LOS ANGELES — Additional plans to restore the 1979 cult classic “Caligula” were revealed Monday night during the world-premiere screening of "Mission: Caligula," a new documentary by German filmmaker Alexander Tuschinski.
Penthouse Global Media owner Kelly Holland and Tuschinski, who is known as the foremost authority regarding the film’s first director, Tinto Brass, outlined their ambitious plans to bring back the film with another editor’s cut.
Holland and Tuschinski discussed their proposals after a screening of the documentary at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival on Monday.
“Caligula,” the only mainstream film produced by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, focused on the rise and fall of the Roman emperor Caligula and had a primary theme of power and corruption.
“It was a $17 million movie at the time, or $40 million or $50 million in today’s dollars, with all of the top people during the peaks of their times, and it was out of control,” Holland said.
Indeed, “Caligula” had an all-star cast, including Malcolm McDowell and Peter O’Toole, along with Penthouse Pets, who were cast in unsimulated sex scenes. At the box office, the film made $23 million.
Holland said that Penthouse hopes to have Tuschinski remastering the film following Brass’ original style and structure as a dark political satire.
Brass was dismissed during the final stages of the movie by Guccione, who ordered the already-produced film edited from scratch without Brass’ participation.
Guccione wanted a drama, and he wanted that drama to contain sex scenes.
“Alex wants to go back to the archives and remaster the film in Tinto’s vision,” said Holland, who revealed she’s already clinched an agreement for 4K restoration, made Monday just prior to the premiere of the documentary.
“Since we’re accustomed to 4K in 2018, the film will need to be restored to that technology and cleaned up,” she said. “We also will need to make changes to the soundtrack. In the original movie, the music and scoring are particularly awful.”
The 40-minute "Mission: Caligula” documentary offers a bit of the history of "Caligula" and how Tuschinski was able to get his hands on Brass’ newly discovered workprint of the movie, which was presumed lost for more than 40 years.
"Mission: Caligula" follows Tuschinski's quest to research Brass’ original ideas for “Caligula” culminating in the discovery of Brass’ workprint of the movie and features interviews with Holland, along with Bonifacio Brass, the son of Tinto Brass, who offered a few anecdotes from the set when it was filmed in the 1970s.
“[Caligula] was one of the most seminal moments in the history of Penthouse,” Holland said in the documentary. “It was an incredible piece of Hollywood’s history as well. This is the kind of film that could only have been done in the 1970s — this outrageous crazy gonzo film.
“[But] Tinto never felt that what hit the screen was his, so consequently he sued to take his name off of it,” Holland said. “In fact, you will not find a version of a cut anywhere that says it was directed by Tinto Brass.”
More than 100 hours of 35mm film from the movie were recently found in a Hollywood, Calif., warehouse, along with many versions of its soundtrack and Brass’ workprint of the first 84 minutes of the movie.
The workprint was found cut into almost a thousand pieces, presumably by Guccione’s editors after Brass left, and Tuschinski pieced them back together.
What Tuschinski’s initial work revealed was startling: Brass’ ideas for “Caligula” were very different from any released version.
Holland said that once the movie is remastered, there are further possibilities for "Caligula."
“Selectively we’ll do [TV distribution] deals around the world [for the film,]” Holland said. “And beyond that we’re thinking of doing a play — and we’re thinking of using a 180-degree environment with Tinto’s black-and-white version running on a backdrop.”
Pictured: Penthouse Global Media owner Kelly Holland and German filmmaker Alexander Tuschinski