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Caligula received its world première at private screenings during the
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 do not know the name or address of the screening room.
A few months later the weekly edition of Variety said something even more enticing:
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:
Certain that he was mistaken, I wrote to him and he replied as follows:
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,
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. He replied:
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...
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:
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
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 Lucky Fellows. He appeared in Guccione’s inserts, and states:
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 massage? 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
BUT... this quest for a
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:
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? Apparently so. 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:
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
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”? Simple. 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
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:
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
Now, I’m trying to think this through. If there was a padded print, then it was most likely physically
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.
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; they were simply beats rather than tunes. We can hear brief moments of some of those drafts played in the background of Giancarlo Lui’s
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
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 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
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 would seem to destroy my previous theory that the extra material was added later, but, in fact, it strengthens it. 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
...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
...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
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 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.) As for utilization rights, you probably think that means copyright. Wrong. Edizioni Musicali Gemelli retained the copyrights. Felix had simply licensed the right to utilize Gemelli’s music in the film. That is all. That was overinterpreted in court, and misinterpreted, too. Peculiarly, the rejected
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,
That leads to another suspicion. Nobody ever understood why Guccione suddenly decided to ship the master elements from Twickenham in the UK to
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
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
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
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.
I should point something out, though I cannot be sure that this was the trigger. “My son — my son” was also a phrase in Caligula. Remember? It was just after Cæsonia gave birth to her child. Caligula announces the birth of his son, but when Drusilla points out that the son is a daughter, Caligula insists: “One month of free games and a gold coin to every Roman to celebrate the birth of my son — my son — Julia Drusilla!” Did Guccione know this? No script contained this line, nor did most of the shooting records, and that was for the simple reason that the line was changed at the last moment, and used only as an alternative take, which did, of course, end up being the preferred take. The only parts of the movie that Guccione viewed prior to the completion of Russ Lloyd’s rough cut were the moments that showed the Penthouse Pets. He had no patience with the rest. So did Guccione know about this phrase? We shall never know. Thus, the choice of My Son, My Son as the title on some of the film cans and on all of the leaders and tails may just be a coincidence.
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. Who knows? 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, doesn’t it? 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. Yes? 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! Why? 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
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
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.”
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 Tinto Brass quotes — 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],
Now here’s something that nobody ever talks about. An uncensored Caligula was scheduled for the London Film Festival, which ran from
The above does not indicate 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. If so, it was not canceled immediately. Perhaps Rossellini and Guccione wished to let the screening go ahead because it would serve other purposes as well. It could help land further international distributors and UK exhibitors, and it could 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
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
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
How much can we rely on these sources, anyway, especially the ones that are
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
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 (especially about Caligula), 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
As for 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
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
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? Maybe. 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
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
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:
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