The press have got wind that the notable Tinto Brass film, Caligula , is set for an uncut UK release. It contains hardcore sex scenes that were added later for effect but they do not feature any of the well known actors.
29 years on, the uncut DVD of Caligula is to go on sale in high street stores.
Censors decided it is not porn but a movie of "historical interest". The decision is said to have shocked the movie world - and even stunned Arrow Films, the firm distributing the new DVD.
Caligula, about the demented and perverted Roman Emperor, features hardcore, graphic sex scenes.
When the film - which also stars Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud - was first released in 1979, full-on sex scenes were removed.
Until now, the DVD available in this country was a sanitised version, an hour shorter than the uncut edition. But now the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) have allowed the release of the Imperial Edition of Caligula , with the
Alex Agran, of distributors Arrow Films, said: Looking at what else is getting through these days, we thought let's try for the ultimate bete noire, the big daddy of obscene films. Never in our hearts did we think Caligula would get through
intact but we figured a longer version would be possible. When it came back uncut, we were stunned.
It was scripted by acclaimed historian Gore Vidal. But producer Bob Guccione, then publisher of Penthouse magazine, thought it was too tame. Guccione hired Penthouse models and secretly filmed the sex scenes that were incorporated into the movie.
Star McDowell said: He shot this hardcore footage two years after the film had been completed and spliced it in. It was absurd. There would be a shot of me smiling, looking at what was supposed to be my horse or something, then suddenly they'd
cut to two lesbians making out. It was awful. We were all appalled by the final product.
The BBFC move could pave the way for the release of other controversial films. Agran said: Censorship in the UK has taken a radical step into uncharted waters. Caligula has broken every last sexual taboo the 18 certificate once held back from
Sue Clark, of the BBFC, said: We looked at the work in light of our '18' guidelines, which say that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment within the law. Given that Caligula is a film of historical interest, we felt we could
pass it uncut.
The BBFC have explained their decision on their website:
In 2008, the full uncut version of Caligula was resubmitted to the BBFC for DVD release. The passage of nearly 30 years had significantly diminished the film's impact and after careful consideration it was decided that it
could now be classified '18' uncut.
This decision accords with the BBFC Guidelines, which state that At '18', the BBFC's guideline concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own entertainment, within the law.
Although there are scenes in Caligula that some people will find shocking, offensive or disgusting, the film does not contain any material that is illegal in terms of current UK law and nor does it contain any material that
is likely to give rise to harm for adults audiences, most of whom will be well aware of its controversial reputation.
The DVD version was classified '18' uncut with the consumer advice Contains strong violence, sexual violence and strong real sex.
The BBFC said: "Given that Caligula is a film of historical interest, we felt we could pass it uncut."
But what exactly does that mean? If adults should be free to choose their own entertainment within the law, then what does it matter if the film is of historical interest or not? And what does historical interest mean in terms of films? A
discredited flop whose cast and scriptwriter were appalled by the final product? What film renowned for excessive sex, violence and bestiality is not of "historical interest"?
Adults should indeed be free to choose their own entertainment within the law. And the BBFC would do best to leave it at that, and not dream up spurious rationales.
Perhaps the question would be better asked about the disparity between 18 and R18 certificates.
One would be tempted to think that Caligula could be passed R18 due its hardcore content. But it couldn't because the BBFC refuse to allow any violence in R18 certificated material. The only category that allows both sex and violence is 18
but then the sex has to be justified under another pretext, ie not just to arouse the viewer.
The justification of "historical interest" sounds useful though. Surely Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones and Debbie Does Dallas are equally deserving.