Pulp (1972)

About a decade ago I watched Get Carter (1971) with my uncle. I had never seen it and it was one of his favorites. I could see why. Michael Caine plays a great tough guy, it had memorable lines of dialogue, and great hard nosed action. Fast forward to today and I discovered that Caine made another film with director Mike Hodges (who also directed Flash Gordon) directly after Get Carter called Pulp (1972). Intrigued I popped the disc in to check it out.

Taking place in Malta, Michael Caine plays Mickey King, a hack pulp fiction writer specializing in cheap detective novels that feature violence and sex in equal measure. He’s approached by a grizzled older man smoking a cigar claiming that he has a job for Mickey. It seems that there’s a mysterious actor who lives nearby that wants Mickey to ghostwrite his autobiography. Why? Because the actor loves his work. Mickey agrees and is taken on a long trip to the actor’s villa. On the way Mickey finds the dead body of a man he suspected to be his contact for the actor. Troubled Mickey continues the trip until he’s contacted by the real contact for the actor. So why was the other man murdered? Was Mickey the real target? Shaken, Mickey meets with the actor, Preston (Mickey Rooney). Preston was indeed a major actor until his connections to the mafia were publicly released and he had to flee to live in isolation. Fearing for his life, Preston won’t leave his villa until he’s told Mickey everything that belongs in his book. From there more twists and turns occur and I won’t spoil it here but Mickey’s life imitates his art.

Pulp is an odd duck of a film. It’s a comedy but a dry one, filled with slight humor. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, this isn’t. But it wasn’t supposed to be. It’s very British and so the humor mostly comes from odd situations, places, and people, rather than big slapstick moments (though there are a few of those too, such as cars around Malta continuously crashing). The film is also a mystery but one that takes almost the entire runtime to finally begin and quickly end. It’s too silly to be a thriller, but too slight to be a pure comedy. I’ll be honest and say that at first I was bothered by this. It doesn’t conveniently fit into a prescribed genre. This means that if you measure it by genre standards, either comedy or thriller, it fails. But if you measure the film on it’s own terms and try to appreciate it for the anachronistic beast it is, it’s a good film. Caine is fantastic in it as are the other actors. I could see myself revisiting the film again later due to it’s odd voice and pacing as well as the great comic timing of Caine. My only complaint is that the color palette of the film is very brown. Brown cars, brown walls, brown suits, everything brown. It’s an odd complaint but what the heck, this is an odd movie.

As always with Arrow releases, the print looks and sounds fantastic. Given the films’ limited color palette it needs all the help it can get, visually speaking, and arrow has done another great job. The film has some nice supplements too, mainly interviews with cast members (no Caine though) and crew.

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