Film Censorship: Caligula (1979)






Directed by Tinto Brass and Bob Guccione / 1979 / USA / IMDb

In March 1980, a 4250.20-meter (154:56) print of CALIGULA was banned because of sex and violence. Both were described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous


In March 1981, a 4073.50-meter (148:29) 'modified version' was awarded an R-rating. The censorship reduced the sex and violence to:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

In addition, the Censorship Board noted that it was:

Registered subject to the special condition that all advertising clearly indicates that this film is a "modified version".

In May 1981, Roadshow appealed to the Films Board of Review to examine the previous decision. They were obviously not objecting to the R-rating, so we assume that it was with the 'modified version' special condition. Informing the public that a film is censored is never good for business. In this case, the review failed, and CALIGULA was released theatrically with the warning attached.

Daybill image courtesy of


Caligula (1979) - Roadshow [au] Daybill



Uncut and cut video releases

Roadshow Home Video was the first to release CALIGULA on tape. The print ran 143:19 (PAL), and was the same as the vensored theatrical version. The cover included the same 'modified version' warning. Thanks to Stephen F for the cover scan.


Caligula (1979) - Roadshow Home Video [au] VHS 1


Roadshow released it a second time with a cover that was made to look like mock red velvet. This particular CALIGULA tape is very rare. Thanks to VHS Vigilante for the cover scan.


Caligula (1979) - Roadshow Home Video [au] VHS 2


 Caligula (1979) - Roadshow Home Video [au] Australian Video and Communications Ad May 1982Caligula (1979) - Roadshow Home Video [au] Australian Video and Communications Ad July 1982


In May 1984, Palace Home Video received an X-rating for a 143m tape. It was accompanied by the warning that the film contained sex and violence that was:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

The X-rating had only been introduced four-months earlier, and there was a brief period where it was considered not just for sex films, but also for material that was too extreme for the R-rating. During this time, violence could exist in the X-rated category, and films such as CALIGULA, FANTASM, FANTASM COMES AGAIN, JUNGLE WARRIORS, PINK FLAMINGOS, LA BETE, and ROSEMARY'S KILLER were awarded this rating. The guidelines were swiftly tightened up to remove violence, though pro-censorship groups will try to tell you otherwise. 


Caligula (1979) - Palace X Video [au] Video Trader Ad June 1984


In May 1984, the week after the above rating, Pakenham Video Library was awarded an R-rating for a version that also ran 143m. It was accompanied by the warning that the film contained sex and violence that was:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous
It is unclear why in the space of a week one version was awarded an X-rating, whilst the other received an R.


In September 1984, the original 143:19 Roadshow release of CALIGULA was confirmed with an R-rating. It had only become law for all video tapes to be classified in February 1984.


January 1985 again saw the CALIGULA rated X. Once more the applicant was Palace Home Video, though the running time was now an uncut 156m.  Thanks to Sarge for providing a cover scan and a running time of this very rare and collectable release. The label was called Palace X Video, and it ran 155:53. The cover stated:

Finally-the UNCUT version of Caligula, the most expensive and explicit multi-million dollar "X" certificate film in cinema history.


Caligula (1979) - Palace X Video [au] VHS


October 1985 saw the NSW and Queensland Police both receive X-ratings for the 156m (Palace X Video?) version.


In the late 90s, a cheap 'no name' label VHS was released. However, at 141:09, the runtime was even shorter, and the film was followed by the Vestron Video logo. This appears to indicate that this version was a copy of a US tape.

A second 'no name' label was also released on VHS. We have no running time for this tape.


Caligula (1979) - No Name Label [au] VHS #1Caligula (1979) - No Name Label [au] VHS #2



In April 2003, the Victorian Police submitted to the OFLC a 123m VHS tape that contained dupes of BAISE-MOI, and A DOCUMENTARY ON THE MAKING OF GORE VIDAL'S CALIGULA (contained on the U.S. Image DVD). Although the tape was Refused Classification, it would be hard to judge how much (if at all) this was due to the documentary. The fact that it contained BAISE-MOI would have been enough to see the tape banned.



2004: CALIGULA - censored DVD release

CALIGULA was again rated by the OFLC in December 2004 when Warner Vision were awarded an R18+ (Nudity, Sexual references, Adult themes) rating for a DVD version. It made its Australian DVD debut in March 2005 as CALIGULA: TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (only five years late, but never mind) with a running time of only 101:40 (NTSC). The only extra were some Filmographies.


Caligula (1979) - Warner Vision [au] DVD



2005: Twentieth Anniversary Edition Banned

In November 2005, CALIGULA was once more Refused Classification. Again, the DVD was described as CALIGULA: TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY EDITION. The applicant was the ACT Office of Fair Trading.  It is legal to sell or rent X18+ films in the ACT, and Adult stores generally followed the rules. If they did not then they get a visit from the ACT Office of Fair Trading, which looks like what happened in this case.

It should be noted that in all the other States it is illegal to sell or rent hardcore, though it is legal to purchase them by mail-order from the ACT or NT. The truth is that most States generally ignore stores stocking hardcore. Therefore, we have the current bizarre situation where X18+ is legal and strictly policed in the ACT and NT. While in the States, it is illegal, but films that go beyond X18+ are easily available. If the ACT Office of Fair Trading were to raid a store in Sydney or Melbourne then an uncut copy of CALIGULA is going to be one of the tamest films they would find. 

The DVD taken by the ACT Office of Fair Trading was obviously the unrated version' and not the R-rated version passed in December 2004. This confirms that the X18+ the uncut film held in 1984-85 has now officially been changed to RC. In the early days of the X-rating, it was possible for a film such as CALIGULA to hold such a rating even though it contains hardcore sex and violence. The guidelines for X18+ were eventually tightened so that there is now zero violence allowed. However, since the ROMANCE controversy in 2000, actual sex is allowed in the R18+ category. Obviously, the Classification Board still does not consider the uncut CALIGULA 'serious' enough for such a rating.



CALIGULA: Bootleg DVD releases

In 2008, a second DVD of CALIGULA appeared on a cheap No Name label. The cover had the new R18+ rating logo, but no consumer advice. It claims to run 102m, but this needs to be confirmed.

Soon after, a third CALIGULA DVD appeared. It has an R18+ (Nudity, Sexual references, Adult themes) rating on the cover, but no other information. The running time needs to be confirmed.


Caligula (1979) - No Name Label [au] DVD 1Caligula (1979) - No Name Label [au] DVD 2



2009: Uncut Blu-ray seized by Australian Customs

We have received one report of the CALIGULA Imperial Edition Blu-ray being confiscated in 2009.



2010: Uncut DVD Banned

In July 2010, Via Vision Entertainment had a 930m, extras-packed DVD of CALIGULA, banned by the Classification Board.



2014: Censored Australian TV Premiere

In March 2014, CALIGULA was screened on the World Movies channel as part of their MORE FILMS THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD season.


The stories behind the scandalous ‘More Films That Shocked The World’
March 17, 2014

Due to popular demand, World Movies is bringing you another week of unforgettable films that changed the film industry forever. More Films That Shocked The World starts tonight at 9.30pm and is set to push the boundaries of controversial cinema further than ever before.

From an outrageously twisted cult-classic to a violent look at a real-life serial killer, these are the films that have shocked, outraged and been banned around the world.

Before the week kicks off, let’s take a look at why these films were so scandalous.

Friday 21 March 9.30pm
Caligula (United Kingdom) – Australian Television Premiere



World Movies confirmed on their Facebook page that the version they were going to screen would be cut.

Peter Marshall
March 13 at 8:14pm
Ahh, but which version of Caligula? In assuming you can't go full X.

World Movies
March 13 at 8:52pm
Hi Peter, the uncut version of Caligula is still banned in Australia, so it has had some very minor modifications made to ensure an R18+ rating and will air on World Movies for the first time on Australian TV. WM



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