A crime fictionalist (Michael Caine) reluctantly enters the reality of his own fantasies in Pulp, a reasonably entertaining piece of rococo recall [shot on Malta], at its best as visual camp. The joke isn’t an easy one to sustain, but it’s part of the film’s appeal that writer-director Mike Hodges doesn’t flog it.
Caine is hired by a faded screen tough guy (Mickey Rooney) to ghost his memoir, and the plottage thereafter hinges on a scandal in the star’s past involving elements of the local shady set. Having previously hushed things up, they now fear Rooney means to spill the beans in his book, hence they contract his murder. Caine is naturally compelled not to turn tail but to see the mystery and danger through.
Hodges’ dialog is appropriately crisp and often witty, though it’s the sight gags that work best – a throwaway salute to Bogart or the camp interior of Rooney’s island villa, fitted out for the insecure narcissist that he was.
Caine, solo billed above the title, delivers his usual attractive turn, albeit with more than a whiff of hangover from one of Len Deighton’s spy plots. There’s also a deft bit by Dennis Price as a shaggy Englishman, and newcomer Nadia Cassini is featured as Rooney’s sexy satrap.