The 1972 crime comedy Pulp comes to Blu-ray from Arrow Video. Does Pulp hit all the right notes or is it a soft, wet, shapeless mass of material? Read on to find out!
The Three Michaels (director Mike Hodges, producer Michael Klinger, and actor Michael Caine) get together once again after the previous year’s hit film Get Carter. I mostly know Hodges from his work on Flash Gordon, a movie that no one would ever take seriously. So Pulp being a dry, farcical comedy did not come as a surprise to me. Apparently, the audience at the time did not know how to take the film and it fell into relative obscurity.
I’ve always been a fan of Michael Caine. Before he was kicking ass as Harry Brown or playing a side character in Christopher Nolan flicks he was a solid British actor of classically fun movies such as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Italian Job, Alfie, and The Ipcress File. Besides Caine, there is a great cast, even if they play oddball characters. We have Mickey Rooney as a hotheaded loudmouth, Lionel Stander as a tough gangster, and Al Lettieri as a mysterious bus passenger among many other recognizable faces.
The movie is a bit all over the place. Caine plays Mickey King, a pulp novelist who writes under very lascivious pen names. He doesn’t actually do the writing himself, he dictates his thoughts onto audio tape and sends them away to be transcribed. The salacious subject matter drives the women at the agency into a hot frenzy. Considering his scandalous reputation it’s no surprise that a secret celebrity admirer wants King to write their autobiography. It’s difficult to ghostwrite a biography of someone who won’t reveal themselves to the author but King has to accept sight unseen. Will the job be too big and too complicated? Why all the secrets? You’ll just have to watch to find out for sure.
Caine does voice-over work and acts smug most of the film, even when he is not in the best position professionally. In that aspect, the film reminded me somewhat of a European version of Fletch. Unfortunately, the story was never as interesting as that and Caine plays the character so close to his vest it might be too restrained for American audiences. The jokes are a bit simple and juvenile but still firmly PG.
The film was good but not great and it’s easy to see why it wasn’t very memorable in the minds of the general audience. Nor did it seem to rake in bags of cash at the box office. I imagine there are some who will find this to be an unheralded and forgotten gem. I did like the movie, but parts of it seemed to drag and the humor was more smile-worthy than laugh at loud funny. Your knowledge of past crime dramas will probably alter how many of the jokes will hit their mark. There are a few background gags as well as references to noir and pulp fiction (no, not the Tarantino film).
Pulp was filmed in Malta and has an aged look to it. The colors all seem to weigh heavily into brown, even the costuming is full of Earth tones. This was never going to be a beautiful to look at film, but Arrow does a nice job of making it look like it was intended. The booklet has this to say about the transfer:
Pulp has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with mono audio.
The original 35mm interpositive was scanned in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director Scanner at EFilm, Burbank. Picture grading was completed on a DaVinci Resolve. Picture restoration was performed using PFClean software. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Image stability was also improved.
Director of Photography Ousama Rawi supervised the color grading for this new restoration. The specific visual design for Pulp was carefully created in shooting and lighting. This look has been faithfully reproduced for this presentation.
All original material were made available for this restoration by MGM.
The mono soundtrack was created by MGM.
The special features offer a brief but interesting examination behind the scenes of the film with interviews of key people on set. It’s a shame that Caine wasn’t interviewed but I imagine he is still enjoying the home that Jaws 4 paid for.
- Interview with Mike Hodges – 17 minutes with the writer/director
- Interview with Ousama Rawi – 9 minutes with the cinematographer
- Interview with John Glen – 5 minutes with the editor
- Interview with Tony Klinger – 6 minutes with the son of the producer
- Photo Gallery and Theatrical Trailer
- 30-page booklet with essay A Death Rattle in Paperback by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, The Letter J.G. Ballard Wrote to Me About My Thriller Pulp by Mike Hodges and photos
Pulp Final Thoughts:
The film is called Pulp, but I don’t know if it’s poor enough in quality or truly trashy enough for that moniker. The story does ramble and the plot is pretty pointless but there is just enough humor and absurd characters that it works at some level. The film is also known as Memoirs of a Ghostwriter, and I think it’s a little more becoming a title. If you like Michael Caine as a less serious character you will probably enjoy this. If you’ve seen it before and want it for your collection then this version from Arrow Video is the one to get. You can pick up your copy here at Amazon or other fine retailers. Otherwise, if you are on the fence about Pulp, it might be best to rent it first.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.