IMDB: Made to cash in on the notoriety of Tinto Brass's 1979 movie 'Caligula', Italian sleaze-merchant Bruno Mattei's 'Caligula and Messalina' is packed to the gills with soft-core scenes of sex and violence. Despite lacking the hardcore porn and graphic gore to be found in Brass's movie, Mattei's production (available on German DVD in an uncut 108 minute version) is still fairly entertaining stuff.
John Turner stars as nutty Roman Emperor Caligula, who commits incest with his sisters, makes his horse a member of the Senate, and executes the innocent on a whim.
Messalina (played by gorgeous Betty Roland) is a power-hungry nymphomaniac who will stop at nothing to become Empress of Rome. She brings herself to the attention of Caligula by battling in the gladiator arena and it is not long before she achieves her goal, upsetting the Emperor's youngest sister Agrippina, who hopes that her son Nero will eventually become ruler of Rome.
Agrippina successfully plots Caligula's downfall, but Messalina rains on her parade by immediately jumping into the sack with his successor, Claudius. But naughty old Messalina can't commit herself to one man, and shags everyone in sight, including a grotesque, but well-endowed, frequenter of brothels, a randy midget, her eunuch(!?!?) and an ex-lover. When she ends up pregnant, and it is obvious that the father is not Claudius (since he has been away fighting in foreign lands), Agrippina finally sees her opportunity to be rid of her nemesis once and for all.
Chock full of full frontal female nudity, some male nudity, simulated sex, incest, lesbianism, Bacchanalian orgies, rape and buggery, this movie is definitely not one for the easily offended. And if none of that bothers you, then the graphic scenes of horses and donkeys getting jiggy will probably do the trick (the close-up shots were too much for me!). Surprisingly, in contrast, the violence is pretty low-key, with most of it happening off screen.
Mattei, obviously working with a low budget, resorts to padding his movie with footage from other films, particularly for crowd scenes requiring many extras, but to be fair it all works pretty well. 'Caligula and Messalina' is fun slice of schlock entertainment and is worth a viewing for fans of historical exploitation, but those hoping for the polished look and excesses of its more famous predecessor may be disappointed.