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  • Caligula et Messaline
    • Caligula et Messaline
    • Runtime:111 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-18 00:53:45
    • Director: Bruno Mattei
    • Genres: Action
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Caligula et Messaline


I just saw this movie, and I cannot believe how poor it was even for an
exploitation film. I am not familiar with the accurate history of the
real Caligula but it could not have been anything like in this movie.
Of course, that's not necessary in an exploitation film but in this
case it is just too stupid. Their seems to have been absolutely no
research into the actual life in Rome at that time. Moreover, the sex
scenes are really poor. Maybe with one or two erotic moments, and with
one or two attractive females. The torture scenes are just terrible and
depressing. At least a movie like "Hostel" portrays torture in a more
interesting fashion – there is something about the early exploitation
films that make you want to scream out in boredom at the stupid torture
scenes. All things considered, this is a horrible movie which should
never have been made. I feel the same about movies about torture in the
Holocaust. Movies like that are simply dangerous to the mind, and a
complete waste of time and life. It is difficult to prove that movies
like that are actually damaging to the mind, and I don't mean it in any
moral sense, but we all know that movies like that are absolute trash,
and that we would be better off watching something interesting. I
bought Caligula because I thought it might be good but it wasn't. I
think, the Druuna comic book series is excellent. But this Caligula
film doesn't deliver anything other than negative and stupid stuff.


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the small slew of Roman histories which followed in the wake of
Tinto Brass' critically reviled but commercially successful Caligula,
Bruno Mattei's Caligula and Messalina doesn't have a great deal to add
but what it does have is pretty eye-popping. Unlike Brass' monumental
work, Mattei's atrocity has Caligula die about halfway through,
continuing the story into the reign of Claudius until he tires of his
disgraceful wife Messalina and has her put to the sword. The film is,
then, more the story of Messalina than of Caligula, although you
wouldn't know it from the set-up, which simply retreads the familiar
Caligula story, beginning with some appallingly clunking exposition
speeches, the best that can be said about which is that what they
expose is then shown on screen, making them not only poor scriptwriting
but staggeringly redundant.

The story is enlivened by Mattei's trademark use of stock footage,
which means that intermixed with the cheap and cheerless original film
are crowd scenes, senate scenes and gladiatorial scenes from early
1960s peplum, including Pontius Pilate and Leone's The Colossus of
Rhodes. As usual with Mattei, the stock footage stands out like a sore
thumb, or in this case is like a perfect hand on which his own sore
thumb has been stuck. Not content with chivvying things up in this
fashion, Mattei provides us with not one but two scenes of equine
congress in quick succession – the ass's milk for Messalina's bath is
helped along by bringing in a long-donged mule to tup the ass, and
Caligula's famous senator horse is shown in congress with a mare at the
stables,; both scenes include explicit footages of the animal's sexual
organs, the latter sequence intercutting footage from Borowczyk's The
Beast. Both sequences are about as unnecessary as can be imagined, but
they do perk the jaded interest after what has been a fairly dull first
45 minutes.

After this, things get better as Caligula is killed and the story is a
little bit less familiar. Messalina, now Claudius' Empress, craves
nothing more than huge dick, and is serviced by her well-hung eunuch
before skipping down the brothel to try the legendarily huge member of
an out-of-towner client (played by the ugliest man to ever hit the
screen, Salvatore Baccaro from The Beast in Heat). There's an amusing
episode where the Empress feeds a lover to the lions, but the film is
for the most part pretty flat, poorly acted and unimaginatively
directed, so apart from the outré elements, there's little to engage,
and most viewers I should think will be pretty relieved when Messalina
meets her end, allowing the film to.


Made to cash in on the notoriety of Tinto Brass's 1979 movie
'Caligula', Italian sleaze-merchant Bruno Mattei's 'Caligula and
Messalina' is packed to the gills with soft-core scenes of sex and
violence. Despite lacking the hardcore porn and graphic gore to be
found in Brass's movie, Mattei's production (available on German DVD in
an uncut 108 minute version) is still fairly entertaining stuff.

John Turner stars as nutty Roman Emperor Caligula, who commits incest
with his sisters, makes his horse a member of the Senate, and executes
the innocent on a whim.

Messalina (played by gorgeous Betty Roland) is a power-hungry
nymphomaniac who will stop at nothing to become Empress of Rome. She
brings herself to the attention of Caligula by battling in the
gladiator arena and it is not long before she achieves her goal,
upsetting the Emperor's youngest sister Agrippina, who hopes that her
son Nero will eventually become ruler of Rome.

Agrippina successfully plots Caligula's downfall, but Messalina rains
on her parade by immediately jumping into the sack with his successor,
Claudius. But naughty old Messalina can't commit herself to one man,
and shags everyone in sight, including a grotesque, but well-endowed,
frequenter of brothels, a randy midget, her eunuch(!?!?) and an
ex-lover. When she ends up pregnant, and it is obvious that the father
is not Claudius (since he has been away fighting in foreign lands),
Agrippina finally sees her opportunity to be rid of her nemesis once
and for all.

Chock full of full frontal female nudity, some male nudity, simulated
sex, incest, lesbianism, Bacchanalian orgies, rape and buggery, this
movie is definitely not one for the easily offended. And if none of
that bothers you, then the graphic scenes of horses and donkeys getting
jiggy will probably do the trick (the close-up shots were too much for
me!). Surprisingly, in contrast, the violence is pretty low-key, with
most of it happening off screen.

Mattei, obviously working with a low budget, resorts to padding his
movie with footage from other films, particularly for crowd scenes
requiring many extras, but to be fair it all works pretty well.
'Caligula and Messalina' is fun slice of schlock entertainment and is
worth a viewing for fans of historical exploitation, but those hoping
for the polished look and excesses of its more famous predecessor may
be disappointed.


Released in 1982, this is an Italian film which was probably intended
to exploit the publicity associated with Tinto Brasso’s notorious 1979
release "Caligola". It is clearly a low budget production, shot mainly
in the studio, with a number of larger scale dramatic sequences
borrowed from other films incorporated at points where these fit
reasonably well. Several versions have been released, and run for
significantly different times (for example, IMDb lists its running time
at 111m, but my VHS copy runs only 92m 41s), so be aware that certain
of my comments may not be applicable to all versions. The film provides
an interesting study of the life of Messalina, the Roman Empress first
married to the mad emperor Caligula and then after his assassination
(which takes place at about the mid-point of the film) to his successor
Claudius; and it would have been better titled Caligula and Claudius,
or just Messalina. Historically it is not strictly accurate but
probably provides a fairly realistic interpretation of life in Rome
during the periods of the two Emperors concerned. The first half
provides a beautifully crafted confirmation of the dictum that power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but the second shows a
very different scene when Claudius takes the throne, introduces careful
and incorruptible administrators and rapidly repairs the damage to the
fabric of Roman society caused by his predecessor. Presumably the
intention is to show that absolute power does no more than give any
ruler the freedom to behave in accordance with his natural character,
and in this sense it can be regarded as a film with an important
message to convey.

Historically the reign of Caligula is regarded as exceptionally violent
and cruel, and the film has to make this clear to viewers who are not
familiar with the history of this period. Whereas other filmmakers have
succumbed to the temptation to exploit the violence in a pornographic
way, it is greatly to the credit of this film that unnecessary violence
has been largely avoided and much of that which is shown remains
implicit rather than explicit. Caligula maintained a vast network of
spies, and individuals who spoke against him would often disappear -
probably to meet an unspeakable end. This is brought out early in this
film, not by showing such a sudden disappearance and what followed, but
by a restrained warning from one army officer to another who had been a
little too loose in his conversation. There is a brief scene in a Roman
torture chamber when plotters against the Emperor are being
interrogated, but (in my copy at least) this is less explicit than
similar scenes in many films depicting events in mediaeval Europe. A
legend that Messalina, a very junior lady in Caligula’s court, was
trained by her mother to come to his attention by mastering such
masculine skills as swordplay, and then demanding to demonstrate these,
has been incorporated into the film; and the nearest it comes to
becoming pornographic is during a fairly graphic swordplay sequence in
the Coliseum which unexpectedly ends in not Messalina but the gladiator
having to appeal to the Emperor to spare his life. This sequence
clearly shows the violence and cruelty which was associated with the
Roman Circus. However it forms an important part of the story, and in
my opinion it is treated with enough restraint to be more acceptable
than many of the violent scenes incorporated (with less reason) in
certain films intended exclusively for children today. Later, even the
assassination of Caligula is shown without a rather meaningless
bloodbath involving all and sundry; and in the second half of the film
after Claudius has taken the throne, the trust shown by the Emperor in
his chosen advisers (both military and civil) is clearly brought out.
Nudity?, yes there is nudity in many of the scenes showing the
decadence of Caligula’s Imperial Court, but it is never obtrusive – it
always seems a natural part of any scene where it occurs. Afterwards,
when looking back on the film, it is very hard to remember which scenes
these were. There are none of the visual excesses to be found in films
such as Tinto Brasso’s "Caligola". Another sequence displays the
continuing decadent life at Court after Caligula’s death during a
period when Claudius and his legions were campaigning in Britain, this
very effectively shows decadence as an ongoing characteristic of life
among the Roman ruling class of the period, not something which was
introduced at the whim of a mad Emperor. This film is definitely not
just softcore pornography, and it provides two very important lessons
for us today. The first is that absolute power will only corrupt those
rulers who are corruptible, whilst the second, even more important but
maybe a little less obvious, is that mankind has changed very little
during the past two millennia; and that many rulers, such as Hitler,
Idi Amin, Pinochet or Sadaam Hussein who have been given absolute power
during the past century, have shown a behaviour pattern very little
different from that of Caligula.

Overall this film, together with Fellini’s Satyricon, have both
significantly contributed to my limited understanding of what life may
have been like in classical Rome. No one today can really appreciate
how it would have felt if they had been a part of Roman society, but we
must recognise that, for most Roman citizens, family life continued
under Roman law in what was probably a remarkably stable pattern for
the period. This film is enjoyable to watch and, despite having been
rated by many jurisdictions for 18+ viewing only, I believe that
watching it would make a positive contribution to the history education
of most high school children.

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