It Came From the ’80s: Midnight Movie Memories, Or Why Caligula Makes For an Awkward First Date!

January 18, 2011

Midnight Movies

by Sheri White

I have a first-date story that can top many others’ first-date stories.  I saw what was essentially a porn film with a guy named Mark.  I did not do this on purpose; however, I don’t know if Mark knew what the film was about.

Really, for all my partying and semi-wild ways as a teen, I was pretty innocent.

I knew Mark through my friend Marybeth, and we hit it off pretty well, so he asked me out.  We went to Georgetown (Washington, DC) and did a little barhopping.

Back then, Georgetown was an amazing place to go for a good time.  There were bars all along M Street, cool shops, and as a bonus – you could creep yourself out checking out the “Exorcist stairs.”

Wisconsin Avenue was the place to eat and catch a movie.  Mark and I were walking along Wisconsin Avenue, and saw there was a midnight showing of the movie “Caligula.”  I absolutely LOVED going to midnight movies, so when Mark suggested going in, I was game.

Caligula posterI had absolutely NO IDEA that “Caligula” was a movie by Bob Guccione of Penthouse Magazine, one of the more graphic men’s magazines at the time.  I hadn’t even heard of Caligula – either I skipped that day in History class, or it wasn’t taught at our strict girls-only Catholic high school.  Either way, I didn’t have a clue what I was in for.

“Caligula” is the story of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known as Caligula, who was thought to be an insane, perverted ruler.  Whether he actually was or not doesn’t matter, what matters is that the movie took those supposed traits to the extreme.

You would think that a movie that stars Sir John Gielguld, Helen Mirren and Malcolm McDowell would be a classy, serious movie.  Oh, no.  Malcolm McDowell held back nothing in his portrayal of the Emperor.

Mark told me before the movie started that it was about a Roman Emperor.  I expected to be bored, but was still up for it.  Instead, holy crap, was I horrified!  The images on the screen are forever burned into my brain, even though I saw the movie 27 years ago.

I am definitely not going to describe this movie – I have family reading this!  Suffice it to say that I should not have seen this movie ever, let alone on a first date.  I’m no prude or anything, but geez!

Malcolm McDowell in CaligulaThankfully, Mark wasn’t a jerk about it, but I still have no idea why we stayed and watched the whole movie.  Granted, the non-porn parts were pretty interesting, so maybe that’s why.

Maybe I didn’t want him to think I was a kid (he was a few years older than I).  Whatever the reason, we stuck with it through the end.  And I’ll admit, the ending made me a little sad.

Technically, this movie was made in 1979, but I saw it in 1984, so I consider this an 80s movie.

Mark and I remained friends and hung out with Marybeth, but nothing ever came of the relationship.  We were able to laugh about the movie after a little time passed.  I haven’t seen it since, and doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

But I think there is a censored version for anyone who wants to check out the movie without fainting.  It’s not just the sex in the movie, the violence is pretty horrific as well.  I don’t think the sparkly vampire-loving teens today could handle this movie.

The only place movies like this are being made these days is in the adult-film industry – and even those are probably pretty tame compared to “Caligula.”

So I won’t recommend this movie, but if you do watch the uncensored version, I’d love to hear what you think of it – was I a prude for being shocked?  Should I have insisted Mark and I walked out?  Can this first-date story be topped?  I’d be surprised!

You can’t watch this movie and not have some sort of visceral reaction.

I haven’t spoken to Mark in over 20 years – but you can bet we’ll laugh about our embarrassing first date together if we do!

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