In HE’s book, there is no competitor to John Hurt‘s performance as the Roman emperor Caligula in BBC’s I Claudius, which was shot on video in ’76.

I’ll allow that Jay Robinson‘s Caligula in The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators (’54) was enjoyably grandiose in a campy sort of way, but Hurt was much more wicked and perverse, and that wonderful snappy voice has never been used to greater effect.

For years I’ve been searching YouTube for his great death-of-Caligula scene (starting at the 42-minute mark in “Hail Who?“, which originally aired on 11.15.76). Today I finally found it. What’s magnificent is how Hurt doesn’t shout in anger or fear but weeps like an hysterical, deeply disappointed child.