Pulp is the film Michael Caine and Mike Hodges followed-up to Get Carter, but it’s not a sequel. Caine plays a bad pulp writer, Mickey King, who writes sleazy pulp paperback novels (My Gun Is Long, etc.) under various pseudonyms, and Mickey Rooney plays Preston an actor who played gangsters in films who is clearly based on James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson.
King is given a ridiculous amount of money to ghostwrite the actor’s autobiography. He has to go to this remote island, which is supposed to be Italy but is actually Malta (they tried to make the film in Italy but at every turn were asked to pay off the mob, so…) The plot takes a backseat to the “zany” hijinks of the characters and murder.
It’s a bit of a mess to say the east. The plot is too labyrinthian for its own good, and that’s what really wrecks these kinds of films at times. However, I’m sure it was a blast to make it and the actors were having a great time though, Rooney is quite fun as Gilbert and Lizabeth Scott has a role as a money-hungry princess who seems to have a history with Gilbert. Caine narrates the film, and at times that really grated on my nerves—it just didn’t always work, but it seemed to have been put in because he’s supposed to be playing an author who writes hardboiled fiction and you would expect him to
do a narration.
One of the more surprising things about is that it was one of J.G. Ballard’s favourite film, and he had a long correspondence with Hodges as a result.
It’s shot similarly to Get Carter, but it’s a much more light-hearted film with a silly sensibility and with a Mediterranean setting. King is kind of a Mickey Spillane type, but as Hodges says in the accompanying interview, he’s not as good of a writer as Spillane.
It’s always been reported that Jarvis Cocker got the name of his band Pulp from the film, but apparently he hadn’t actually seen it. However, he did eventually meet Hodges and they had a chat. Hodges, however, notes that he didn’t quite believe him when he claimed he never saw it, because Jarvis also seemed to have borrowed some of Caine’s look from the film during his Britpop heyday!
It’s a fun bit of an oddball film, even though it can’t decide whether it wants to be a spoof or ‘Get Carter goes to the Mediterranean.’ But while it’s a mess, it’s worth a watch. There is an interview on the disc with Hodges; interviews with the producer, the editor and the cinematographer; and a trailer that Hodges put together, which was sort of his attempt to do a Hitchcock type trailer.