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Caligola e Messalina

Caligula and Messalina
Caligula et Messaline / Caligula's Perversions

Italy/France 1981
produced by
Pierre Hanin for Italfrance Films
directed by Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn), Antonio Passalia (as Anthony Pass)
starring Betty Roland, Vladimir Brajovic, John Turner (= Gino Turini), Francoise Blanchard, Raul Cabrera, Angelo Arquilla, Piotr Stanislas, Vincent Lo Monaco, Fanny Magier, Laurence Lovall, Antonio Passalia (as Anthony Pass), Dominique Irissou, Marie-Noelle Arnoult, Silvie Dezabauneix, Kathy Sadik, Jean-Pierre Lemaire, Florence Guérin, Nathalie Berreby
written by Antonio Passalia (as Anthony Pass), music by Giacomo Dell'Orso, Gianni Dell'Orso

Caligula, Messalina

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Ancient Rome: Caligula (Gino Turini) is the most dangerous caesar the Roman Empire has ever seen. He loves to execute his enemies, or even people he doesn't like very much, he loves to throw orgies, especially when he gets to rape someone, males and females alike, he has the habit of burning down city blocks just to calm his paranoia, and above all he loves to remain unpredictable. Then though, he sees a woman, Messalina (Betty Roland), defeat and castrate a gladiator in the arena, and that turns him on. It turns him even more on when she doesn't give herself up to him right away (she does however seduce one of his slaves behind his back), and thus the two soon become a couple - just like her mother had planned when she trained her to be a gladiator from an early age onwards.

Then though, Caligula is slaughtered by the senators who can no longer stand his reign of terror. In Caligula's place, Claudius (Vladimir Brajovic) is made caesar, a man who couldn't be more different from Caligula: He's a man controlled by his mind rather than his sex drive (he's even impotent, so no more imperial orgies), he doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and he works to make his empire prosper, not himself. Somehow, Messalina manages to become his lover, then wife. But while he's out to conquer Britain, Messalina reintroduces orgies to the Roman upperclass, and she sleeps with pretty much every man in town. She even bears a child while Claudius is away, and it's biologically impossible that it's his, even if he wasn't impotent ...

Messalina has one opponent, Agrippina (Francoise Blanchard),  who wants power as much as Messalina wants it, but is not as ruthless as Messalina - but she's got one ace up her sleeve, she's Claudius' own niece ... so eventually, she seduces her uncle, spills the beans about all of Messalina's infidelities while he's been out conquering Britain, and then sees to it that she's caught red-handed and killed ...


The success of Tinto Brass's arthouse erotica Caligula spawned a whole bunch of erotic-to-pornographic peplums with little artistic value - and this is one of them, a film that reduces the story of Caligula and Messalina to its erotic basics and shock value, fattened up with some stock footage from genre films from 20 or so years earlier not always woven into the proceedings all that elegantly. Thus there's tons of sex in this one, quite a bit of violence and rapes, but little in terms of depth, narrative ingenuity, aesthetic values or character development. Well, to be honest, if you're into 1980's erotica that's quite a bit on the blunt and ridiculous side, you'll find something to at least chuckle about here ... but it's not a particularly good film (let alone a lost or cult classic) mind you.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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from the post-apocalyptic
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD