The International Writers Magazine: Film Space
Actors: Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini
Director: Mike Hodges
In 1971, director Mike Hodges and actor Michael Caine had a hit in the action thriller Get Carter. The following year they tried to do a comedic follow up to that film called Pulp, in which Caine played a mediocre pulp fiction crime novelist, Mickey King (who writes novels like My Gun Is Long, under the pseudonym Guy Strange), who, on holiday in Malta, gets involved with as former film star, Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), who lures him into a web of murder and intrigue that lacks only one thing: intrigue.
Run the trailer here
The problem is that the film is not well written, not well acted (Rooney is his usually atrocious self), and not really funny- especially bad is the forced narration that Caine’s character speaks over the most rote action. Things get so bad that, in the worst way possible, Caine’s voiceover either repeats an action we just saw onscreen, or anticipate sit, thus rendering the very point of a voiceover (the condensation of unnecessary action to get to dramatic ‘meat’) moot.
The joke of the film is that Gilbert was a B film star, who played gangsters, and associated with real world gangsters, back in the day. He is served by a valet named Ben Dinuccio (Lionel Stander), who approaches King with a large sum of money to ghost write the memoirs of Gilbert. Along the way to even meeting Gilbert, a homosexual and transvestite hitman named Miller (Al Lettieri) is killed in a hotel room meant to be taken by King, and a pseudo-romance emerges between King and one of Gilbert’s female relatives. None of this is in the least bit interesting, nor are Rooney’s onscreen tics and neuroses. When an assassin actually kills Gilbert, at an outdoor restraint, the guests think it’s another of his elaborate gags. It’s not.
King then quickly solves the so-called ‘mystery,’ which is just that King and some other partiers, years ago, got drunk and had sex with a girl, who died, mid-penetration, and the others decided to bury the body. When one of the other men heard Gilbert was penning his memoirs, he hired Miller, the hitman, to kill both Gilbert and King. But, since Miller was killed off earlier, who is the assassin on the loose?
Simple. It’s Miller, who faked his death. This is easily seen, as, earlier in the film, no one even realizes Miller supposedly ‘died.’ But, through it all, one emotion overrides, and that is apathy. Simply put, a viewer simply feels nothing for any of these characters. They are so apathetically realized that they don’t even rise to the level of stereotypes. All of this can be pinned on the bad screenplay by Hodges. The anomic cinematography, by Ousama Rawi, does not help matters. George Martin’s scoring is also non-noteworthy, and often non-existent, in a negative sense. At times, the whole film feels like it was filmed by a bunch of college kids on spring break. About the only positive thing one can say about this film is that it only runs about 95 minutes in length.
Yet, oddly, it’s not a film that is even bad enough to be memorable, therefore it doesn’t even grate on one’s mind. It’s just utterly forgettable. And yes, there are odd little details that I could go into, but, I simply am not moved to do so. The film never even rewards its viewers for recognizing its details, so they become superfluous.
Regardless, Pulp is inoffensive, at least, in its sterile badness. It’s not going to move you, in either direction, so, at least consider your bowels safe, for what it’s worth.
*(The Editor intervenes here to say that I think 'Pulp' one of the funniest movies of the 1970's and Dan Schneider doesn't even mention Nadia Cassini's hot pants - or that the cool Caine laconic voiceover is perfect, as is the expression on the women's faces in the typing pool as they hear him describing the sex scenes in his novel. Rooney is a terrible ham and a bore and that is exactly right. A wonderful companion to another early 70's movie 'Gumshoe' starring Albert Finney directed by Stephen Frears)
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