Pulp

| December 27, 2017

Actor Michael Caine, writer/director Mike Hodges, and producer Michael Klinger had so much fun collaborating with one another on the seminal British gangster thriller Get Carter (1971) that the trio teamed up again the following year to create another crime picture in Pulp (1972), now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video. Though by no means a classic on the level of Get Carter, the comical Pulp serves as a compelling companion piece to its more somber and grittier predecessor. Whereas Caine played a hardened murderer neck-deep in criminal escapades in Get Carter, in Pulp he plays a character similarly surrounded by crime but one who’s nowhere near as capable of handling the criminal element around him as Carter was. But he sure wants us to think he is!

Michael Caine stars as Mickey King, a pulp novelist of many pseudonyms who narrates his own story as if his life is one of his sleazy pulp stories. Only, in Mickey’s voice-over version events, he’s far more cool, capable, and powerful than we, the audience, ever see him being throughout this caper. This discrepancy between Mickey’s description or events and what actually transpires serves as Hodges’ commentary on the nature of reportage and the over-dramatization of events as told to the public by media. Without that dissonance between voice-over and action, Pulp likely wouldn’t be nearly as engaging or thought-provoking, but with it, the film becomes compellingly rewatchable. And it gets funnier with every viewing.

Much like The Big Lebowski (1998) for many, Pulp rewards multiple viewings as you’re pick up on more and more of the minute details each subsequent time through. In fact, the two films aren’t entirely dissimilar to begin with. Both films follow a character who is ultimately in over his head, surrounded by a wacky cavalcade of characters, and trying to unravel some potentially deadly mystery, when they’d truly rather be doing anything but. So if you’re a fan of The Big Lebowski and Get Carter both, I’d say you’re bound to appreciate Pulp.

The film is at its funniest when the most colorful of the colorful cast is onscreen: Mickey Rooney’s washed-up actor with mob connections, Preston Gilbert. And Preston Gilbert’s at the center of the whole affair, since Mickey King only becomes targeted for assassination after Preston hires Mickey to ghostwrite his autobiography.

If you’ve ever heard anything about Rooney as a performer behind-the-scenes, all that’s confirmed by Hodges himself in an interview on the new Arrow release. Rooney was difficult to work with, yet absolutely brilliant, and that brilliance shines through here in every frame in which he appears. Preston’s a force of nature and Rooney nearly steals every scene he’s in. What’s more, is onscreen interactions with Michael Caine are hilarious. The visual of Caine towering over Rooney combined with the clash of personalities between the bombastic Preston and Caine’s more reserved Mickey results in scenes that I simply never wanted to end. Mickey Rooney’s section of the film is positively the highlight of the feature for me.

The Arrow Video USA Blu-ray of Pulp boasts a beautiful 2k restoration of the original film elements supervised by the director of photography Ousama Rawi packaged alongside a number of brand-new special features. These features include new interviews with Hodges, Rawi, assistant director John Glen, and Michael Klinger’s son, Tony Klinger. The disc also includes the original theatrical trailer, which you’d expect really, but Hodges discusses at length in his interview about how lucky the world is to have this trailer at all given that he thought it lost for some 20+ years. The booklet packed with the release features an essay by Australian film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and an article about the film’s illustrious fan base written by Hodges himself originally for BFI earlier this year.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).

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