I’ve not seen many films directed by Mike Hodges other than the iconic Get Carter, but the pleasure of meeting him prompted me to take a look at another of his movies (which he also scripted) starring Michael Caine. Pulp is the story of a pulp fiction writer, British but based in Italy, who is hired to write the autobiography of a dying gangster (Mickey Rooney, of all people.) He becomes embroiled in the violence that lurks not far beneath the surface of his adopted homeland, and his efforts to play the hero in the manner of his fictional heroes are not exactly a roaring success.
I suppose Pulp is best described as a comedy thriller, and striking the right balance between comedy and thrills is a very difficult trick to pull of indeed. There aren’t many successful examples – The Italian Job springs to mind, but few others. Hodges’ underlying purpose is serious, but I felt that the film sent out mixed messages. There were some excellent moments, and several witty lines, but for me, the ingredients did not add up to a completely satisfying whole. Viewed nearly 40 years after it was made, it simply seems too slow in places, and this is a pity, because there was a good story here, trying to make its presence felt.
The cast is eclectic and includes Dennis Price (Kind Hearts and Coronets) as well as a newcomer, Nadia Cassini, who is very glamorous but does not seem to have made a lasting impact as a movie star. The background music was excellent, I thought, and as the credits rolled I discovered that the composer was George Martin, who was such an influence upon the Beatles.
If you’re expecting another Get Carter, this isn’t really the film for you. Pulp has its merits, but I prefer a later Hodges movie about a writer. Croupier, starring Clive Owen, strikes me as more tightly written and much more gripping.