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If you are a fan of movies and you haven’t seen Pulp Fiction before then there is clearly something wrong with your viewing habits. Just to refresh your memory (as I am sure we have all seen this at least once) this is the story of two hit men, two small time thieves and a boxer. The hit men are trying to recover a briefcase for their boss, feared gangster Marcellus Wallace. The thieves spontaneously rob a breakfast bar and the boxer, boxes. Each is a small separate story but each story intertwines with the others. This was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It was the second movie he directed (the first obviously being Reservoir Dogs) and was received with even more gusto than the first, earning Tarantino an Oscar for his writing talents amongst many, many other awards and nominations for the cast and crew of this picture. It’s not every day a movie such as this comes along, and when it does, it needs to be seen.

"So tell me again about the hash bars?"
Inspired by the American pulp magazines from the 1930’s to the 1950’s this movie, like Tarantino’s first movie, is a gangster flick. The opening scene introduces us to two small time crooks that are discussing the merits of robbing different types of establishments. A spontaneous decision sees them suddenly attempting to empty out the till of the breakfast bar they are eating in, and collect all the wallets of the customers. From there we are introduced to the films main characters – Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson respectively. It is now early in the day and they are off to recover a briefcase for their boss (Ving Rhames). A simple enough task for an experienced gangster you’d think? However, some trigger-happy kids and a slip of the finger see our (anti) heroes in a car with a headless body. A possibly unexpected casting is that of all action hero Bruce Willis as an aging boxer trying to stage his last fight, Harvey Keitel as The Wolf – the man who can fix problems, and Uma Thurman as drug addict, Mia Wallace. Tarantino certainly managed to get some good actors to appear in his relatively low budget movie (reported to cost $8 million).

So an all-star cast? Unfortunately Tarantino decides he wants another go at acting so he has a smallish part in the movie. It’s a shame as he is an awful actor. He really does belong writing screenplays and directing. The rest of the acting is top notch and this is reflected in the award nominations the actors received for the movie. As an actor, Harvey Keitel is either good or bad and Tarantino seems to bring out the best in him. Direction is mostly sound, but there are some elements of the movie that show the films small budget a little too well such as the infamous Jack Rabbit Slims bar and grill. The very high ceiling show that the set was really only built to end just over head-height. However for the most part, a big budget is not needed for this movie (as was with Reservoir Dogs) – production companies must love him for not spending any of their money, but making a killing at the box office (reported $200 million for Pulp Fiction).

The most interesting twist to the movie is that it is not played back in chronological order, which could easily be confusing if done incorrectly however it is carried off superbly and remains in my top two list of movies presented in this way (the other being Memento). Each little segment presents a fragment of the story those characters perceive and it is not until the story progresses further that you actually start managing to put the pieces together. It’s those little places when sections click in your head that you truly appreciate the thought that went into making this picture.

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men
Several of the previous regional releases of this movie were non-anamorphic, so it’s nice to finally get this in an anamorphic uncut format. The aspect ratio was kept at 2.35:1 as expected, and for the most is a reasonable transfer. Obviously shot on low-ish quality film, this is not reference quality stuff, but it is certainly the best this movie will ever be presented in. There are only a few artefacts present in the transfer but the image is pretty sharp. The colours are as I remember them in the cinema – slightly muted, however in wide expanses of the same colour I often saw a flickering effect, which I am going to guess is a problem with the level of mpeg compression used. Since edge enhancement appears to be present on this disc, it could also have something to do with that. There is only a small amount of edge enhancement present, and it is a shame the DVDs producers decided it was required. You probably won’t notice it unless you have a projector producing a large picture, or if you are watching part of the movie on your PC with your face 3 inches from the screen, looking for signs of edge enhancement. Aside from this little problem the video is generally good, not in the same league as newer movies, but it kind of fits in with the low budget of the production.

After much speculation and rumour and awaiting people to confirm things, I can tell you now that there is an English DTS audio track present on this disc. There are also English Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby 2.0 mixes in French. I always enjoy a good DTS mix and this is great. This film is heavily driven by dialogue, but there are a few nice and loud shooting scenes and of course a fantastic soundtrack. The music plays a big part throughout the movie and is used well. The famous scene in Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant, where Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Thurman) dance in the twist competition, opens with a camera shot in the crowd. You can hear the crowd talking all around you. Then the music starts – it’s “You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry. I compared it to the CD soundtrack, and it’s brilliant. This is the sort of movie soundtrack I would want in 5.1 DTS surround sound or even better, in high bitrate DVD-Audio. The soundtrack clarity is superb. It sounds a lot “cleaner” than other movies soundtracks; possibly it has had less audio processing on it than perhaps other movies might have.

This is a “Collector’s Edition” so it’s rammed to the hilt with extras. Firstly I want to mention the packaging. As with a lot of CEs these days, it gets special packaging. The packaging for the R1 Canadian version I am reviewing has a cardboard slip cover, which is made to look like black leather. This has a small window in it so you can see Uma Thurman through it. After removing this you can see the standard Pulp Fiction poster/video cover with Mia Wallace smoking a cigarette, lying on her front. It being a Canadian release, wherever it says “Pulp Fiction” it is followed by “Fiction Pulpeuse”, so the French only speaking population of Canada can work out what the film is. This then opens into three pieces. The first contains the CE booklet which details movies release at the Cannes Film Festival, a few pictures and more general stuff like a scene index, the cast list and a list of the special features available (replicated in French also). There is also a list of the songs used in the movie. All this is fine so far, however now we get to the bit I hate about these specially packaged editions. The DVD holders are bad. When my copy turned up disc one was rattling around the case and I was lucky it was unscratched. I have not seen this type of case before so I am wondering if Alliance Atlantis have made their own type of case (especially as it has their logo on it). It is just a moulded bit of plastic, but unlike Amaray cases it doesn’t “clip” in, it just sits there. I wish they would make some form of universal holder that is secure. Since the packaging is mostly card, its going to show wear a lot more quickly than a plastic case, so you’ll have to be careful with it if you want to keep it in pristine condition.  

"I wish I had been an actor really but I was never good enough, so I became a director and star in the movies I make"
There a lot of extra features and I’ll start with he deleted scenes. There are five deleted scenes and each is introduced and explained by Tarantino, which is good. Its especially fun when a bell goes off in the background while he’s introducing the scene and he makes a little joke of it. It’s a nice insight into these parts of the movie and I liked the overall introduction where he has a little dig at directors who create extended or altered versions of their movies for home releases – “I already made the movie how I wanted it to be”. It’s a good point. Adding extra scenes and ridiculous CGI characters into movies so they can be re-released is one of my pet hates.

There is some surprisingly good DVD-ROM content. I am not normally a fan of reading scripts or other so-called “enhanced content”, however screenplay viewer itself is interesting but I’d imagine a fairly standard bit of software. The trivia game makes you realise how much you have picked up from the film. While you are doing this quiz, the software also plays the movie for you so you won’t get too bored. There is a strange online feature, which allows you to record your own commentary for scenes of the movie. Not having a microphone I couldn’t try this out. There is also an enhanced playback feature which plays the movie and presents facts about what is happening on screen every seven or so seconds. This I quite enjoyed. Playback jumped a little at times when it was trying to play the movie and retrieve a piece of information to display but otherwise I thought this was probably the best of the DVD-ROM features.

There is a review of the movie by America’s premier movie critics “Siskel and Ebert”. Not being a fan of either of them, I thought this was a waste of space on the disc; however I am sure it will interest someone. It is probably more interesting to people who live in the States/Canada and actually watch the show this is taken from.

The documentary on the second disc entitled “Pulp Fiction - The Facts” is presented in 4:3 as generally expected, and is fairly interesting. It focus’ mainly on the actors and the director and is basically about their relationships and how the actors interact with the director and the script. It’s a reasonable length at about half an hour; however I was more expecting it to show me how certain parts of the movie were shot or made, and any problems they might have had during filming.

There are two “montages” present and they both show behind the scenes for two parts of the movie – the twist contest and when Butch hits Marcellus. Each is five to six minutes each. Nothing ground breaking, but a little look behind the scenes is always worthy of noting.

The “Production Design Featurette” at around seven minutes was a little short, but it was good to see the logic behind Jack Rabbit Slim’s and where it came from. There is also talk about the locations used, how many were real or sets and how they had to build their own basement for the pawn shop as the shop was real, but had not basement which was needed as the torture chamber.

We're shakin it baby, Twist and shout!
There are two awards ceremonies – the Independent Spirit awards where Tarantino is interviewed after winning an award and his acceptance speech from Cannes Film Festival for winning the Palme d’Or. These are nice little extras and help people realise just how this film took the movie world by storm.

Following that is an interview with Tarantino, taken by someone called Charlie Rose. If you are not only interested in the movie, but also in Tarantino as a director, his past and how he tries to tell his stories, then this is well worth watching. It also is nearly an hour long so it’s quite in depth.

Another feature which I liked, but which could have been done better, was the “soundtrack chapter stops” where you select a song and it takes you to that point in the movie that features that song. It would have been nicer if after the song, it returned you to that menu however. Instead it just plays the movie from that point onwards, so a nice idea which could have been better.

It’s also worth mentioning the animated menus. Each menu has a clip from the movie preceding it which is presented with a filter over the top of it, making it look like crumpled paper. This is just another little homage to the origins of the film’s title. They can be however, quite long, so if you are menu hoping for instance, these can get annoying.

The other extras are a few other bits and pieces such as TV spots, five theatrical trailers from around the world, still galleries and some reviews/articles on the film. It does however still amaze me that people go to see these films if the only exposure they get to it are the TV Spots, which just always seem very poor. Too much in the way of “voice over man” and not enough content - you can’t tell what the movie is about at all from these snapshots of it. Still, I guess that is what the trailers are for.

Bruce Willis always gets the cool weapons
This is a fantastic movie and the Collector’s Edition DVD echoes this. The picture might not be reference quality stuff, but the sound is more than adequate and the brilliant soundtrack heartily pumps away throughout the movie. The extras are varied and on the whole, quite good. Nothing really outstanding, although I was quite impressed with the DVD-ROM enhanced playback feature. I guess the best “extra” is the inclusion of the DTS soundtrack.

Should you get rid of your old DVD and upgrade to this? Yes you should. It’s uncut, anamorphic and has DTS. There is no commentary, which might have been nice. Other releases of this film have had special features not available here which is a shame. Three of those I noted were the “Isolated music and effects track” on the Village Roadshow Region 4 disc and both the "Marcellus Wallace's Briefcase: The Theory featurette” and the “Film references and inside jokes” features from the German Region 2 disc from BMG video. Even without the inclusion of these though, it is definitely a package worth picking up.

“I’m sorry – did I break your concentration?”