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Caligula The Untold Story (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Caligula The Untold Story (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Joe D’Amato
    Cast: David Brandon, Gabriele Tinti, Laura Gemser, Michele Soavi, George Eastman, Charles Borromel
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Amazon

    Caligula The Untold Story – Movie Review:

    Directed by Joe D’Amato from a script by frequent collaborator George Eastman, 1981’s Caligula The Untold Story was, as you’d probably have guessed, a cash-in on the success and notoriety of Tinto Brass’ 1979 film, albeit one concerned not one whit with historical accuracy. Still, if sex, sleaze and violence are your bag, D’Amato’s exploitative knock off will definitely fit the bill.

    The film, not surprisingly, revolves around the mad Emperor of Rome, Caligula (David Brandon), is convinced, after a series of nightmares, that he will soon be assassinated. Regardless, this doesn’t stop him from setting out to build himself a massive and ridiculously ornate new palace to call home. Without caring how it’s paid for, he goes about his business fighting with members of his senate and killing off people he doesn’t like, like a poet (Michelle Soavi) whose tongue gets ripped out.

    When he rapes a woman named Livia and afterwards she takes her own life, her best friend, an Egyptian noblewoman now enslaved named Miriam (Laura Gemser), vows to exact revenge upon Caligula. As Miriam sets in motion a plan to get closer to Caligula be infiltrating his harem, he starts to fall for her and they begin a torrid love affair.

    Set to a fantastic score from Carlo Maria Cordio, the film is notorious for a scene in which a prostitute is hired to masturbate a horse and a scene where one of Caligula’s many enemies is put to death by having a massive metal rod shoved up his ass, but there’s a lot more sleaze and degradation to the movie than just those two set pieces. There’s a lot of sex in this movie, some of it softcore and some of it (in the longer version) very definitely hardcore, and a fair bit more violence as well. D’Amato knew what his audience wanted and he wasn’t afraid to give it to them.

    As to the acting, if David Brandon can’t match Malcolm McDowell’s in Brass’ original film, he comes pretty close and actually delivers a really good turn in this picture. As Caligula becomes increasingly unhinged, his madness and paranoia setting in as the story progresses, Brandon’s performance does a great job of accentuating that. He never goes as over the top as McDowell does, but he doesn’t need to either, he’s legitimately good in this part. Gemser doesn’t really cover any new ground with her performance, her job is to look seductive and exotic and that’s something that she always did well, this film being no exception. The supporting players are decent here as well, including Luciano Bartoli as Messala, Gabriele Tinti as Marcellus Agrippa and Charles Borromel as Petreius. Mark Shannon, infamous for working with D'Amato on Erotic Nights Of The Living Dead and Porno Holocaust, also has a small role in the film.

    The production values can’t match the original film, they look cheap in comparison, as does the costuming, but D’Amato’s cinematography is as solid here as it ever was and that does help to compensate for things a bit in this department. Cordio’s score hits all the right notes at all the right times, and if it sometimes feels a little too familiar, it works in the context of the movie.

    Note that Severin has provided both the ninety-five minute U.S. cut of the film on this disc as well as the longer, full-strength one-hundred-and-twenty-one minute extended cut as well and that while they both follow the same story, the extended cut adds a lot more sex to the film!

    Caligula The Untold Story – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Caligula The Untold Story to Region A Blu-ray famed at 1.85.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative, despite some noticeable print damage that pops up in the last few minutes, the transfer is very clean. Colors are also pretty strong here, looking bold and bright without coming across as oversaturated or artificially boosted. A few minor compression artifacts can be spotted here and there but they aren’t particularly distracting when they do show up. The image is a bit on the soft side but past DVD editions were as well, and detail, depth and texture are definitely stronger than they have been on the standard definition offerings.

    Caligula The Untold Story gets a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English for the U.S cut of the film and a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in Italian for the longer, extended cut of the film. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided for the U.S. cut and standard English subtitles for the extended version.

    In addition to the two cuts of the film, the disc also contains a featurette The Orgy Of Power which is an interview with Actor David Brandon that clocks in at twenty-six minutes. Here, the actor talks about where his career was at during this period in his life, how he got the role, what it was like working in Rome with a mostly Italian cast and crew, shooting some of the film’s more controversial sequences, D’Amato’s directing style and what he was like to work with and how he feels about the movie.

    A False True Story: Interview With Screenwriter Luigi Montefiori runs for just over twelve minutes and sees the man better known as George Eastman talk about his many collaborations with D’Amato during this period, social commentary that he tried to work into the storyline, elements that were in the script and not the final product and how he basically just made everything up that happens in the film, given that historical accuracy wasn’t a concern.

    The last of the featurettes is Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy: Interview With Actor Mark Shannon, a twenty-two minute piece that explores how he first got into acting, doing sex films, collaborating with D'Amato on this and quite a few other pictures and what he was able to bring to the director's sex films in terms of... performative ability.

    Severin has also dug up eleven minutes of deleted scenes from the film, a UK video trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options.

    Also included with this release is the film's soundtrack on CD, there are twenty-four tracks included. Severin has also included a postcard insert with the track listing and credits on one side and some great promotional artwork on the reverse.

    Caligula The Untold Story - The Final Word:

    Caligula The Untold Story is more concerned with exploitation and sensationalism than historical accuracy but it moves at a decent pace, throws in all sorts of sex and violence and features a really strong performance from its two leads. Severin’s Blu-ray offers up the film in its shorter U.S. version but also its full-strength uncut edition as well, in addition to some pretty interesting extra features. Recommended to those with a taste for trash!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Caligula The Untold Story Blu-ray screen caps!

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