Pulp Fiction (Collector's Edition) Review
Quentin Tarantino was a nobody working in a video store, penning scripts with the hope of one day being discovered and shooting to fame. In the late '80s he wrote three scripts, and tried and tried to get them made. The first became True Romance – eventually directed by Tony Scott; the second amounted to nothing; and the third became Reservoir Dogs: a story of betrayal, set after a bungled heist, which Tarantino went onto direct.
After the successful release of the latter in 1992, Tarantino was asked by Jersey Films (Danny DeVito's company) to pen another script. He at first thought of making a film in the same vein as Reservoir Dogs, but then he thought of an idea: his second script, which amounted to nothing as said above, was unique in the fact that it wasn't one story...it was an ensemble piece that comprised of many different elements. So, Tarantino went back to the drawing board, and reworked this idea into what would become arguably the best film of the '90s – Pulp Fiction.
To describe the plot simply, it is about three different stories, all set against the backdrop of modern day Los Angeles. First up, we have Vince (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) – hitmen who work for fearsome crime lord, Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). After being sent to kill some yuppies that dared to defy their boss, Vince has to take Marcellus' wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), out on a dinner date – not a date-date, but instead must keep her company whilst the big man is out of town. The second story revolves around a boxer by the name of Butch (Bruce Willis) who refuses to take a dive in the fifth round of an upcoming bout, and then has to live with the consequences. Thirdly and finally, a couple of lovebirds, Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth), plan to hold up a diner. Now, the clever thing about Pulp Fiction is that in each story, the characters drift in and out of each others stories, until they all link together into one, immensely satisfying, jigsaw.
Like his debut, Tarantino is capable of electric visuals melded with razor-sharp dialogue and a narrative that sucks the viewer into this world of crime and corruption, seen from the perspective of several people. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are examples of films that can become cult classics, remembered for years to come and celebrated by fans around the world. In this reviewer's opinion, Pulp Fiction is the slightly better film, with Tarantino actually managing to better his groundbreaking arrival to the cinematic world – in style. Longer, funnier, and more thrilling, I didn't catch up with Pulp Fiction until 2002 (and the release of this DVD), and I am annoyed that it took me so long to finally sit down and see what all the (justified) fuss was about.
The soundtrack is also excellent, and fits the film perfectly. From Vince and Mia swinging to Chuck Berry in Jack Rabbit Slim's, along with the music on the opening credits that sums up what will follow…it has Tarantino written all over it. The fact that he is worshipped so much by film lovers from the result of only three (now four, thanks to Kill Bill Vol. 1, although his street cred was as much before its release) films is a testament to his verve and constant panache.
Pulp Fiction is a mixture of frenzied cool, ever-quotable dialogue, developed characters, memorable action and intense drama, one of the best films of the '90s, and is rapidly becoming one of my favourite films of all time. It boasts a great replay value thanks to its combination of intrigue and humour, and due to the great performances from all those involved, it sits well, long after the end credits have rolled.
Originally released onto a shoddy single-disc with no extras, all has been rectified by the 2002 release of this two-disc collector's edition, which also boasts the addition of a DTS soundtrack. Read on to find out just how much better this is, and whether it is worth upgrading to…
The menus are animated well with music in the background and clips from the film, and they offer the usual setup.
Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer shows off an excellent print, free from any compression sign or artefacts. There is the odd evidence of dust and grain, but considering the age of the print and also the low budget, when compared to more recent blockbusters this slight loss of quality is understandable. Considering most fans of the film will have grown up with Pulp Fiction on the TV or lacklustre fullscreen VHS, this will be a blessing in all of its anamorphic glory!
There is a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 soundtracks, although both are fairly similar in quality. As mentioned above, this film was made for a relatively low budget (albeit more then Reservoir Dogs' mere $1 million) so there are no loud explosions or bombastic sequences, instead the film relies on more subtle effects and clear presentation of dialogue. The front channel is excellent for the latter, with the dialogue crisp and clear throughout, and when the rear speakers are used – which isn't too often, sadly – the music and other effects that come through them are well defined. An accomplished soundtrack for what is expected of it, although it could pack a larger punch in places.
Right, bad news out of the way to begin with – there is no audio commentary, sadly. Considering that QT is a motor mouth, it would have been very interesting to hear his views on the film (at breakneck speed, of course!). I have a suspicion that the DVD may be re-released in the near future with a commentary included, but it does nothing but annoy us DVD fanatics who have shelled out on this edition…
Anyway, here's where the bad news ends and the good news begins. The main extra is 'Tarantino Fiction', an original documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew of Pulp Fiction, plus the man himself, it focuses on how the film came about. It's a great insight into not only Tarantino, but also the production process. A featurette that focuses solely on the production design is also included, and it is an interesting and a worthy addition to the aforementioned documentary.
There are 4 deleted scenes included, with introductions from Tarantino – as well as an extended version of the infamous Jack Rabbit Slim's scene. They only add a little to the film, and as Tarantino himself states: a film will always have five scenes that stick out like sore thumbs, upsetting the flow of a cut…these are those five.
Siskel and Ebert, two well-known US critics, have their say on the film – 'At the Movies' is an examination of the film and its subsequent legacy, and instead of being a standard review it tackles issues such as Pulp Fiction's reputation for gratuitous violence and other (interesting) topics.
An in-depth interview with Tarantino from the Charlie Rose Show is a welcomed addition, which runs for 40 minutes and offers a new perspective on the production, his life off-screen and also his work in general – very enjoyable and worth watching. A brief interview segment with Tarantino from the Independent Spirit Awards is also included, but it takes place against the backdrop of a hectic ceremony and therefore doesn't delve into much detail.
A clip from the 1994 Cannes Film Festival – and the shock announcement that Pulp Fiction had beaten Three Colours Red to the Palme d'Or – is included. It also features the memorable bit when Tarantino silenced a section of the crowd degrading Pulp Fiction by sticking his fist in the air, and then flipping up the middle finger...
Two montages from on the set, a stills gallery and a selection of TV spots and trailers round off the extras.
A film that defied both genre and Hollywood convention upon release, Pulp Fiction has not only aged well but still remains one of the best films of the '90s. If you already own the film on DVD, do not hesitate to upgrade – this package is vastly superior to all existing versions, with not only the addition of a DTS soundtrack, but also the inclusion of an excellent array of extras. The lack of an audio commentary aside, this comes highly recommended.