Cast & Crew
After leaving his wife, children and job as funeral director of his wife's family's mortuary, Chester Arthur King, an Englishman known as "Mickey," moves to Rome. There he writes seedy pulp novels under pen names, such as Guy Strange, Susan Eager and S. Odomy, which he dictates onto a recording that is transcribed by the typists at a secretarial agency. When he realizes that a man has been following him for two weeks, Mickey at first assumes that his wife hired a private detective. Then one day, while meeting with his publisher Milos Marcovic, a gangster, Ben Dinuccio, enters, claiming that he handles public relations for a celebrity who temporarily wishes to remain anonymous. Dinuccio offers Mickey a large amount of money to ghostwrite the celebrity's memoirs and promises Marcovic it will be a bestseller. Two days later, Mickey is traveling on a bus tour, at Dinuccio's instructions, waiting for someone to make contact with him. When fellow tourist Jack Miller sits beside him, holding a copy of one of his books, Mickey assumes he is the contact man. However, Miller claims not to have realized that Mickey is the book's author and begins to critique the book. Impatient for Miller to connect him with the mysterious celebrity, Mickey tells Miller that he knows "all about" him. To Mickey's surprise, this perturbs Miller, who moves to another seat. At the hotel, Miller, presumably by accident, settles into the room assigned to Mickey, who then takes another room. Mickey is dining with fellow tourists when he receives a message from Miller to meet him in his room. Expecting that Miller will finally reveal the name of the celebrity, Mickey instead finds that Miller appears to be stabbed to death in his bathtub. By looking through his wallet, Mickey learns that Miller had been lecturer in English at Berkeley University. From his luggage, which contains the wardrobe of a transvestite, Mickey learns why the man was upset by their conversation on the bus. After concluding that Miller was not his contact person, Mickey then recalls that their rooms were switched and wonders if he, not Miller, was the killer's intended target. The following morning is election day and one candidate, Prince Cippola, is vigorously campaigning on a law and order platform for the New Front party. Surprised that police are not investigating Miller's death, Mickey questions the hotel clerk, who says that he personally checked out Miller early in the morning. Mickey then confronts the maid cleaning Miller's room, but she seems oblivious of any misdeed and cannot speak English. At an ancient site Mickey's tour group visits that day, Liz Adams, a young woman taking shots with a small movie camera, introduces herself as his contact. She explains that the man who wants to hire him is her "sugar daddy," actor Preston Gilbert, who portrayed gangsters onscreen and had Mafia connections in real life. Liz and Mickey are met by Dinuccio, who now explains that he is Gilbert's business partner. They proceed to Gilbert's villa on a small exclusive island, where the former actor lives with his deaf mother. Upon learning from Mickey about Miller's death, Gilbert is pleased, as he claims the man might have been trying to kill him. Over several days, Gilbert, who has recently learned that he is dying from cancer, discusses his life with Mickey, but never again mentions Miller. Later, he takes his entourage to the mainland to honor the anniversary of his father's death. There, amidst the feasting and singing of Italian songs, Betty, Gilbert's flirtatious, third ex-wife who has since married Cippola, introduces herself to Mickey. To entertain the crowd, Gilbert, a boorish prankster, performs his "routine," in which he pretends to be a waiter and spills spaghetti and wine on a dining couple. Because of his reputation as a practical joker, when a man dressed as a priest draws near and shoots at Gilbert and two musicians, everyone at first assumes it is another one of his tricks, until they discover that Gilbert has been killed. Mickey then realizes that one of the bullets was aimed at him. Later, Mickey is at the local police station looking at a lineup, where he is made uncomfortable by the presence of an authoritative American, who he presumes is an employee of the FBI. The next day, Mickey and Liz return to the villa to question Dinuccio about who might be trying to kill him, when Liz recalls that Gilbert and another man had been involved in an old scandal. She and Dinuccio remember hearing that when Gilbert announced he would write his life story, the man was uncomfortable about it. Neither of them knows who the man is, but they had both assumed that Gilbert told Mickey about the scandal when he dictated his memoirs and conclude that Gilbert's killer also believes that Mickey knows about him. During the night, unable to sleep, Mickey sees the doorknob turn slowly and prepares to defend himself, but discovers it is Liz, who then joins him in bed. In the morning, Mickey meets with the clairvoyant, De Duce, who had been previously hired by Gilbert. For a sum of money, the psychic gives Mickey a small packet containing a picture of a young woman, a man's address and a ten-year-old picture of Gilbert and other men at a shooting party. According to the De Duce, Gilbert believed that one of the men wanted to kill him and hired the psychic to determine which one. At Gilbert's funeral, Mickey realizes that Cippola is one of the men in the photograph and that several other people from that event are in attendance. What Mickey cannot understand is why any of them would be concerned about Gilbert's memoirs. While the mourners ceremoniously accompany Gilbert's coffin to its final resting place, Mickey proceeds to the address on the piece of paper to a desolate, coastal village. When he asks for the person named on the paper, a one-armed man eventually strikes up a conversation and then takes him to a lonely grave on a vacant beach. The man explains that the grave belongs to the girl in the picture and that she died when her heart gave out from the strain of being used sexually abused by several men in the hunting party. After Mickey recalls reading about orgies held at a hunting lodge, the man tells Mickey that the girl's father, the man he is seeking, was ashamed of his daughter and was paid to keep quiet. With the money, he moved north and never revealed to the police what happened. Suddenly, gunshots send them running to the man's truck. Mickey is shot in the leg, but, dodging bullets, drives the truck toward the gunman, who is dressed like a priest, and runs him down. Afterward, Mickey sees that the dead gunman is Miller. Mickey returns to Cippola's villa, prepared to accuse the prince of several murders. Instead, he faints from his wound and later finds himself lying in a gilded room at the villa with his leg in traction. Mickey is visited by the American, to whom he reveals that Cippola is behind Miller's assassination of Gilbert. Cippola, Mickey explains, feared that Gilbert would write about the girl's death in his memoirs and jeopardize the politician's ambitions. Unconcerned about the truth, the American says that Cippola is too important to allow his misdeeds to become public knowledge. After suggesting that Mickey enjoy his stay at the villa while he recuperates, the American physically threatens him to ensure his cooperation. Accepting his situation, the recovering Mickey begins writing his next book. Although the book is based on his experiences, in Mickey's version the prince dies a well-deserved death. While the real Cippola and his friends are boar hunting, Mickey ineffectually vows revenge.
Joe Zammit Cordina
Irene Sophie Opperman
Ermelinda De Felice
Cettina Borg Olivier
Anna Pace Bonella
Joe De Biasio
Michael Caine plays Mickey King, a writer who has no respect for his own abilities and will crank out pretty much any type of novel that will earn him a buck, including tawdry sex and crime stories (one of his pen names is actually "S. Odomy!") King is hired to ghost-write the autobiography of a man named Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), a former movie star who has Mafia ties and is living in retirement with his mother and mistress in Malta. There are people, though, who apparently don't want the book to be written, and Mickey finds himself being drawn deeper and deeper into a dangerous situation that has as many twists and turns as the roads that wind through the Hollywood Hills.
There are numerous intense and deadly developments in Pulp, but they unfold in a tongue-in-cheek manner that diffuses the anxiety with knowing laughs. It may not be quite as clever as it wants to be some of the jokes are eye-rollers - but it's still a lot of fun to watch.
In his engaging autobiography, What's It All About?, Caine writes that one of the more enjoyable aspects of film stardom is being able to perform with actors who first entered his consciousness through movie matinees when he was a child. Pulp contains two of them, Lizabeth Scott and Mickey Rooney, and they turned out to be utterly different types of individuals.
Caine was in for a bit of a shock while shooting his first scene with Scott, who, he says, was rather mysterious, and was never spied in social situations. During the scene, in which he and Scott are sitting at a table having drinks, the actress couldn't raise the glass to her lips without her hand shaking uncontrollably. During a lull in shooting, Caine, who was starting to get annoyed, asked Scott what was wrong. "This is my first take for fifteen years," she replied. Caine then realized that the woman sitting across from him may have once been a big star, but was now just an actress who hadn't worked in years and was afraid she had lost her chops. Luckily, Caine calmed Scott down, and she was fine after that.
Caine writes, however, that Mickey Rooney was "the complete opposite" of Scott, always boisterous, telling jokes, and offering advice. Rooney told Caine that the most important thing to do in life is to save money, since he'd been working for years, and, at the time Pulp was being filmed, was completely broke. Caine happily notes that Rooney's fortunes seemed to turn around after the film's release, and his career as a character actor was back on the right track. (Rooney's most recent film was the hit, Night at the Museum (2006), which he completed at the ripe old age of 86.)
In an amusing side note, Caine also says that Rooney, who was supposedly quite religious and "belonged to some small sect or other," wasn't completely capable of keeping his bawdy side in check. "...I remember how he used to tell me the filthiest jokes," Caine writes, "with every four-letter word imaginable. At the end of the joke he would clasp both my hands, a pious look would come over his face and he would say, 'God bless you, my son,' with complete sincerity."
Director: Mike Hodges
Producer: Michael Klinger
Screenplay: Mike Hodges
Editor: John Glen
Cinematographer: Ousama Rawi
Music: George Martin
Production Designer: Patrick Downing
Costume Designer: Gitt Magrini
Art Designer: Darrell Lass
Cast: Michael Caine (Mickey King), Mickey Rooney (Preston Gilbert), Lionel Stander (Ben Dinuccio), Lizabeth Scott (Princess Betty Cippola), Nadia Cassini (Liz Adams), Al Lettieri (Miller), Dennis Price (Mysterious Englishman), Amerigo Tot (Sotgio), Leopoldo Trieste (Marcovic), Robert Sacchi (Jim Norman).
by Paul Tatara
Pulp - Michael Caine in PULP - A 1972 Mike Hodges Film on DVD
Synopsis: Trash paperback author Mickey King (Michael Caine) writes under a half-dozen aliases. A mysterious figure engages the writer to ghost-author his memoirs. Even though a man is mysteriously killed in his hotel room, King perseveres and meets up with his employer's unusual retainers, the beautiful Liz Adams (Nadia Cassini) and the gangster-ish Ben Dinuccio (Lionel Stander). King's employer turns out to be Preston Gilbert, a famous movie star with alleged Mafia connections who wants to tell all about his years in Hollywood. Only, it looks like Gilbert's old underworld buddies don't want the book to come out: an assassin appears to be on the prowl for both the ex-movie star and his ghostwriter.
The concept of film noir was known only in cinema circles in 1972, so the closest point of reference for the satirical film Pulp was probably the fan revival interest in Humphrey Bogart tough guy movies. The best thing in Mike Hodges' sly script is Mickey King's hardboiled voiceovers, either quotes from his trashy 'sex & pistol' books, or his subjective running account as he mentally narrates his own story. When King's laconic prose conflicts with what we see on screen, the effect is hilarious. King's narration reports that he soldiers on in defiance of his attackers, despite being wounded. The on-screen King notices blood on his clothing and faints dead away. Thanks to Caine's perfect deadpan delivery, this gag works every time.
The balance of the picture doesn't maintain that level of wit, preferring to present amusing characters and ironic situations that remind us of the old movies King mines for his crummy books. Instead of traveling on the Orient Express, King takes a tourist bus with a pack of old fogies. Fellow traveler Al Lettieri may be a harmless college professor, or a hired killer. Nadia Cassini is an irrelevant girl King contacts along the way; her presence reminds us only that the film has no real romantic interest. Gravel-voiced Lionel Stander is utterly dependable when it comes to hitting precise character notes (Cul-De-Sac, 1941) but turns out to be yet another eccentric voice making much ado about nothing. Noir legend Lizabeth Scott trades some snappy dialogue during lunches under the bright Mediterranean sun. The ironic script stays at arm's length from its characters; Caine's ultra-cool Mickey King doesn't really interact with any of them. When King finally becomes the target of an unseen killer, his panicked reaction simply seems out of character.
Hodges establishes his mystery well enough but the film isn't clever enough to successfully undercut its own premise, as John Huston and Truman Capote had done in their Beat the Devil. As each new character or situation is revealed to be irrelevant, like Dennis Price's mock-sinister English intellectual, there's little payoff beyond Michael Caine's deadpan reactions. Yes, the movie is vaguely hip, but the lack of nourishing content eventually becomes a drag.
The show picks up dramatically with the entrance of Mickey Rooney, who has a field day as the narcissistic ex-movie star Preston Gilbert. Rooney preens before a mirror in his underwear, carefully arranges his wig and tries to pretend that he's taller than he is; everything he does seems to be some kind of ego compensation. Gilbert is roughly modeled on the old star George Raft, which leads to the revelation that Gilbert's old Mafia pals want to rub him out to suppress his autobiography. Like most of the "plot" in Pulp, that part of the story never develops beyond rumor status.
In an effort to give the versatile Rooney something to do, Hodges has him perform unfunny slapstick routines, locking a servant in a steam closet and going through a lame 'bad waiter' routine. The fact that Preston Gilbert isn't supposed to be charming or funny doesn't wash. It's as if the Wit Spigot ran dry. Gilbert's prompt exit from the story after only a handful of scenes is like too many things in Pulp: it just lacks impact.
Amusing character bits are scattered around the periphery. Robert Sacchi's American police representative seems to be present just to remind us of Humphrey Bogart; he does next to nothing. The wonderful Italian comic actor Leopoldo Trieste (The White Sheik) has a rather thankless bit as a nervous publisher with a urinary problem. And frequent giallo actor Luciano Pigozzi is a useless clairvoyant. Along with Dennis Price's puzzling contribution, most of these diversions just serve to bog the story down.
Taking advantage of atmospheric Maltese locations, Pulp meanders forward like a big Shaggy Dog story. What we remember best are details like the pulp paperback typing pool, where a score of females become aroused while transcribing soft-core passages from Mickey King's dictation tapes. The final beach showdown is also good, although it can't compensate for the general slackness. Pulp seems to have been a 'vacation' movie, as if its makers wanted to bounce back from the oppressive Get Carter with something light and hip.
MGM/Fox's DVD of Pulp is perfectly preserved, with every sunny exterior glowing in its proper hue. George Martin's music score is pleasant but doesn't add much to the film's shaky mood. No extras are included, but the DVD's classy cover graphic easily bests United Artist's theatrical originals.
For more information about Pulp, visit MGM Home Entertainment. To order Pulp, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Pulp - Michael Caine in PULP - A 1972 Mike Hodges Film on DVD
The original title was "Memoirs of a Ghostwriter".
The working titles of the film were Memoirs of a Ghost Writer and Scandal. Before the opening credits, the words, "A Typing Pool somewhere in the Mediterranean," appear as several typists taking dictation through headphones are shown listening to the voice of Michael Caine, who portrays "Mickey" and narrates the story. Caine's narration continues throughout the rest of the film. Most of the opening credits, including the title, which is repeated several times, appear onscreen, letter by letter, as if being typed. The opening credit of Nadia Cassini, who made her American feature film debut in Pulp, reads: "And introducing Nadia Cassini." Mike Hodges' opening credit reads: "Written and directed by."
Instead of stating "The End," the penultimate end card reads: "The Enf½." A final card, which shows a picture of a printed funeral announcement with the initials RIP written at the bottom, thanks the government and people of Malta for their help and cooperation. The card also provides a production company credit for Three Michaels Productions and states that the funeral theme heard during the funeral procession sequence was played by a local band in Malta.
Although the film was ultimately shot in Malta, a September 1971 Variety news item reported that Italy was originally considered for the shooting location. The part of Mickey was written for Caine by Hodges and the film reunited Caine, Hodges and producer Michael Klinger, who had made the successful 1971 film Get Carter (see entry above) together. Pulp marked the final film of Lizabeth Scott, who had not appeared in feature films since the 1957 production Loving You (see entry above), starring Elvis Presley.
Robert Sacchi, who marked his second feature film and American feature film debut in Pulp, resembles actor Humphrey Bogart and portrayed Bogart and Bogart-like characters throughout his career. Sacchi's character is called "The Bogeyman" in the onscreen credits, a pun alluding to his resemblance to the actor, as well as the threat he represented. In Filmfacts and some other reviews, the character name is listed as "Jim Norman," although, in the viewed print, he is never referred to by either name. In a scene near the end of the film, there is a humorous reference to the The Maltese Falcon, the 1941 film that starred Bogart (see entry above).
Several characters, who are not referred to by name in the film, are given different names in reviews than in onscreen credits. Reviews stated that the death of the girl buried on the beach was the result of a gang rape, but in the film it is not made clear whether she had been a willing participant or was attacked against her will.
Although Filmfacts and sources in the film's file at the AMPAS Library list six actresses portraying celebrities from a previous era-Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Shirley Temple and Gloria Swanson-a sequence depicting those characters did not appear in the viewed print.
There are several references to fascism and Communism in Pulp, and in an interview in The Times (London), Hodge stated that his script was "actually about the new fascism in Italy." Although the film played briefly in Los Angeles in late 1972, according to Filmfacts, mixed reviews and poor box office returns prompted United Artists to cancel the New York opening. Pulp eventually opened in New York in 1973 for a one-week booking at a venue showcasing "lost" films.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States March 1979
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1972
Released in United States March 1979 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (FilmEssay: Misappreciated American Films) March 14-30, 1979.)