Review for Pulp Fiction
On one hand, Pulp Fiction is one of my favourite films, but on the other hand, it’s over 2½ hours long. As so often happens with the longer films in my collection, they get played less often; just three times in the last 20 years in this case! This Blu-ray has been sitting on my to-watch pile for two years now; after I got around to double dipping the collector’s edition DVD. All I can say is that I promise once more to watch Pulp Fiction more often, although I can see myself shunning that runtime and picking something shorter already.
Pulp Fiction comprises not one but three stories, related through their characters and intertwined in an innovative and compelling way. Jules and Vincent are a couple of hitmen, who must recover a briefcase belonging to their employer, Marsellus Wallace. In another strand, Vincent must take Marsellus’ wife Mia out for the evening, without succumbing to temptation and finally Butch Coolidge is an aging boxer who has to throw a fight at the whim of Marsellus Wallace and has to go on the run when he beats his opponent instead. Seen written down like that, these stories hardly seem inspiring, but Pulp Fiction takes these rather derivative tales and entwines them in an innovative and refreshing way, throwing convention to the wind while still paying homage to classic cinema.
Pulp Fiction gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 5.1 English and with optional English, and SDH English subtitles. Maybe I should have kept on waiting to re-watch Pulp Fiction in the hope of a new Blu-ray release, as I certainly didn’t appreciate the image quality on this disc, although the sound is as good as you would expect, immersive and bringing across the film’s action and stellar music soundtrack, while keeping the dialogue clear. But this transfer, 11 years old now has plenty of weaknesses, including a sense that all of the grain has been scrubbed from the film. This level of DNR doesn’t harm detail too much, but the film can feel a little soft at times. Detail levels are still good, and the film print is certainly cleaner than the DVD release. The colour timing seems pushed to the warm end even more than before, but what really distracted me were the blown whites. There were scenes that looked as if someone had just cut holes in the frame to shine a naked projector bulb through. When that’s the glare on someone’s brow, the reflection off sweat then it turns into a big distraction.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray case which boots to an animated menu. This is one of those discs that hold position in player memory after being ejected.
I haven’t seen this on too many Blu-rays (they used to be more of a thing on DVDs) but you get a DTS Audio Check featurette that plays white noise through your surround setup to see if everything’s wired correctly. Most of the extras on this disc are familiar from the previous 2-disc DVD release.
New to this disc are...
Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat (43:01 HD) which catches up with some of the cast members in 2011 to reminisce about the making of the film.
Critics’ Corner – Here are Some Facts on the Fiction lasts 20:37 HD.
The rest will be familiar to owners of the DVD and are in SD format.
Pulp Fiction: The Facts – Documentary lasts 30:31
Deleted Scenes x 5 (24:39)
Behind the Scenes Montages x2 (10:46)
Production Design Featurette (6:22)
Siskel & Ebert “At the Movies” – The Tarantino Generation (16:00)
Independent Spirit Awards (11:29)
Cannes Film Festival – Palme D’Or Acceptance Speech (5:20)
Charlie Rose Show (55:27)
There are also trailers, images in several stills galleries, an Enhanced Trivia Track, and a soundtrack chapter listing.
The blurb says over six hours of bonus content, but in terms of video footage, this is still an hour of HD video, and around 3 hours of SD content alongside a 2½ hour movie on a single disc. This really should have been another 2 disc release.
When I first saw Pulp Fiction in the cinema... twenty-five years ago now, I thought it was the best thing that Quentin Tarantino had done. Although at or around the time, that pretty much comprised Reservoir Dogs, Natural Born Killers, From Dusk Till Dawn, and True Romance. And now, all this time later, and after seeing many of his subsequent films, the Kill Bills, Inglourious Basterds, and The Hateful Eight, I still feel that Pulp Fiction is the pinnacle of his career.
It was the last time that Tarantino wasn’t indulged, or he didn’t indulge himself. The runtime may be an issue when I’m staring at a shelf of discs to choose from, but in terms of the film, telling these stories and developing these characters, there’s not an ounce of flab, not a wasted frame. And what we’ve now come to see as director’s trademarks, Tarantino clichés still didn’t exist back then. The dialogue, the wit, the way the camera moves or doesn’t move, and the eclectic, rediscovered soundtracks, all still felt experimental and new back then, and somehow that novelty still comes through watching Pulp Fiction today (or it might just be nostalgia on my part). And even though you might think the Winston Wolf character has been neutered and rendered a parody by years of cheesy insurance adverts, all of that is forgotten once you start watching the film.
It’s still the way the stories unfold, the way they fold in on themselves, dispensing with conventional narrative structure to offer something much more compelling that still holds the attention to this day. There is sufficient room for the characters to develop, while the dialogue has a wit and zing to it that really elevates the film. Pulp Fiction is just as good today as it was when I first saw it, which always begs the question as to why I’m so reluctant to re-watch it. Maybe I just don’t want to kill the golden movie that lays all those gold endorphin eggs. Wouldn’t it just depress you if you watched Pulp Fiction so much that Marvin getting shot in the face ‘didn’t’ make you jump out of your skin?
This transfer is director approved. I think Tarantino’s trolling us; a conspiracy theory to get us all back into cinemas (once they’re no longer cathedrals to contagion) and watching Pulp Fiction projected through 35mm film. The Blu-ray as almost always looks better than the DVD, and sounds much better, but I wanted a Pulp Fiction Blu-ray to look better than this! Paramount now have the Miramax catalogue and they re-released Pulp Fiction on Blu-ray in 2020. The new packaging has some Oscar blurb on the front, but it looks to be the same disc as before.