesses to shame.

I wanted to tell them … what did I want to tell them? What I’m telling you now. That this film is not only garbage on an artistic level, but that it is also garbage on the crude and base level where it no doubt hopes to find its audience. “Caligula” is not good art, It is not good cinema, and it is not good porn.

And this from the guy who wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls! (Which is great, but you see my point! Ebert knows where the line in the trash is drawn.)

That last part is really important. Because this could have at least been really good porn! It’s basically the Funny People of 1979. Like how Funny People‘s comedy wasn’t funny enough and it’s drama wasn’t dramatic enough? Here, the history isn’t historical enough and the porn isn’t give you a boner enough. Gross. Sorry. But true. It’s like Mel Gibson said in Signs: everything gives you a boner for a reason.

What’s most amazing about Caligula, and is of course the only reason that anyone is even talking about it anymore, is how many otherwise seemingly talented people were involved in its creation. Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, and Helen Mirren were all successful actors when this came out. And a screenplay written by Gore Vidal? It’s like, uh, what? When financing fell through, Vidal turned to Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, who basically said “Sure, I’ll pay for your movie as long as you put one thousand more blowjobs into it.” The best part is that it wasn’t until later, in disagreements with the director, that Gore Vidal tried to distance himself from the project? The whole “let’s make this a little bit about history but mostly about blowjobs as an advertisement for my filthy magazine” part didn’t bother him. It was the director who trashed his lights.

Whatever, have you seen Gore Vidal’s Italian villa? He ain’t care.

I think that my experience of watching Caligula is encapsulated in the fact that I turned it off 10 minutes before it ended. Oh, I went back later, rested and refreshed with a steely reserve and finished the movie, but at the two hour and twenty minute mark I was like OK, THAT IS ENOUGH FOR NOW. Bad news bears.

In Two Weeks: Rachel Getting Married. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.

*I was going to point out last week with Beowulf that you didn’t have to go to college, but it works here as well. Congratulations, now we are all geniuses.

Comments (112)
  1. I watched this movie in the common room of my dorms during my first year of college. Needless to say, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. But then again that’s what I get for not knowing it was produced by Penthouse.

  2. Kalman  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 0

    Thanks Gabe. It is everything I had hoped for.

  3. Why did I waste all that time in college?

    • I would rather spend another five years and thousands of dollars at University getting an honours degree in classics than have to watch Caligula.

  4. woozefa  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +6

    hellen mirren’s breasts make it all OK.

  5. I find it interesting how much this movie tries and fails to be Satyricon, which is simultaneously sexier and less explicit.

  6. fun-yuns  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +43

    oh man, that fisting scene in the banner pic is hilarious. Remember kids, shove your arm into a urn of butter BEFORE ramming it wrist deep into a man’s anus. The other way around just gives you dirty butter.

  7. Apostasy. Everyone knows the One True Porn Title is Saturday Night Beaver.

  8. That’s what Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf adaptation was missing: a thousand blowjobs. And in motion-capture CGI! Just imagine them high-tech BJs!

  9. I believe this movie is what convinced Roger Ebert to quit drinking.

  10. I was born in 1970 and you totally have to be from my generation to understand it but Caligula was the Holy Grail of titty movies to catch late night on Showtime when I was in the 8th grade.

  11. “The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in ourselves, but in our Boners.” – Gaius Julius Caesar

  12. The porno got “lost?” That doesn’t happen very often. I think your old pal Matt nicked it.
    And I must say, I’ve been reading WMOAT for a pretty long time now and this is the most convinced I’ve been not to see a movie.

    • eric  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +26

      That’s funny because as I was reading it, I figured Gabe stole it. He just seems to remember a lot about it. Just kidding Gabe’s mom. Hahaha.

  13. I really loved the contrast of the head-slam thump thump thump with the teddy bear videogum logo. Excellent.

    I recommend Armageddon for the next round for Bruce Willis’s ridiculous one-liners alone.

  14. The modern porn industry has this film to thank for getting rid of expensive scripts, set design, etc and allowing it to stick to the important stuff they are really about. It’s why I am looking forward to the Disney Marvel collaboration.

  15. woozefa  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +1

    wow, check this trailer out. bob guccione’s hubris is astounding. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW3E8vs-MUI

  16. JD  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +2

    If you remove all the bits that show that he’s talking about a movie, Ebert’s review could be applied to True Blood.

    • Nic  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +6

      Naw you couldn’t – “People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. ”
      Where’s the talent in TB?
      And abs and breasts don’t count as talent…

  17. People Like Movies! I Like Movies, Too!  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 0

    Every time I read a new WMOAT entry it’s usually with disinterest or disagreement or some other word prefixed my “dis”. Not this time. This time, Gabe has all the Laff Cylinders of his joke engine running. Terrible, overproduced, thirty-year-old porn must be the creative fuel of said engine because this is the best one yet.

    The hunt is over. Iif it isn’t, then this shit just got real, y’all.

  18. Jack Braunstein  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 -2

    LASER MISSION. watch it. it son youtube. sooo bad

  19. Don’t worry Gabe, you’ll have your Italian villa too one day.

  20. i know you’re saying “Caligula” but all i’m hearing is “Bunnicula”

  21. You know Gabe, if you had the stomach to watch Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to begin with, it’s time you re-watch it and give it the Videogum treatment. It’s so profoundly awful one thinks that it has to be the thing responsible for single-handedly killing the optimistic attitude of the ’60s. Remember how jaded Jenny was in the ’70s in Forrest Gump?

  22. I had no idea this was a movie until it was announced. Is this or isn’t this based on Camus’ play. I don’t remember that being the WPOAT just a little disappointing.

  23. The fact that Rachel Getting Married is being preceded by Caligula and Beowulf makes no sense to me.

    I know it drags, but I think it’s a bad fit for WMOAT. For a movie that goes out of its way to be hard to watch, it’s surprisingly unpretentious and heartfelt. It’s about people who try to love each other, despite some ugly circumstances. It’s well-acted across the board. I’m on board with the ‘White People with Problems’ movies stink manifesto, believe me. But that’s because so often the filmmakers — and not the characters — are the ones making excuses for the mopey, stupid behavior. And in ‘RGM’ I don’t think anybody’s let off the hook, which is what differentiates it from 99.9% of White People With Problems movies.

    I’m just saying, it’s time to draw the line between ‘White People With Problems’ and ‘History with Fisting.’ Or ‘Epic Poems with Computer Boobs.’

    Or whatever. I’m going to watch Crank.

    • ‘History with Fisting.’
      Fistory.

    • Seconded! That’s where the difference is, is that “Rachel Getting Married” pretty much presents the family, with little to no trace of favoritism, one way or the other. Jonathan Demme makes no excuses for their behavior, but he makes us understand the foundations of it. Nobody in the film comes off looking great, but he also doesn’t go to the other extreme, by making them so 2-D-awful that the audience feels superior (Sam Mendes, “American Beauty”, I’m looking in your direction!!)

      But I totally understand why it’s in the running. The trailer makes it look pretty much awful, (the tagline itself is: “They’re not your family, but they are your family” DOUBLE UGH) And without having seen it, it could seem like a pretty easy target. All I know is, that I love “Rachel Getting Married”, but I am looking forward to the WMOAT. It won’t sway me from the former, but it’ll surely be good reading.

    • Yeah, but the haters want to hear Gabe rag on the dishwasher loading contest. I would like to restate for the record my love of that scene. Bill Irwin’s performance broke my heart.

    • I hear you. RGM is a White People with Problems movie for sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As a card carrying White Person with Problems, it was nice to see a movie that didn’t make me resign membership and then shoot myself in the face.
      However, the nature of WMOAT is such that Gabe could pick any movie, and it’d still be funny as hell. Therefore, I recommend Citizen Kane, or some other Incredibly Important Film.

  24. JV  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +5

    As a grad student in Classics I generally make myself sit through movies that are related to my field of study, but I’ve never had a desire to see Caligula, and, after reading this review, I definitely don’t want to see it. My favourite portrayal of Caligula remains that of John Hurt in the I, Claudius series (which I highly recommend!).

  25. “These are my only friends, grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.”

    “Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”

  26. It seems pretty clear this fisting is going to become a regular line in Videogum comments at this point.
    “Man, that Youtube clip is sure fisting the Lawnmower Man today.”
    “Clearly this could be improved by a little less Glenn Beck, a little more fist-riding the whip.”
    “Fistory Science Theater 3000.”

  27. “These are my only friends, grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.”

    “Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”

  28. I don’t come to your 8th century Roman orgy and knock the dicks out of your mouth.

    I literally fast-forwarded through this entire movie at full speed. I think I got the jist of it after Peter O’ Toole molests all the naked servants in the pool while his body was basically falling apart.
    Safe sex guys.

  29. i have a nomination. Fire On the Amazon with Sandra Bullock. my mom has a thing for renting awful movies no one has ever heard of because she HAS heard of one of the actors. somehow i agreed to watch this back in high school. i don’t remember much about it. something rainforest, something reporter, something romantic chemistry, something drink this hallucinogenic herbal tea and then bone in a hut. Gabe, i implore you, watch this.

  30. I know S.Darko was only released in cinemas in the UK but it must be done by Gabe. It has no plot and Chuck Bass plays a mechanic. It’s the most disorienting sequel in history of movies.

  31. Shaz  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +3

    I’m sort of confused by the addition of Rachel Getting Married. Wasn’t that one of the best reviewed movies of last year? Has the tide turned so much since then? I’d like to see more older films included, Caligula aside, most seem to be from the last few years. My nomination would be 1978′s The Norseman with Lee Majors http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18wHBYfgzHo

  32. I liked the book better. Way hotter.

  33. How about The Notebook? That was straight up awful and then horribly morbid and depressing at the end.

  34. JD  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 0

    I’m surprised the Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions have yet to suggested. When it comes to sullying a beloved brand name, they make the Star Wars prequels look phenomenal. They actually removed all enjoyment and ‘coolness’ from the first movie they were both so bad.

  35. Rob  |   Posted on Aug 31st, 2009 +1

    I have never stopped considering Helen Mirren to be a successful actor.

  36. blah blah blah witty comment blah blah A WALK TO REMEMBER

    (seriously it’s the worst movie)

  37. Dearets Gabe,
    I’d like to nominate “Howard the Duck” as the worst.
    1) Howard the Duck was meant to be serious business, or so it seems.
    2) Tim Robbins is in it!
    3) It isn’t Glitter (Amen.)
    4) Came out in theaters in 1986.

    This is a movie even George “The Land Before Time” Lucas eventually didn’t want his name attached to.

    I also agree with tibmalian, A Walk To Remember is a pretty awful movie. I remember guffawing during the “sad” parts of that movie because it was just that ridiculous.

  38. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • mighty undies  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 +2

      I used to love Roger Ebert.
      BUT he gave Babel, and Crash, four stars. And you can fix the jar with glue, but it’ll still be broken.

      • How many movies has Ebert reviewed in his lifetime? Do you have to agree with his feelings on every single one for you to like/respect him as a critic?

  39. I liked Rachel Getting Married. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than, say, Ron Howard’s The Grinch. I am wondering if these are all movies Gabe has seen before, and if not, what happens if he actually likes one of these?

  40. tip  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  41. you never really concluded on this one: is this a contender for the top of the WMOT list? sounds like yes??

  42. CaligulUGH.

  43. Suggestion for the next WMOAT- Mission to Mars. It’s the only movie I’ve ever come close to walking out of the theater of, but that was 9 years ago so I don’t remember why I hated it so much anymore. Reminder, please!

  44. now that i’m registered i can’t wait to leave y’all alone.

  45. Color of Night  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 0

    Color of Night — it isn’t good thrill, it isn’t good sex, and it isn’t good Bruce Willis.

    It’s the worst Bruce Willis, it makes Hudson Hawk look great. But then I love Hudson Hawk. It would be better without Andie McDowell, though. I mean why is she even famous.

    Please review Color of Night if you want the worst movie to be one that you can sit all the way through, as if that’s a good thing.

  46. again, cassandra over here, telling you that miami vice is the saddest, most depressing pile of poop ever, but no one listens. it fits the bill. it’s unremittingly terrible.

    i’m not even nominating it regularly anymore because i am disheartened at no one else agreeing with me, but i believe in myself.

    MIAMI VICE. FTW.

    • cosi1  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 +1

      Agreed but it would open the door for a lot of bad remakes of all time like ‘Bewitched’ or ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ the shit list is endless. Still can’t get an agreement on ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People’ though I’ll keep nominating it’s awfulness.

  47. He ain’t care! I need to use that more often.

    I nominate, again, Hamlet 2. Commence down voting!

  48. Poorly executed movies that flopped are too fat a target.
    I nom nom nominate ‘The Devil wears Prada’ and ‘In Her Shoes’. They are both fucking disgusting with really screwed up values. And DWP got OSCAR noms for costume designing and Meryl. Streeping. Truly, these are hit & shit movies that deserve to have their faces melted off with Gabe’s vomit.

  49. May I nominate ‘Hackers’? Because there is nothing more action-packed than watching someone type on a computer.

  50. I would very very very strongly argue that this movie violates the rules for what can qualify as the worst movie of all time. Like… Caligula is a classic of craptastic cinema. It never has been anything but panned and has gone down in history as such. I mean… Gore Vidal wiped his name from the credits because he hated how it was executed even though he wrote the original screenplay…

  51. oh hey. the sound of the little girl’s head smashing on the steps is the same noise of the beat that comes in around 30 seconds into “Hold the Line” by Major Lazer. like, exactly the same.

  52. WHO  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 +1

    Hey Gabe, you seen Revolver? You know, Revolver? The movie produced by Luc Besson, Directed by Guy Ritchie, and starring Ray Liotta, Jason Statham, Andre “3000″ Benjamin, and Big Pussy from the Sopranos?
    No? Because it makes Swept Away look like fucking The Island or something (which is to say, you still hate Swept Away, but maybe its not so bad as what you originally thought, because whoo boy Revolver)

  53. Colin  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 0

    I thought I read somewhere that the, you know, REAL actors in this movie didn’t know it was going to be all blowjobs – that stuff was added after or without their knowledge or something (except the fisting scene…). I don’t think any of them are involved in the blow jobs and cum shots, right? i only saw this once, about ten years ago, so I could be wrong, but I remember thinking “Helen Mirren is in a porno???”

  54. johnb1111  |   Posted on Sep 1st, 2009 0

    batman and robin! i dont think it’s been done yet, and it kind of does itself really, but it’s got all those great terrible one-liners that you can predict, and arnold, and batgirlverstone

  55. Nick  |   Posted on Sep 3rd, 2009 -1

    NOOO RACHEL GETTING MARRIED WAS A FANTASTIC MOVIE.

  56. tomconway  |   Posted on Sep 4th, 2009 -1

    How about House of Spirits for the next film ? Thinking of good cast, crap film. Or Synecdoche, for just outright bullshit ?

  57. EtTuFisty  |   Posted on Sep 5th, 2009 +1

    “I came, I saw, I fisted,”

  58. Glamour_Cookie  |   Posted on Sep 8th, 2009 0

    Why don’t you do The Notebook? It’s such a garbage du7mp, and what’s worse is that people actually and wholeheartedly think this is a genuinely romantic movie and wish that real life were like it. It really upsets me. It’s a cliched claptrap and Rachel McAdams character is spoiled and annoying.

    Also, if you are deciding to nominate it, I am so sorry that you had to watch it.

  59. Glamour_cookie  |   Posted on Sep 8th, 2009 0

    The Notebook is a travesty. It is NOT the most romantic movie ever made and what’s worse is that people are horrified at you when you tell them so. What’s wrong with people?

  60. krangsquared  |   Posted on Sep 9th, 2009 0

    Yes indeedy, this is definitely up there in the worst movie pantheon. I remember seeing an ad for this back in the late 70s, in an issue of Penthouse. So the “produced by Penthouse” bit stuck in my mind, and finally found a copy from Mr B.Torrent. Holyshitmotherofgod, it’s depraved and so devastatingly unsexy, it hurts. Maybe Guccione was actually trying to turn people off sex altogether. Maybe he was trying to get us all to stop buying Penthouse, and get Omni instead (Omni was the Wired of its time). Any teens looking for oh-so-retro wanking inspirational material are advised to steer clear of this.

  61. Shazzy  |   Posted on Sep 9th, 2009 0

    Can’t wait to see the pseudo piece of crap Rachel Getting Married skewered by Gabe.

  62. I feel that I need to re-nominate ‘Fool’s Gold.’ Because, Exhibit A:

    That is not a body. That is an Alien from the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

    And also, Matthew McConaughey. And also, it made me vomit from my brain.

  63. Envy.

    EnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvyEnvy.

    Why do you love Envy so much that you won’t review it? Are you getting married to Envy, the shit film literally about shit (good casting!)? Because if so, I must rescind my marriage proposal to you at once.

    This is a world where people love other people, Gabe. YOU CANNOT MARRY A FILM. So stop trying on cinematic wedding gowns and admit that Envy deserves a closer inspection. And then please inspect it.

    PS: u r my princess :3

  64. I fuck people up real bad in the clips on the link. Check it out. My work is heading to France over Halloween to screen in 4k glory.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BH1JH1M80A&feature=player_profilepage

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