Category Archives: Movie Review

Caligula: The Worst Movie Ever Made?

Esquire Magazine recently published an article, “Caligula Wasn’t Supposed to Be a Porno.” In the article, critic Chris Nashawaty discusses how the movie was so bad that Roger Ebert walked out two hours into the movie and did not stay for the rest of the 156-minute film. Nashawaty describes Caligula as, “A film that was so inept and god-awful he (Ebert) had to get up and walk out of the theater.” In Ebert’s review of the film, he said:

‘Caligula’ is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length. That was on a Saturday night, as a line of hundreds of people stretched down Lincoln Ave., waiting to pay $7.50 apiece to become eyewitnesses to shame. I wanted to tell them…what did I want to tell them? What I’m telling you now. That this film is not only garbage on an artistic level, but that it is also garbage on the crude and base level where it no doubt hopes to find its audience. ‘Caligula’ is not good art, it is not good cinema, and it is not good porn.

If you are not familiar with the 1979 movie, Caligula is an erotic historical drama film focusing on the eponymous Roman Emperor Caligula’s rise and fall. The film starred Malcolm McDowell in the title role, alongside great actors like Helen Mirren, Peter O’Toole, and John Gielgud. It is the only feature film produced by the men’s magazine Penthouse. Producer Bob Guccione, Penthouse magazine’s founder, intended to make an explicit pornographic film with a feature film narrative and high production values. Guccione signed Gore Vidal to write the screenplay. Vidal was paid $200,000 and wrote the script as a debauched and homoerotic allegory about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Vidal naively believed that his screenplay about the mad, monstrous emperor who became synonymous with cruelty, insanity, and megalomania would be a relatively classy affair. There was no initial indication that the film would become a pornographic monstrosity. 

While Vidal was naïve to think this would be a reputable movie, he had reason to believe that Guccione did want to make something respectable. After all, Caligula was not Guccione’s first foray into filmmaking; he had already helped finance a handful of major-studio productions such as Chinatown (1974), The Longest Yard (1974), and The Day of the Locust (1975). As Nashawaty points out:

Caligula wasn’t supposed to be a porno movie. Not exactly. Yes, there would be ample nudity of both the male and female variety. And sure, Guccione had personally flown a bevy of his magazine’s voluptuous Penthouse Pets to Italy to appear as horny extras. But it didn’t start out as the hardcore film that would end up playing in theaters.

However, when the movie’s budget grew to over $17 million, Guccione became a little nervous. Guccione sensed he would not be able to recoup the film’s costs; so, he decided (unbeknownst to anyone involved with the project) that he needed to take control of the film back from director Tinto Brass. Guccione snuck onto the set late at night and secretly shot hours of graphic pornographic inserts to splice into the film. The result was an odd jumble of scenes of unsimulated sex scenes and orgies.

I always loved teaching Ancient Rome, especially the mad emperors Tiberius (Reigned 14–37 CE), Caligula (Reigned 37–41 CE), Claudius (Reigned 41–54 CE), and Nero (Reigned 54–68 CE). It was always one of my most popular lectures. I read a lot about the emperors, especially Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars. So, back when Netflix still mailed out DVDs, I requested Caligula to see what all the talk was about. While it’s a terrible movie, it is by far not the worst that I have ever seen. I have seen many independent gay movies that were atrocious and barely watchable. However, I used to (with a disclaimer) allow my college students to watch and review Caligula for extra credit, along with dozens of other much better historical movies. Only a few took me up on the offer to watch Caligula, and those who did were all shocked. It is a shocking movie; how shocking depends on whether you watch the 1981 105-minute R-rated version without the explicit sexual material or the original 1979 156-minute version.

If you’ve never watched the original version of Caligula, you might think Guccione’s post-production edits and additions might have turned the film into the sexy, high-quality pornographic film Guccione intended, but you’d be sadly disappointed. The spliced scenes of endless orgies and graphic close-ups, complete with a graphic castration sequence, fisting, and oral sex, are so strange and out of place in this strange attempt to portray Caligula’s debauchery. Honestly, most of the film is just boring. Although contemporary reviews were overwhelmingly negative, Caligula is now often considered a cult classic by some, and its political content is deemed to have some merit. I think we have all seen cult classics that are so bad that they are good. Nashawaty Esquire article states that Caligula is not in this category. Amazingly, McDowell, O’Toole, Gielgud, and Mirren emerged from the ignominy unscathed, considering how bad the film was. As for Vidal, he cashed his six-figure check and told Caligula war stories for years.

Have you ever seen Caligula? Did you see the full version or the edited version? What was your opinion of the movie? If you haven’t seen it, are you tempted to watch it? Warning: It is graphic!

Some Favorite Gay Movies

On Thursday, Miss Coco Peru will be hosting her Christmas special, “Very Merry Casa Coco.” I’m not sure I will tune into it, even though I love Coco Peru, and she’s been around for nearly 30 years. I was telling a straight female friend of mine who loves drag queens about the Christmas special, and I was also telling her that I first saw Peru her role in the 1999 independent film Trick, a movie I particularly enjoy. It is one of my top five gay independent films of all time. Trickstarred Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc, Steve Hayes, and Tori Spelling. Tori Spelling is probably the most familiar name, but even her bad acting couldn’t ruin this movie for me.

Back when I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I would go to the Blockbuster in Montgomery and rent any gay film I could get my hands on. Most of them were foreign films, such as Beautiful Thing (1996—British), Come Undone,aka Presque Rien,(2000—French-Belgian), and Wild Reeds, aka Les Roseaux Sauvages, (French —1995). I enjoyed all of these movies, but I wanted to see more. In 2000, I moved to Mississippi, and while I continued to rent from Blockbuster’s lackluster selection of gay movies, I discovered Netflix. With them sending a DVD each time you sent one back (and they had a much more extensive selection), I watched many more gay movies. I was finally able to get my hands on some American films, mostly independent films.

Independent gay movies have always been hit or miss. If they’d been a genuinely great movie, they might have been picked up by a major studio and had the money for production and casting, but as independent movies, filmmakers made do with what they had. Some were bad; some made it to the list of my favorite movies. One of those movies was, of course, Trick. The acting is not always great in these movies, but sometimes the stories made them worth the mediocre acting. Occasionally, the acting was pretty good. But if you watched many independent gay films in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, you watched a lot of terrible movies. But like I said, there were some gems.

I remember seeing Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss and wondering how Sean Hayes continued to refuse to say publicly that he was gay when it was so incredibly obvious. Also, I fell in love with Brad Rowe. Besides Trick, the movie that I have watched numerous times because I love it is the 1997 movie Defying Gravity. This movie’s love story was so sweet, even if the film did not include the best acting. However, there was a hospital scene when Griff says, “Oh, man,” to Pete that I just can’t describe the feeling of what it’s like for me hearing this line. It’s not a great line; it’s almost corny, but it gets me every time. My heart breaks, and it soars at the same time. I can still hear that line in my head as I am writing this. I also enjoyed the 2000 film The Broken Hearts Club. Since he played Superman, I have had a thing for Dean Cain, too bad his politics are so fucked up.

In 2003, Latter Days was released, and it became one of my all-time favorite gay movies. As some of my friends can attest to, I have made them watch this movie with me. I love the two main characters, and while there are parts of the story that could have been done better, the airport scene is magical. Speaking of magical, I also loved the gay take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2008, Were the World Mine was released, and I just loved it. There have been other movies, and I am sure I am forgetting some of the foreign gay films that I loved and some independent films, but these are just some of them.

I also have a few honorable mentions that were more mainstream films. I think the first gay film I ever saw was either The Birdcage (1996) or In & Out (1997). More recently, I enjoyed the movie Love, Simon. I have refused to watch Call Me by Your Name because I know how it ends. Then there were a few movies that were less apparent as gay films, such as Fried Green Tomatoes and Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilFried Green Tomatoes ranks up there with Casablanca and Auntie Mame as movies in my top three favorites. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched those three movies.

By the way, I did not include Brokeback Mountain in this list of favorite movies. Although, in my opinion, it is responsible for allowing more gay mainstream movies to be made, it is just not one of my favorites. To be honest, I don’t like movies without a happy ending. The same is true of the books I read. I have enough in my life to make me sad; I don’t need someone else making me sadder with a movie or a novel. I read and watch movies to escape not to fall deeper into depression.

So, these are a few of my favorite gay movies. What are your favorites? What have I missed? Is there a movie you think I should watch (I may have seen it, but tell me anyway)?

Love, Simon

I have been wanting to see this movie since it came out. I finally got to see it on the plane from Chicago to Burlington. I happen to love romantic comedies, and I love gay movies. This is the perfect combination. The Hollywood Reporter said, “Love, Simon, a sweet, slick, broadly appealing YA adaptation (Becky Albertalli’s 2015 novel was called Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) touted as the first major-studio-backed romantic comedy with a gay teen protagonist.”

There are two things in the movie that I loved. One is the process of coming out. It is different for everyone. For some it is easy, others it’s hard. For some it’s accepted, for some it’s not. The coming out process in this movie is not one of the easiest ones, but it’s not so difficult either. It definitely pulls at the heart strings.

The other thing is the love affair over the internet. You can get to know the most intimate things about a person online when it’s anonymous than you often can in person. Some people feel freer to talk online with someone than in person. It can bring two people very close. The internet can surprisingly bring an honestly that is amazing. I know sometimes it’s the opposite, but when you truly find a good person, the honesty can be so rewarding.

Star Wars

I’m going to see the new Star Wars movie today. I’m more of a Star Trek fan than a Star Wars fan, but I still enjoy seeing the Star Wars movies. I’m hoping that this one will be good. I haven’t heard much about it, so I’ll form my own opinion after I see it. At least it gets me away from family for a couple of hours.

Rogue One

I went to see Rogue One yesterday. My first impression was that it was good, but not great. Honestly, the more I watch Star Wars movies, I am convinced that the original three were by far the best and all the others just can’t compare.

The more I thought about the movie, the more disappointed I was in Rogue One. The ending was dissatisfying. Such a disappointment. I like a movie with a happy ending.  Not to give this one away but it has a happy ending and at the same time doesn’t. This movie leads up to right before Episode IV begins, so you know ultimately good comes from it, but it was still disappointing and overall depressing.


I had put off watching the new Ghostbusters movie for quite a while because I was such a fan of the original when I was a kid. I’ve seen movies with Melissa McCarthy in them and she can be quite foul mouthed at times and I was afraid she might be in this movie as well, but she was a delight. I enjoyed seeing the cameos from the original cast as well. That was a real treat. Overall, I really liked the movie, maybe not as much as the original, but the original is such a classic. There are a lot of references to the original which I found funny and nostalgic. One other thing, Chris Hemsworth is sexy as hell in this movie. He doesn’t need to take off his shirt, but he’s got this whole Clark Kent look going that is just adorable. I loved when he’s in that white t-shirt and dancing. He could dance like that for me any day.


The other night, I watched the movie Stonewall, a completely fictionalized account of the Stonewall Riots. While there is very little historical facts in the movie, I found it quite enjoyable to watch. The best part of the movie is the gorgeous Jeremy Irvine. Stonewall is a drama about a young man caught up during the 1969 Stonewall riots. Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) is forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York. Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends Ray (Jonny Beauchamp) and a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven. As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build. This emotion runs through the entire community of young gays, lesbians, drag queens and trans people who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger. With the toss of a single brick, a riot ensues and a crusade for equality is born.

If you haven’t seen it, it is currently available on Amazon Prime  Video. It may also be on Netflix, but I watched it on Amazon Video. It’s well worth watching.

Happy Halloween Movie Review


Dark, twisted tales that feed our need for revenge. Sexy scenes with hunky young bucks all desperately yearning to get laid. Gory sights and demented deeds that are so over-the-top they border on camp.
These are the staples of fright flicks, and though society may suspect that gays shy away from horror and violence, the truth is that we love it in films that speak to our unique sensibilities. So in honor of Halloween I compiled a list of our 13 favorites.
So sit back, cuddle closely with your man (or bestest girlfriends) and enjoy the show.


Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
It’s the weird and wonderful as newly engaged couple Brad and Janet encounter a problem when they car halts in the rain. They both look for contact only to find themselves at the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter a transvestite. A place to stay is offered, but will Brad and Janet want to remain there? Especially when a large group of Transylvanians dance to the ‘Time Warp’, Dr. Frank-N-Furter builds his own man and a whole host of participation for the audience to enjoy. This movie is high camp horror at its best.


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Mortimer Brewster is a newspaperman and author known for his diatribes against marriage. We watch him being married at city hall in the opening scene. Now all that is required is a quick trip home to tell Mortimer’s two maiden aunts. While trying to break the news, he finds out his aunts’ hobby; killing lonely old men and burying them in the cellar. It gets worse.  Who could not love this movie?


Rope (1948)
Inspired by real-life convicted killers (and lovers) Leopold and Loeb, Rope is Alfred Hitchcock’s gayest film ever. It features a gay couple (played by John Dall, and bisexual Farley Granger at his most luminous), a dinner party, witty repartee, and a body hidden in a stylish piece of furniture. Sounds like summers in Fire Island to me.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
Cast two gay icons—Bette Davis and Joan Crawford—as crazy / tragic protagonists, then have them abuse one another while performing at level 10, and you’ve got one of the most camptastic movies ever made. The dialogue is deliciously mean, the hatred between these two actresses leaks off the screen, and because the characters’ bitter back-story creates a strong foundation you have a solid film rather than one of those “so-bad-it’s-good” features gays love so much.
Best served in a crowd of drunk gays who can truly appreciate the dark humor.


Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
If Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? makes the list, this movie is also a must.  Charlotte Hollis, an aging recluse deluded into a state of dementia by horrible memories and hallucinations, lives in a secluded house where, thirty-seven years before, John Mayhew her married lover, was beheaded and mutilated by an unknown assailant.  Plus, there is always the back story behind why Joan Crawford refused to make this “sequel” and the why Vivian Leigh refused the role (Leigh famously said “I can just about stand to look at Joan Crawford at six in the morning on a southern plantation, but I couldn’t possibly look at Bette Davis.”)  Also, Agnes Moorehead is in this movie, not only was she the mother on Bewitched, but she was also a well-known lesbian.


Carrie (1976)
Along with Baby JaneMommie Dearest and Showgirls, Carrie is one of the films with dialogue most quoted by gay men. Gems like “I can see your dirty pillows,” to a screeching “They’re all gonna laugh at you!” and “They’re called breasts, and every woman has them…” have become part of the secret language of gays. And Carrie’s prom night-mare has become pop culture shorthand on TV shows from Ugly Betty to RuPaul’s Drag Race.


Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
New Line Cinema’s second schlep up to Elm Street is bursting at the seams with homoerotic imagery and undertones. It features openly gay actor Mark Patton as Jesse, a teenage boy Freddy Krueger tries to possess in order to leave dreamland and continue his killing spree in the real world.
Even before the film’s writer, David Chaskin, admitted to including the screenplay’s gay subtext in the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street LegacyNightmare 2 had been herald as the ultimate homo-horror flick for years by countless fans.
A film about a boy struggling to repress “something” inside of him would have been enough to brand Nightmare 2 as an obvious gay allegory. However, it’s the moments following Jessie’s trek into a gay leather bar—where he discovers his P.E. coach—that rank this film among the gayest of all time. After all, tying up your coach in the locker-room showers and snapping his bare ass with a towel before you kill him from behind will earn you that kind of reputation.


Beetlejuice (1988)
Aside from featuring Alec Baldwin at the height of hotness, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice has enough camp to be welcome at any homo-Halloween haunt. The film’s quirky style has held up amazingly well since it debuted over 23 years ago, and Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz is a queer cinema classic. From the interior decorator played by the late openly-gay actor Glenn Shadix to outrageous musical numbers, there isn’t much about this film that isn’t gay.


Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
The Queen of Halloween’s first feature film has become a gay camp-classic for all the reasons that made Elvira one of the biggest gay icons of all time. Over-the-top in every way possible, from the costumes and sassy one-liners to the big musical number ending stuffed with hunky shirtless male dancers, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is the Showgirls of Halloween movies.
Check it out.


Hocus Pocus (1993)
This poor film has a bad reputation, and some of it is deserved. The movie is about time-displaced witches who fly on vacuums and sing songs, and the kids who must set things right. But it’s also a delightfully fun bad movie, comes from Disney and director Kenny Ortega (famous for the High School Musical franchise), and stars gay faves Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy (fresh of her stint in Sister Act). No, it’s not brilliant filmmaking, however it works for babysitting, if you’re in the mood for something light, and if you can mix a potion of vodka and… well… anything… to go along with your screening.


The Covenant (2006)
Abercrombie & Fitch goes supernatural in this good warlock vs. bad warlock fantasy/horror flick starring models-turned-actors Steven Straight (10,000 B.C.) and Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights), as well as a pre-shag Chace Crawford. Between that and this picture, do you need any further explanation on why you should rent it?


Hellbent (2004)
Two gay men on a date are murdered the night before Halloween in West Hollywood, California. Eddie and his friends Joey, Chaz and Tobey are going out the following night to the West Hollywood Halloween festival when they encounter the psycho, who sets his eye on them. The killer stalks them through the festival as Chaz parties, Joey chases his jock crush, Tobey tries dressing in drag, and Eddie pursues Jake, the bad boy he wants to get to know better. Not until the very end do you find out who dies and who survives their night of terror.

Southern Baptist Sissies 

On Amazon Video Monday night I watched Southern Baptist Sissies, a Del Shores film production of his acclaimed stage play about four young Southern men grappling with their sexuality. It explores the conflict between the caustic rhetoric of dogmatic religion and the fragile development of adolescent homosexuality while challenging hypocrisy, exposing damage and offering hope. The intimate experience of theatre on the film screen reveals the complicated emotions from all sides–the confused child, the struggling adolescent and the angry and damaged adult.

The powerful message of Del Shores’ Southern Baptist Sissies has unfortunately not diminished in importance since the play received its premiere in 2000. Having been produced extensively in regional theaters throughout the country, the work about the crises of faith suffered by four gay young Baptist men has now been given a cinematic treatment, albeit of a limited kind. Shore filmed a recent Los Angeles stage production, incorporating footage shot both in front of live audiences and without. The results are technically proficient even while displaying the inherent limits of filmed theater.

Set in Texas, the story follows four boys from childhood to their early twenties as they struggle with their sexuality in varying ways. Mark (Emerson Collins), who serves as narrator, questions the Baptist church that preaches love and forgiveness while decrying homosexuality; Benny (Willam Belli) fully embraces his gayness, growing up to become a flamboyant drag queen entertainer; TJ (Luke Stratte- McClure) desperately tries to deny who he is, eventually getting married to a woman; and Andrew (Matthew Scott Montgomery), the most troubled of the group, wrestles with the conflicting demands of his faith and his sexuality with ultimately tragic results.

Serving as a Greek chorus of sorts are the barflies Peanut (Leslie Jordan), an older gay man, and his best friend, the hard-drinking Odette (Dale Dickey), who humorously discuss their lives and comment on the proceedings during numerous sessions at a gay bar. 

There are also many amusing moments, including a series of confessional monologues by the young men about their burgeoning sexuality. One, describing how he used to masturbate to pictures of the boy band ‘N Sync, comments, “I tried switching from Justin to Britney once, but I lost focus.” But the chief fun comes from the veteran scene stealers Jordan and Dickey, who beautifully blend humor and pathos in their many scenes together.

I laughed so much throughout most of the film. Also, the music is wonderful as they sing old standard hymns, to which I found myself singing along. It’s an incredibly emotional film, and if you grew up in a southern church, you will see yourself in these boys. You might also even see your mama in their mamas. While I laughed through most of the film, I cried at the end. The most emotion comes at the end of the movie, but it won’t be a surprise, you’ll see what’s coming a mile away. While the final scenes are predictable, the emotions are still there.



My cold finally seems to be getting better. I went yesterday and got some Allegra D, and I can now breath easier. I was feeling well enough to go to the movies. I went to see Star Trek Beyond. I was very impressed with the movie. It was full of suspense and excitement. I knew some of the elements of the movie, but I really didn’t know how things would turn out. It was a really cool movie.

As for Sulu being gay, I thought it was handled subtlety and with a great amount of class.