Pulp Fiction (Blu-ray) (1994)

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Released 5-Nov-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Jackie Brown, True Romance
Featurette-Pulp Fiction: The Facts
Deleted Scenes-5, Introduced By Quentin Tarantino
Featurette-The Charlie Rose Show, With Quentin Tarantino
Featurette-Siskel And Ebert - Pulp Faction: The Tarantino Generation
Featurette-Production Design
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Montage
Featurette-Interview Footage From Independent Spirit Awards
Featurette-Palme d'Or Acceptance Speech
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 148:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Quentin Tarantino
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Travolta
Samuel L. Jackson
Uma Thurman
Harvey Keitel
Tim Roth
Amanda Plummer
Maria De Medeiros
Ving Rhames
Eric Stoltz
Rosanna Arquette
Christopher Walken
Bruce Willis
Case ?
RPI ? Music Karyn Rachtman
Neil Diamond
Chuck Berry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     What is there to say, now, after all these years, about Pulp Fiction? After all, the film has stood as a cornerstone of modern cinema since its release to critical acclaim and box office success in 1994. It took Quentin Tarantino from a up-and-coming director to a household name in record time.

     This review of Pulp Fiction on Blu-ray forms part of the seven disc set - The Quentin Tarantino Collection. It is simply a bundling of the previous release as the transfer section of the review will elaborate. Those slavish disciples of Tarantino will already have this Blu-ray in their collection or, more likely, one from another Region, but those "new to Blu" will find the lure of the comprehensive box set compelling. So, back to Pulp Fiction.

     In one of the several extras which accompanies this release critic Roger Ebert, looking considerably younger and healthier than today, struggles with his own analysis of the film pointing out that it had been the subject of more critical analysis than the dead Sea Scrolls! Pulp Fiction was a high watermark for the success of independent moviemaking and ironically, some feel, the first seed of its downfall. Peter Bisskind, in his analysis of Miramax, Sundance and the rise of independent film-Down and Dirty Pictures describes Pulp Fiction as the "Star Wars of the independents" but also questions its legacy. At that time, perhaps as now, stars would act in independent pictures through a love of the craft at a fraction of the ordinary pay rates. When Pulp Fiction turned a meagre budget into a smash hit investors suddenly wanted to be involved in independent cinema and actors and crew realised that they could start dictating the price. Reading Bisskind's book, which focuses on Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction is like watching the creation of two monsters, Tarantino and the Dark Lord of the independents, Harvey Weinstein. Tarantino continued to direct great films but none would have the pop culture impact of Pulp Fiction.

     They say there is nothing new under the sun. So too there was nothing new in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino, however, had gathered the strengths of his Reservoir Dogs script, particularly the blend of humour and violence, and let it loose in a sprawling epic which owed a debt to two key factors-Tarantino's desire to upend the applecart of cinema as well as his magpie-like gathering of disparate sources. Anyone making a modern crime drama would have to acknowledge the influence of Film Noir and perhaps the great French directors like Godard and Melville. Tarantino took not only from these sources but also the relatively unknown Hong Kong action flicks. The result is fresh and original and always engaging.

     For those who haven't seen Pulp Fiction - shame on you! The film is a collection of stories, like Raymond Carver snippets of American life, all gathered together in a jumbled whole. Tarantino's most audacious step with the film is to mix up the narrative structure, demanding attention on the part of the viewer. Major characters in one story become mere people in the background for much of another, and characters appear to come back from the dead. Rather than describing the fractured plot, below are the characters in the film : Honey Bunny and Pumpkin (Amanda Palmer and Tim Roth) are small-time hoods having breakfast at a diner. Tired of the dangers of robbing liquor stores Pumpkin suggests they rob the diner. Drawing pistols they go for it… Vincent Vega and Jules (John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson) are a pair of enforcers in the employ of local gangster boss Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). They are on the trail of a missing suitcase misappropriated by some young and very foolish drug dealers. Butch and Patrice (Bruce Willis and Maria di Medeiros) are on the run after Butch double crosses his boss, Marcellus Wallace, by failing to go down in a fixed fight, and has escaped with the money. What he doesn't have, however, is his precious watch, passed down through his generations of family.

     When Marcellus is out of town he asks Vincent to look after his wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman). This is a job with a risk as previous caretakers have suffered greatly when taking too many liberties with Mrs Wallace. The evening starts well but quickly deteriorates into a life-threatening situation for all involved. Meanwhile a hiccup has occurred when Vince and Jules collected the suitcase, necessitating the involvement of legendary clean-up man Mr Wolf (Harvey Keitel.

     How these stories intersect is sometimes a thing of wonder. One of the joys of Pulp Fiction is that it allowed a geeky video store clerk to go wild with his imagination and ability to generate witty dialogue to create something that has many imitators but no equals. Not only was it a cultural phenomenon but it turned a conservative budget into a mega-smash leaving Weinstein to describe Miramax as the "house that Quentin built"! The film belongs in every Blu-ray collection.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Pulp Fiction is presented on Blu-ray at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is consistent with the original theatrical release. It is also consistent with the previous releases of the film on DVD.

     Pulp Fiction has not had the greatest history on home video formats. It is not for want of a chance. The film has had more releases than Lindsay Lohan. A standard edition was released in 1998 followed by a Special Collectors (Remastered) Edition in October 1999. Commemorative versions were issued for the 10th Anniversary. The DVD releases were reviewed twice by our own Michael D and both times were found wanting. He found the transfer of the first DVD release to be extremely poor, with artefacts and aliasing, dodgy telecine as well as questionable anamorphic enhancement. Still, he noted that the quality was apparently also poor across all regions of DVD release. Speaking of the 1999 Special Collectors Remastered Edition he said that "this particular attempt by Roadshow Home Entertainment is the best transfer of this film that I have seen to date. This is somewhat faint praise, however, as it is still not a great looking DVD, but I believe that this can be put down to the source material rather than being blamed on the deficiencies with the transfer, and I doubt that we will ever see a transfer that is any better looking than this one of the movie." The 10th Anniversary Edition was reviewed by Rob G who was likewise disappointed that the film didn't get a better DVD treatment to mark the anniversary.

     Leaving aside our esteemed leader's apparent lack of foresight when it comes to the high-definition revolution it is disappointing to report that the Blu-ray transfer of Pulp Fiction is still not a shining example of the format. Even worse, we in Region B are being short-changed on our local product.

     To explain. In every other Region in the World, as well as Region B UK, the film was issued in 1080P. In this Region we received, inexplicably, a 1080i transfer. Sometimes distributors wanting to issue a niche title will resort to a 1080i transfer, usually sourced from a High Definition TV copy. That may be disappointing but where no region gets a full HD transfer at least we in the Antipodes don't feel short-changed. Nature videos from National Geographic and concert films are often in 1080i. However, films are rarely issued in this format because we expect 1080P as a minimum transfer quality.

     Does it make a big difference? Of course it is hard to know without comparing it to an existing 1080P transfer. On paper, it is still higher than DVD quality and if done well should in all respects be a vast improvement over the DVD.

     To that end there are a number of positives. Of course,Pulp Fiction, from the 70s style opening credits through the bar scenes and dungeons, was never meant to be a pristine cinema experience. Still, reports from overseas suggest that the 1080P version is a vast improvement over the DVD quality.

     The High Definition transfer is at its best in close-up. The flesh tones and detail are superb. The little creases in Thurman's gorgeous lips and the individual strands of Samuel L. Jackson's hairdo stand in remarkable detail. The colours are variable but fairly stable, a reflection of the source material. The grain level is perfectly cinematic.

     Yet, even compared against an acceptable 1080i image, this transfer has its problems. It lacks the highest degree of image quality that would come with a 1080P transfer, particularly in the midrange shots which are soft, particularly at the right hand edge of the picture. Michael wrote of aliasing problems. These are no longer apparent. However, another problem he described, a telecine wobble, is still in the transfer. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the technical defects. Not only are there more positive and negative artefacts than I can recall seeing in a Blu-ray before but there is evidence of combing which can occur with a dodgy 1080i transfer. I noticed evidence of slight combing at various moments but to see a prime example you need go no further than the scene in Jackrabbit Slims. At 34.55 the midget bellhop steps only slightly out of the action and dissolves in a fuzzy softness of interlacing.

     A disappointing transfer and one that should be re-issued in the near future.

     There are subtitles in English, English for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The core sound for Pulp Fiction is 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio. There is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 track running at 448 Kb/s and a Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s.

     Compared the visual presentation this is a masterpiece. I can't say it is perfect though. The sound appears a little underwhelming and lacks the degree of oomph that I remember from the cinema. Remember the moment when you first heard Misirlou ripping through the cinema? The aural hit is still there but it could be punchier. The dialogue is generally clear although there is a bit of mumbling that goes on, Particularly from Travolta. That is intentional. No such issue with Samuel L Jackson - every expletive can be heard!

     It is impossible to talk about the film without the soundtrack. Tarantino didn't invent surf music but he sure did bring it back to life, with the aforementioned Dick Dale song a new hit on the charts. Similarly, Urge Overkill became a mainstream success overnight with their cover of Girl, You'll Be A Woman originally sung by Neil Diamond.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     More bad news. This Blu-ray edition contains 8 extras. All, with the exception of three non-anamorphic, horribly scratchy, trailers, were on the 10th Anniversary Edition.

     They are:

  1. Pulp Fiction: The Facts (30.00)
  2. Deleted Scenes (25.00)
  3. Behind the Scenes Montages (11.00)
  4. Production Design Featurette (6.00)
  5. Siskel & Ebert At the Movies: The Tarantino Generation (16.00)
  6. Independent Spirit Awards (12.00)
  7. Cannes Film Festival – Palme D'Or Acceptance Speech (5.00)
  8. Charlie Rose Show (56.00)

     Even more bad news:
Other Region Blu-ray Editions include a couple more extras with updates on the film from a more modern perspective:

  1. Marketing Gallery
  2. Still Gallery
  3. Trivia Track
  4. Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat (43.00) - NEW Interviews with Cast including: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosanna Arquette, Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth and more
  5. Here Are Some Facts on the Fiction (20.37)- NEW Critics’ Retrospective on the Movie’s Place in Film History

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Every Region is better than ours.

Summary

     Pulp Fiction is a modern classic. This Blu-ray is not a fair representation of the film as it should be seen. Grab a copy from another Region. The extras are on the 10th Anniversary Edition. Is it an upgrade from the DVD? In parts, yes but the truth is that we in Region B Australia should never have got this edition in the first place. It is reviewed here as part of the Quentin Tarantino Collection. If you don't have the other movies then maybe you should buy it...maybe.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, February 09, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Worth investigating... - REPLY POSTED
Just import the UK edition. - REPLY POSTED
ROADSHOW!!!(down on knees screaming) - REPLY POSTED
No Frills / US Region A - REPLY POSTED
importing is sometimes the only choice -
1080i isn't really the problem -