"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. 'This movie,' said the lady in front of me at the drinking fountain, 'is the worst piece of shit I have ever seen.'"
Thus did Roger Ebert, who died today at 70, review the movie Caligula. One might conclude that he did not like it.
He liked what he liked and eviscerated the things he did not. His show with Gene Siskel, an affable sort who played good cop to Ebert's bad, drew excellent ratings due, in part, to Ebert's sharp tongue.
Where Ebert really shined was in print. He was a writer's writer, a craftsman whose prose could snarl, dismember and disembowel.I learned to attend a movie first and then read his review - invariably I would love the movies he thought were average, and doze during ones over which he fawned.
I read him, nevertheless. He may have been a keen, insightful observer of the motion picture art form. His understanding of how to tell a story on the big screen might have been breathtaking. Maybe he was a great guy, or a prig. I don't have any way of knowing.
He was one hell of a writer, a giant.