Pulp (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes

Pulp (1972)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Writer Mickey King's (Michael Caine) pulp fiction has nothing on the memoirs he is ghostwriting for the abusive Hollywood gangster actor Preston Gilbert (a caffeine-and-Sterodent-powered Mickey Rooney). A page later, on-screen and offscreen worlds are blending, and the big sleep beckons for some. With a stylish Caine accompanied by an unforgettable George Martin score, this hilarious film blows the bloody doors off!

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Michael Caine
as Mickey King
Mickey Rooney
as Preston Gilbert
Lionel Stander
as Ben Dinuccio
Lizabeth Scott
as Princess Betty Cippola
Nadia Cassini
as Liz Adams
Dennis Price
as Mysterious Englishman
Giulio Donnini
as Office Manager of Typing Pool
Kate Sullivan
as Joan Crawford
Robert Sacchi
as Jim Norman
Ave Ninchi
as Chambermaid
Janet Agren
as Silvana
Cyrus Elias
as First Guide
Anne Louise Lambert
as American Tourist
Iver Gilborn
as Bus Tourists
Werner Hasselman
as American Tourist
Victor Mercieca
as Prince Cippola
Cettina Borg Oliver
as Gilbert's Mother
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Critic Reviews for Pulp

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (1)

Pulp is an underrated comedic masterpiece.

December 14, 2017 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The movie doesn't stir memories of classic noir as much as it traffics in British quirk.

September 18, 2021 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

...a seriously (and shockingly) interminable experience...

July 25, 2021 | Rating: .5/4 | Full Review…

Feels like it has a place within Hollywood's history of misunderstood films.

September 20, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4.0 | Full Review…

Pulp is more of a cult classic, but its appeal and influence are nonetheless profound, and worth noting.

October 23, 2019 | Full Review…

It functions less as a pulpy mystery or gangster tale than as a spoof of same, albeit a spoof that retains a noirish sense of fate and power.

January 19, 2018 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Pulp

In 1972 Mike Hodges was faced with a question: how do you follow Get Carter? Having cut his teeth on TV in the 1960s, his debut feature was iconic in its time and ours, bringing out a darker side of Michael Caine (in his finest performance) and helping to shift the goalposts of what British film was capable of doing. While Hodges cannot have foreseen the film's eventual reputation, its acclaim led to a clamour for more work in the same vein. Retaining most of the crew from Carter, he and Caine attempted to repeat the recipe with Pulp the very next year. The results fall well short of their first collaboration (as almost anything would), but it still retains a certain rough-edged charm. One of the most popular maxims for success is "stick to what you know", and on that basis, we appear to be in safe hands. Both Get Carter and Pulp, as the latter makes clear, have their roots in pulpy crime fiction. Get Carter is based on Jack's Return Home, a novel by Ted Lewis which was inspired by the 'One-Armed Bandit murder' in Newcastle in the mid-1960s. Pulp has its roots spread more broadly, drawing in the legacies of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but both are essentially borne from sources which exploit contemporary attitudes towards violence, sex and criminality. The problem with Pulp, however, lies in these broader roots, which distance it from both Carter's appeal and Hodges' sensibility. Carter was very much about the plight and malaise of the North-East, seeking to blow away the bright colours of the Swinging Sixties to reveal a grim and nasty underbelly. Its pulpy trappings (death, sex, violence etc.) were used as a springboard into a much deeper, weightier study of self-destructive violence, conspiracy and revenge. While Carter constantly sought to carve out its own identity, Pulp is content to be a much more general celebration of the genre. There are many more conscious nods to key figures within the pulp genre and the iconography they created - there's even a massive name-drop to The Maltese Falcon. It's not quite as though anyone could have made this film - there are nice little touches here and there - but it's not as strongly identifiable towards Hodges as Carter, or Flash Gordon, or Croupier many years later. Of course, celebrating or paying homage to a genre is no bad thing in and of itself, and there are a number of nice visual touches which make Pulp somewhat memorable. The opening montage is very appealing; it features a typing pool hammering out Caine's novel, with Hodges cutting between the cacophonous thunder of typewriters and the reactions of individual girls to the saucy content coming through their headphones. Another nice touch can be found in the cinematography. The colour scheme is very faded and washed out, emphasising dreary browns and yellows - the same dreary browns and yellows of the pulp paperbacks in which Mickey King's work is rooted. Italian thriller novels were often called giallos in relation to the low-quality paper they were printed on - 'giallo' being the Italian word for yellow. The film uses its low budget to celebrate the low quality of the works on which it draws; it's sitting pretty in the gutter and is beckoning you to join it. The script for Pulp is full of witty dialogue, and like Carter there are a number of juicy lines with which Michael Caine can go to town. Unlike Carter, however, more than half of Caine's lines are in voiceover, reflecting the noir trope of the unreliable narrator. The dialogue is much fruitier than Carter's, with all Caine's best lines being overly poetic or cheeky metaphors that would make John Osborne's gang leader blush. It's hard not to raise a laugh or grin at titles like My Gun Is Long or King's comments about having better use for his fingers. Unfortunately, the emphasis or reliance on voiceover often prevents the film from having the unpredictability that it needs to move from the serviceable to the remarkable. Take the film's violence as an example. Being a pulpy crime thriller there's a lot of it, with numerous murders taking place over the short running time and our lead often being placed in mortal danger. But Pulp's narration leads us to expect it, knowing that our protagonist must come through it in order to tell the tale. Carter, by contrast, was incredibly unpredictable, so that when the violence arrived it was always shocking. Another bad consequence of the voiceover is that the film doesn't dive deeply into its ideas when it really needs to. This isn't always the case in noir or other genres that use or rely on narration, and it is possible for a thriller to balance substance and pacing - just look at Headhunters. But Pulp is so concerned with celebrating the format that it often skirts over a lot of the ideas it tried to raise. To put it a little more generously, Pulp can be seen as the embryonic state of several interesting ideas which would be explored in greater depth in subsequent thrillers. The idea of a writer being taken into a family's confidence and uncovering a great crime or scandal would subsequently be done justice in Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer. Likewise, the idea of a writer leaving clues towards a great crime in a commissioned work would later be handled brilliantly in Peter Greenaway's debut The Draughtsman's Contract (albeit with paintings, not novels). Had Hodges shown more of King's writing process, the film could have made a better fist of these ideas; as it is they are very much there but not allowed to develop to the most satisfying degree. We do however get a nice closing line regarding King's decision to publish the story of the crime: having spun a merry yarn with imagery and innuendo, all he can muster is four simple words: "I'll get those bastards." If you wanted to be glib, you could say that all the problems with Pulp only reinforce just how great Get Carter really is. This doesn't make Pulp a bad film, but against its predecessor it is a poor relation in almost every way. The musical score is still minimal, but it's designed to create a general mood rather than give a film any kind of signature. The characters are more consciously archetypal, adhering so close to our generic expectations that they don't leave an enormous impression. And the story is more ramshackle and has less by way of dramatic stakes; it is drawing a dozen stories into one narrative rather than expanding from one story into a dozen themes. Within these character archetypes (the groupie, the playboy, the femme fatale etc.), there are a number of decent performances from actors making the best of the material. Dennis Price, of Kind Hearts and Coronets fame, is great fun as the crusty English eccentric, endlessly spouting Lewis Carroll to entice our hero and infuriate the Americans. There's good support from Nadia Cassini as the siren-esque Liz and from Hollywood veteran Lizabeth Scott in her final performance. Caine also does a good job as Mickey King (no relation to Stephen), reflecting the sleaze of his profession while looking as cool as ever. The most interesting piece of casting, however, is Mickey Rooney as Preston Gilbert. Rooney was once the biggest star in the world, and here he is playing a washed-up film star living on past glories and needing money from the book to sustain his lifestyle. It's an inspired piece of casting, not just as an exercise in self-deprecation, but because the character reflects Rooney's own past. Gilbert's tendency to play gangsters is tied to his possible mob connections, reflecting the rumours surrounding Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, with whom Rooney worked in the late-1950s. Pulp is a pleasantly diverting work which falls short of Hodges' incredible debut but passes the time quite nicely. Its adherence to the conventions of pulp is such that it doesn't entirely carve out its own identity, but the performances and several nice touches in the script and visuals just about compensate for this. In the end it's as disposable and engaging as the yellowing paperbacks that inspired it. It's no Get Carter, but it's still good fun.

Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

Let's just say that "Pulp" isn't quite the Mike Hodges we're akin to; the Mike Hodges that made great films such as "Croupier" or "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 plot is confusing and is never really made clear, and we spend half the time trying to figuring out the importance of the any of the characters. We meander from scene to scene, never really knowing what's happening. Half of the scenes are really quite unnecessary. Eventually, the story picks up with twenty minutes left to go, but by then we don't care. I won't necessarily say that "Pulp" is a "bad" film though. It certainly tries hard to be what it's not, and while you can certainly spot the influences here, "Pulp" 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 attempt.

Stephen Earnest
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

I caught this on TV, and I didn't understand it at all, then I saw it again from the beginning, and I still couldn't quite understand what was all going on. This movie is confusing and stupid. I wouldn't recommend this movie.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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