Saturday, December 23, 2017

Pulp (1972)

Director: Mike Hodges
Notable Cast: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini, Dennis Price, Al Lettieri, Leopoldo Trieste, Amerigo Tot, Robert Sacci

Pulp was a wild card film for me. Although I had previously enjoyed the combination of Michael Caine and director Mike Hodges in the original Get Carter, the idea of them working together on a comedy noir didn’t necessarily seem to be a sure-fire winner out of the gate and the lack of longevity for the film in cinephile circles didn’t bode well either. When Arrow Video announced the film for its end of 2017 line up though, it perked my interest. Arrow is known for finding cult gems and giving them the love they deserve and if Pulp was on the docket then it deserved a watch. Pulp is a tough film to crack though and it can be easy to see why it didn’t resonate as well as a film like Get Carter did through the years. Not only is it rooted in a lot of cultural references to the period, but its slow building noir foundation mixed with desert dry humor doesn’t just appeal to the more casual cinephile. Even then, the film has an impeccable sense of what it is in a kind of self-referential manner and once the style settles in it becomes a comedic romp that will certainly find a new cult audience.

For those perhaps unfamiliar – and the film does a decent job at explaining this after its unique and jarring opening sequence of typists writing from dictation by Caine’s pulp author Mickey – pulp is a kind of writing style that was known for its often-exploitative content during this time period. Pulp, in perhaps its best trick, takes its noir narrative and places its key figure in his own pulp style story of gangsters, mysterious paid gigs, and assassins. Because the character is a pulp author, his endless voice over narrative often plays into how the film is seen and consumed. He will say one thing as the film shows you another, he over analyzes many of the sequences with dry wit, and his colorful commentary never ceases to amuse. Michael Caine delivers this narrative with the subtlest of dry wit, as does his performance in the film sporting his 70s chic hair and style, and he carries a lot of the film as a center for the more ridiculous characters to circle. His surrounding cast are all delightful in their various roles with both Mickey Rooney and Lionel Stander stealing much of the film in their smaller roles as enablers and manipulators for Caine’s Mickey. The film has an innate charm in its meta-layering that certainly appeals and its this, partnered with Caine, that really makes this film worth the watch.

The biggest hurdle for Pulp is that it is so dry and subtle with some of its material that it drags through long portions of the plotting and narrative. The film opens with some fun slapstick humor gags, including a strange serious of car wrecks that set the tone for the various “accidents” that will continue to plague the protagonist throughout the film, but from there it relies so much on the narrative bits and Caine’s almost stoic nature that it fails to grab onto some of the better jokes. At times it does, particularly later in the third act as an assassin appears and starts to add some thrills, but getting there is a bit of a chore at times. With repeated viewings, I’m sure Pulp is the kind of film that unfurls with just how clever it can be with its dialogue and meticulous approach, but on this first viewing it does feel a tad too pulled back with its pacing to truly embrace the chaotic and spastic elements its script wants to deliver.

For those who were already fans of the film or perhaps those that just love what Arrow Video does for these kinds of releases, Pulp is another robust release. A brand new 2K restoration of the film is the most impressive part, particularly if you compare it to the scenes found in the original theatrical trailer, and the release has four brand new interviews with various people associate with the film that add a lot of color and depth to what the film is already offering. It’s these kinds of additions that really do make many films worth it for fans and Pulp is no different.

In the end, while the full execution of Pulp remains mixed, it’s hard not to love the film for its particular charms and crackling dry wit empowered by its self referential examination of the pulp entertainment concept. Caine delivers in the lead role, the supporting cast steal plenty of the sequences, and the third act delivers plenty of its own thrills and spills. The film tends to drag at times though and its cultural time set can be detrimental to full enjoyment on initial watches, but Pulp works for those willing to dig into its subtle nuances and charming maneuvers.

  • Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by director of photography Ousama Rawi, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 1.0 mono sound
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Brand-new interview with writer-director Mike Hodges
  • Brand-new interview with director of photography Ousama Rawi
  • Brand-new interview with assistant director John Glen
  • Brand-new interview with Tony Klinger, son of producer Michael Klinger
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector s booklet containing new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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