Two terrible movies in a single day!

Caligula-ring

I came home from a walk the other day to find Partner watching a Roman costume epic on Roku. It was fairly modern, obviously, and Malcolm McDowell was prancing and hooting in a toga. “’Caligula‘?” I asked, taking off my hat and coat.

“Yep,” he said without taking his eyes from the screen. “You missed it when he killed John Gielgud. And that other British guy.”

I settled down and watched the rest of it with him. Oh my brothers and sisters, this is one for the archives. I didn’t see it when it was new, back in 1979; I remember the huge amount of publicity it received – it was X-rated! It was the most sexually-charged and explicit movie ever made for public release!

Now, seen more than thirty years after its first release, it seems tame.

Some of the performances are excellent. McDowell (who has gone from playing fey maniacs like Caligula and Alex in “A Clockwork Orange” to playing Grandpa on “Phineas and Ferb” – not to mention Metallo in the Superman cartoons!) is priceless: staring and bizarre, somewhere between crazy and evil and calculating and desperately bored. Helen Mirren as his stately bloodthirsty wife Caesonia is a revelation; it’s no wonder she matured into such an excellent actress.

But the orgy scenes are silly. You can show all the boob and crotch you like, but it really does make a difference what you do with it. Here, it’s like Something Dirty a fourth-grader would draw on the wall behind the school. Naturally, it ends with Caligula’s death; he’s laying there, and you think: so what? He was a murderous lunatic, and somebody finally up and killed him. No lessons to be learned here!

But the costumes! And the banquets! I’d see it again, just for the atmosphere of excess. You can see everyone thinking: “We’re being very very wicked.” But I’m glad I’ve seen it, and I will definitely see it again. It goes in the treasure chest with the other really unfortunately dreadful movies which are – surprise! – fun to watch.

Later that evening, we went to Lincoln Cinemaworld and saw “Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star.”

What can I tell you? I like stupid comedies, and this one (judging by the TV trailers) was stupidissimo. Nick Swardson with gigantic buck teeth! Don Johnson, with his Miami Vice hair twenty-five years later! Christina Ricci, owlish and lovely! It’s an Adam Sandler production, so you know what to expect, if you’ve ever seen “Happy Gilmore” or “The Waterboy” (the latter is a personal favorite). Lots of embarrassing jokes about body functions, and people yelling for no reason, and pathetic characters who are ultimately vindicated. As Bucky says after his first (explosive, and hilarious) orgasm: “My brain is sparkling!”

So: two really terrible movies in one day.

But they were terrible for different reasons, and I very much enjoyed both of them.

Go figure.


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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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