This is Hardcore: ‘Pulp’ (1972)

  Mike Hodges and  Michael Caine’s follow up to Get Carter, recently released by Arrow Video.

Fans of Get Carter must have felt confused, bemused or even short changed when a year later the star and director of the gangland classic reunited for the deadpan, low key comedy Pulp. You could not ask for a film completely different in every single way from Carter if you tried. In terms of reputation it has definitely suffered in comparison to its predecessor, however over the years it has managed to gain its own smaller but appreciative audience, including the likes of JG Ballard, who immediately took to its idiosyncratic and humorous take on genre fiction.

Right from the off the film manages to grab the attention with Hodges smart and stylish directorial style. Watching this, one wonders that if Hodges had followed Get Carter with something in a similar vein and if successful, he might be a more lauded and appreciated director for his body of work today, although it feels churlish to sell short the career of the man who brought us the definitive Flash Gordon, which to this day is still one of the greatest comic to screen adaptations. In Pulp, right from the off Hodge’s directorial style is there on the screen matched by his witty script providing much to admire and enjoy here.

“Pulp,” Michael Caine on location in Malta. 1972 / UA. © 1978 John Jay – Image courtesy

Caine plays Mickey King, a proficient author of trashy crime fiction going to seed “Somewhere in the Mediterranean” tapped to ghost write the autobiography of a mysterious celebrity. Said celebrity turns out to be Preston Gilbert, an ageing American actor famous for portraying gangsters decades before. Played by Mickey Rooney he is an insufferable little man, played so well here that one wonders if Rooney based him on anyone he had personal experience with back in his heyday. Gilbert has his reasons for wanting his life recorded at this moment in time and this is where Mickey finds real life taking a similar turn to one of his own potboilers.

The film has a great cast full of vintage cult favourites including Al Lettieri, Lionel Stander, Dennis Price and film noir starlet Lizabeth Scott. They flit across the screen delivering the scripts witty dialogue with relish. Caine, in comparison, is more subdued here, practically deadpan, especially in the voiceover which paradoxically manages to be both one of the films biggest strengths and weaknesses simultaneously. A weakness in that it actually over explains the plot, and all its holes, without showing any of the events onscreen, telling us too much and not showing us enough. But as a running commentary it works like gangbusters, contradicting the action onscreen at several points and casually throwing away zingers at an impressive rate; “That’s how it all began. That bizarre adventure which put five people in the cemetery and ruled me out as a customer for laxatives.”

Pulp,” Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney 1972 / UA. © 1978 John Jay – Image courtesy

It is a very seventies film, from Caine’s oversized glasses to the outdated attitudes; because it is an early seventies Michael Caine film the birds just love him for no discernible reason other than he is Michael Caine. But to compliment all of this there is a lovely, witty musical score provided by none other than George Martin, which from time to time pauses to let a visual or audio gag to hit home, only to resume again as if nothing had happened. Alongside all of this Hodges punctuates the film with some inspired visual gags and some that are just plain daft. The film’s sudden conclusion comes out of nowhere in quite a sloppy manner, it doesn’t so much end as just stop.

Despite this it deserves a resuscitation and maybe even a reappraisal, especially in comparison to Get Carter and showing that both Hodges and Caine were not afraid to take risks creatively. Arrow Video’s presentation of the film, alongside a number of interviews including Hodges and his editor, and later Bond director, John Glen, will hopefully refresh the films cult audience, gaining newcomers who may be more prepared than the films first audience for its comedic take and subtle commentary on hard boiled pulp fiction and the Mediterranean class system, giving it a new lease of life. But if the film itself were to fade away it could not have a finer epitaph than one that Mickey King states in that often-glorious voiceover…

“Remember that thou art pulp, and unto pulp thou shalt return.”

Blu-Ray & DVD Special Edition Contents

  • 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

❉  ‘Pulp’ is out now on Blu-Ray and DVD from Arrow Video. Duration: 95 mins. Language: English. Subtitles: English / English SDH.Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1. Audio: 1.0 Mono. UK RRP: £15.99 DVD / £19.99 Blu-ray. Order on Blu-ray in the UK: or DVD in the UK:

Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.

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