Caligula is one of the most notorious and controversial films ever produced; the involvement of Penthouse founder and magazine publisher Bob Guccione altered the film from an exploration of the reign of Roman Emporer Caligula to an exploitation film starring some of the most respected British stars of the 1970's. Written by respected novelist Gore Vidal the movie descended into chaos during production as the writer and director began fighting and the producer demanded the use of Penthouse models in scenes involving nudity.
Originally envisioned as a television series telling the story of the Rome's most infamous Ceaser; beginning as an exploration into what may have affected the psyche of the Roman ruler through his youth and early adulthood the film goes on to show the viewer the chaos of Caligula's rule and his eventual death. Largely directed by Tinto Brass, Caligula begins with the young Caligula being taken under the wing of his increasingly insane Uncle Tiberius. Driven mad by syphillis the aging Tiberius moves to the isolated island of Capri where his whims and insane demands are met without question.
Caligula eventually plots with friends to murder Tiberius and take over the role of Ceaser governing all of Rome's Empire around the world. Unable to kill Tiberius hmself Caligula needs the assistance of another to complete his plot and assume the role of Ceaser. Upon becoming the leader of Rome Gaius Caeser Germanicus to give Caligula his full name at first rewards the citizens of Rome with a better standard of living and an increased amount of freedom by abolishing many of the laws introduced by Tiberius. Alongside the reforms he undertakes Caligula also becomes a laughing stock amongst Rome's citizens because of his strange decisions and demands, including appointment of his horse to high political office. Eventually disillusioned with his reign, that includes marrying to annoy his sister, Caligula and his family are murdered for the throne of Rome.
The story of the making of Caligula is almost as famous and entertaining as the film itself. Respected american author Gore Vidal had seen his envisioned TV series about Caligula fall out of favor and not be picked up by a production company. Vidal enlisted the magazine editor Bob Guccione who co-financed the production as long as the movie included a certain amount of erotic scenes; upon seeing the first cut of the U.K. - U.S. production Guccione ordered filming to be undertaken to include models from his Penthouse magazine. Planned as a return to the epic movies of the 1950's and 60's the movie became better known for its scenes of a sexual nature; the official version of the movie runs for 170 minutes and various versions up to 210 minutes are also rumored to exist.