Mickey King (Michael Caine) writes pulp, lives pulp and very soon could be pulp. While ghostwriting an autobiography for Hollywood star Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), Mickey ends up investigating a murder....
is a little-seen yet still entertaining black comedy from Michael Caine's prolific mid-career period of the early 1970s. While Sleuth
fared much better at the box office in 1972 (mainly due to the dynamic pairing of Caine and Laurence Olivier), there's much to enjoy in this droll, wickedly sarcastic effort from Mike Hodges, who had previously directed Caine in the acclaimed 1971 thriller Get Carter
. You can detect some of that film's darker sensibility here, with Caine giving a laid-back and jaded performance as Mickey King, a pulp novelist of dubious reputation who's agreed to ghost-write the autobiography of Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), a Hollywood has-been who specialized in playing gangsters, now living in a sun-baked villa on the island of Malta. As it turns out, Gilbert's been keeping some dangerous secrets, and shortly after Mickey arrives on the island, Gilbert is murdered and the now-unemployed ghost-writer is the killer's next target. As Mickey tracks down clues by interviewing potential suspects, his voice-over narration (of which there is plenty in this casually-paced mystery) begins to reflect how his own life has become like one of his overcooked potboilers, and half the fun comes from hearing how he's embellishing events as they unfold. Rooney's a comedic standout during his brief time on-screen, and there's some fine support from Lionel Stander as Gilbert's lazy bodyguard, and long-legged beauty Nadia Cassini (who went on to a modest career in Italian films) as Gilbert's mistress. Note to film buffs: Keep a lookout for Al Lettieri (best known as "Solozzo" from The Godfather
), in addition to a small but pivotal role for Robert Sacchi, who made a career for himself as "The Man with Bogart's Face." Pulp
may not make you laugh out loud, but it'll definitely keep you smiling. --Jeff Shannon