Penthouse founder Bob Guccione died on Oct. 20 at a hospital in Plano, Texas. He was 79.
Best known for the explicit sexual content found in his magazine, a Playboy rival that began circulating in England in the mid-60s and in the United States near the end of the decade, Guccione (born in Brooklyn on Dec. 17, 1930) also produced the infamous Caligula (shot in 1976-77, released in 1979).
Written by Gore Vidal and directed by Tinto Brass, Caligula starred Malcolm McDowell as the sociopathic Roman emperor, and featured Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud, Helen Mirren, and Paolo Bonacelli in supporting roles.
But what initially was to have been a prestigious production eventually became something else altogether.
Unhappy with Brass’ handling of the material, Guccione decided to spice things up with the addition of several sexually explicit scenes (shot by himself and Giancarlo Lui), including a wild orgy and a close-up shot of an ejaculating penis. Needless to say, the 150-minute final product was banned in a number of countries.
Though hardly a great piece of filmmaking – Roger Ebert called it “sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash” – Caligula is definitely worth a look if only because of McDowell’s mesmerizing performance.