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Penthouse porn pioneer and would-be film producer Bob Guccione dies at 79

Bob Guccione, the Brooklynite publisher who has died in Texas aged 79, began his Penthouse empire in the UK in 1965, taking the mag (which was notably raunchier than Hugh Hefner’s Playboy) to the US in 1969.

After a highly profitable period in the 1970s Penthouse began to decline, never popular with advertisers (unlike Playboy in its pomp) and squeezed from the other end of the market by Larry Flynt’s even raunchier Hustler.

Guccione’s most infamous hour was in 1979 when he produced the movie Caligula, a version of the mad Roman emperor’s life starring various famous British thesps including Malcolm McDowell (who played the emperor), Helen Mirren, Sir John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole. It was directed, rather well, by Tinto Brass (otherwise famous for his erotic films) from a script by celebrated American novelist Gore Vidal.

Tinto, though, was playing it straight in Caligula but Guccione, who had cunningly reserved the right to carry out post production himself, was not.

So when the starry cast and the director had gone home Guccione imported a bevy of Penthouse Pets to cavort all night long in extended (and repetitive) orgy scenes which he then cut into the film in post production.

This caused a predictable scandale and Caligula the movie ended up as neither one thing or the other. But some of it was very good, like this clip of Caligula getting his.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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