U,S. Release Date: October 31, 1972
Running Time: 95 minutes
MPAA Classification: PG (Language, sexual references, violence)
Cast: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini, Dennis Price, Robert Sacchi
Director: Mike Hodges
Producer: Michael Klinger
Screenplay: Mike Hodges
By STEPHEN EARNEST / December 4, 2011
Let’s just say that Pulp isn’t quite the Mike Hodges that we’re accustomed to; the Mike Hodges that made great films such as Croupier and Get Carter. It’s fairly sub-par for a director of his magnitude, and is lacking in many of the major areas that are required for a film to be considered “good”.
The biggest problem I have with Pulp is the plot, which remains mostly incomprehensible for a majority of the film. Now, by saying this, I’m not saying that there isn’t a plot, because there is. It’s just that it’s unclear and unfocused, and things only begin to start making sense after we’ve already been watching for an hour. Tragically, this is only an eighty minute film.
The film stars Michael Caine as Mickey King, an acclaimed novelist of trashy pulp fiction. He resides in Rome and leads a rather quiet and eloquent life.
One day, King is approached by a wealthy and sophisticated patron named Ben Dinuccio (played by hoarse-voiced actor Lionel Stander). Dinuccio offers King a proposition to ghostwrite the autobiography of Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), a once-famous celebrity. Apparently, Gilbert has cancer and wants his story told before he dies.
Though dubious as first, King agrees and travels to Gilbert’s home, which is located on a remote island. The two meet and converse but before Gilbert can divulge any of his information to King, he is murdered and it is left up to King to find out why.
Now, all of this is a good setup for a detective story. The only problem is that we’re already three-fourths of the way through the film, so there’s not much “investigating” to be done.
From this point, the plot delves into realms of eccentricity and absurdity so inexplicable that I can’t recall or comprehend much of what I saw. There are several other mysterious characters that are said to be involved in the murder plot of Preston Gilbert, such as a cross-dressing hitman and a paranoid clairvoyant, but none of them seem to really be all that important. Or maybe they are and Pulp just doesn’t explain their existence properly, which is something I could understand.
But unfortunately, the plot isn’t the only bad part about Pulp. The acting is stiff and there a plethora of technical mishaps, ranging from lazy cinematography to bad lighting to poor sound quality. The only positive thing I can say is that the set design is spot-on.
I will conclude by saying that while Pulp isn’t a “masterpiece”, it is interesting. Not in the sense that you’re interested in the story and characters, but rather interested in what becomes of them. It’s an oddball sort of film, and one that only a small and distinct crowd of people will like. It certainly tries hard to be what it’s not, and while you can spot the influences here, it never really pulls anything off.
What we’re left with is a forgettable neo-noir that could make for an enjoyable watch on any given night. It’s not perfect, but it’s a forgivable and mediocre attempt at greatness.