No history of troubled big-budget movies is complete without the story of 1979’s Caligula, which was commissioned by Penthouse Magazine as an attempt to combine serious adult filmmaking with seriously adult sex scenes. In the end, both its director (Tinto Brass) and its writer (Gore Vidal) demanded their names be taken off the film, after Penthouse’s Bob Guccione inserted all sorts of additional explicit material that was never originally intended to be included in the film.

In spite of the turmoil (or maybe because the turmoil got a lot of attention, and actually created some hype around the film), Caligula — which starred major names like Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, and Peter O’Toole — did reasonably well at the box office. And though it has been released in versions containing more or less sexual material, Vidal or Brass’ original intent has never been released before the newly restored “Ultimate Cut,” which is coming to theaters later this summer.

According to its distributor, the new version sticks “closely to Vidal's original script, especially with the addition of a prologue that illustrates one of Vidal's missing scenes, created by noted graphic artist Dave McKean (Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman).” It boasts that the film’s reconstructionist uncovered “nearly 100 hours of original footage was discovered” for the project, “which showcases astounding performances from the film’s cast, fully realizing McDowell's complex, charismatic 'Caligula' and resurrecting Mirren's layered character arc, which now cements the film's final hour.”

The new cut claims to be “comprised of 100% of never before seen footage” and relies on “alternate takes and camera angles” to reconstruct the initially intended storyline.

Here is the trailer for Caligula’s ultimate cut:

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There’s also a cool new poster for the film illustrated by famous comic-book artist Bill Sienkiewicz.

Drafthouse Films
Drafthouse Films

In the revised cut, the film follows Caligula (McDowell) as he “eliminates his devious adoptive grandfather (Peter O’Toole) and seizes control of the Roman Empire alongside his wife Caesonia (Helen Mirren) before descending into a spiral of depravity, destruction, and madness.”

The new version of Caligula played this year’s Cannes Film Festival — reportedly to at least a few walkouts. But those who stayed gave it pretty good reviews, and with all the talent involved (or just the general level of sleaze) how could you not want to see what was originally intended?

Caligula: The Ultimate Cut is scheduled to premiere in theaters on August 16. After that, it will be available digitally and on a 4K Blu-ray disc.

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