Pulp Fiction appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though this new release of Pulp definitely improved upon the prior DVD, it still fell short of greatness.
For the most part, sharpness seemed solid. Some wide shots displayed minor softness, but those instances occurred with reasonable infrequency. For the most part, the movie looked fairly crisp and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns; happily, I saw none of the strobing that so heavily marred the coffee shop sequences in prior releases. Some moderate edge enhancement appeared at times. For reasons unknown, this issue seemed to most strongly affect “The Gold Watch”; EE seemed largely absent during “Vega” and diminished during “Bonnie”, though it remained noticeable. As for print flaws, the different concerns remained modest. I saw occasional specks and bits of grit along with a few spots, but these seemed minor and showed considerable lessening compared to the old DVD.
Colors looked positive. Pulp showed natural and vivid hues that displayed no problems even in the toughest situations. For example, the initial shot of Butch in the bar bathed him in red light, but those elements stayed tight and distinct. Black levels also came across as deep and dark, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy without any excessive opacity. Most of Pulp Fiction looked great, but the various problems caused me to drop my grade to a still-solid “B”.
This new release of Pulp Fiction included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. While these offered some improvements over the audio heard on prior releases, they didn’t reinvent the wheel. They also didn’t seem to differ much between themselves. The DTS track may have featured marginally tighter bass, but otherwise, I felt the two mixes seemed pretty much identical.
The old mix showed a pretty restricted soundfield. These opened up the track a little more, but the audio still maintained a fairly heavy bias toward the front channels. Music demonstrated positive stereo imaging, and various environmental effects also blended together nicely. The track came to life reasonably well during some of the more active sequences, but general ambience dominated it. The mix mainly ignored the surrounds, though. I noticed exactly one example of split surround usage - when a car drives from front left to rear left - and the rears generally provided very mild ambience at best. Nonetheless, I can't really quibble with the activity level of the mix; while it could have used a little more life, this is such a dialogue-intensive picture that I understand Tarantino's desire to keep the focus firmly up front. These new mixes sounded a bit livelier than the original, but they didn’t provide any substantial improvements in that regard.
In regard to audio quality, Pulp sounded quite good with one notable exception: dialogue. Especially during early scenes, speech seemed rather edgy and brittle. The lines cleaned up considerably as the movie progressed, and they always remained intelligible, but they still showed some unnatural qualities. Music worked quite well, as the new tracks displayed solid highs and deep bass. That latter domain provided a marked improvement over the somewhat thin and cold songs heard on the old DVD. A bit of distortion could be heard during some songs, but those problems appeared inherent to the original recordings; the issue only occurred during the oldest songs. Gunfire also could seem slightly distorted, but not badly, and effects generally appeared relatively realistic and packed a good bass punch. While still not demo material, the new soundtracks of Pulp Fiction offered noticeable improvements over the old DVDs and earned a “B”.
One audio note: on prior releases, at right about the 104 minute mark, the music dropped out of the front left speaker and stayed absent for about one minute. This is not a problem reserved for the old DVD; I checked the same spot on my Criterion laserdisc and the same thing happened there. The new DVD finally fixes this problem. The music still seems a little weak from the left, but the abrupt collapse heard in the old track didn’t occur.
For this new two-disc “Collector’s Edition” of Pulp Fiction, we get a mix of supplements. Most of the pieces appear on the second platter, but a few show up on DVD One. The Enhanced Trivia Track provides a good text commentary to accompany the movie. It covers a wide variety of topics. We get notes about film techniques that appear during Pulp, changes made from the original script, Tarantino’s influences and the way he connects characters and situations among his flicks, information about the actors, and quite a lot of other details. Occasionally, somewhat long gaps appear in the track, but usually the comments fly at a fairly rapid pace. It definitely offers a lot of useful information about Pulp.
Soundtrack Chapters lists 13 of the different songs heard in the movie and allows you to jump directly to them. Sneak Peeks includes two bits. We find a promo for the DVD release of Tarantino’s Jackie Brown as well as an ad for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Finally, disc one provides a nice selection of DVD-ROM features. The “Enhanced Trivia Track” offers the same text seen on the main platter, but it does indeed “enhance” these. This means we find some related photos and other information available along the way. It also allows you to get through the track at a more rapid rate, as a button easily lets you skip ahead to the next factoid.
“Jack Rabbit Slim’s Trivia Twist” provides a fun game. All work the same way: you have a limited amount of time in which to answer as many Pulp related questions as possible. To make matters more interesting, you get to choose the amount of “money” you’ll wager on each question; this means you stand to lose fewer points if you botch a query you know you’ll miss. The game includes four different topics, each of which stands alone: “Characters”, “Details”, “Quotes” and “General Movie Information”. Most seem pretty easy for serious Pulp heads, especially if you’ve gone through the DVD’s extras, but the contest offers few “gimmes”, and I thought it was entertaining.
The “Screenplay Viewer” lets you read the original script while you watch the movie; the video runs in a small screen on the left as the text displays on the right half of the screen. I really liked this feature, as I found it fascinating to compare the screenplay to the final product.
As also found on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, we get a section with an Open Mic Commentary. This allows you to add your own statements for any of nine different scenes from the flick. As I write this, the DVD hasn’t hit the shelves yet, so no fan commentaries appear on the website. I checked out some for Silent Bob, however, and thought they generally stunk. I hope the Pulp tracks seem more compelling, but I doubt they will.
While the “Articles and Reviews” domain simply duplicates the text found on DVD Two, “DVD Destination Website” sends you to some other links. We find connections to the open mic commentary as well as sites for A Band Apart - Tarantino’s production company - plus InterActual and Miramax. Yawn!
As we go to DVD Two, we get a slew of additional pieces. First we find a new documentary called Pulp Fiction: The Facts. The 30-minute and 30-second program combines shots from the movie, photos and other media, and interviews. We hear from Tarantino, filmmaker/Tarantino friend Scott Spiegel, effects technician Greg Nicotero, producer Lawrence Bender, editor Sally Menke, and actors Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, John Travolta, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Amanda Plummer and Uma Thurman. Except for some of Thurman’s material, all of the actor interviews come from the set of Pulp, while the rest emanate from that source as well as other years.
The lack of a greater preponderance of modern interviews seems a little disappointing, but “Facts” offers a reasonably good look at the flick nonetheless. I can’t say it fully covers the production of the film, as it concentrates on Tarantino’s road to Pulp as well as comments about the way in which the story’s told, reactions to it, and other elements. The actors discuss how they came to work on the flick and their collaboration with Tarantino. Overall, the documentary gives us a decent discussion of the film but it doesn’t offer a great examination.
Next we get five deleted scenes. All except the final one come with introductions from Tarantino; the whole package lasts 24 minutes and 14 seconds. These segments are all essentially longer versions of existing scenes and are definitely interesting; Tarantino probably should have kept some of them. All of these except one - “Extended Jack Rabbit Slim’s Scene” - already appeared on the Canadian DVD and the Criterion laserdisc; in fact, Tarantino’s intro still refers to laserdiscs.
Within the Behind the Scenes Montages area, we find more footage that also showed up on the Criterion LD set. One focuses on the shoot at “Jack Rabbit Slim’s” and lasts four minutes 43 seconds, while the other examines “Butch Hits Marsellus” and runs six minutes and two seconds. Neither seems particularly special. But they still provide fun looks at the set, especially when Bruce Willis jokingly states that Pulp will kill his career. (In addition, Willis proves prophetic when he states that someone will make a hugely successful film shot on video within five years; The Blair Witch Project came out just in time to live up to Willis’ prediction.)
After this we discover a Production Design Featurette that lasts six minutes and 21 seconds. We hear from production designer David Wasco and set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco and also see many stills and sketches that relate to the material. They discuss their influences and what they wanted to do with the locations in this short but informative program.
An excerpt from Siskel and Ebert At the Movies, The Tarantino Generation lasts 15-minutes and 59-seconds as the critics talk about the aftermath caused by Pulp. They reflect upon their reactions to the flick and go over other attitudes toward it. We also see a segment in which Samuel L. Jackson responses to criticisms of the flick during an interview with Siskel. Overall, this piece offers an interesting glimpse of the then-current thoughts about the film.
A segment from the Independent Spirit Awards shows an 11-minute and 28-second chat mainly between Tarantino and smarmy filmmaker/TV personality Michael Moore. I can’t stand Moore, but this segment provides a nicely amusing and informal discussion of Pulp as the awards ceremony progresses. Samuel L. Jackson also stops by after he wins a prize, a piece that seems especially amusing since Jackson calls Moore “Roger”. The last few minutes feature an interview between Moore and producer Lawrence Bender, who remains a dull subject.
Next we see Tarantino’s acceptance speech when Pulp won the Cannes Film Festival Palm d’Or. The five-minute and 20-second clip shows the ceremony. Nothing he says seems terribly fascinating, but we do hear a heckler in the crowd and see Tarantino’s reaction to that person.
Another holdover from the old Criterion LD, we get a complete episode of The Charlie Rose Show that ran in 1994. The 55-minute and 25-second program includes an interview between Rose and Tarantino. Although it accompanied the release of Pulp, it provides very little info about that film. Instead, we hear more about Tarantino’s path to the director’s chair, his career, his influences and thoughts about other directors, his filmmaking philosophies, and a number of other topics. Some may feel frustrated that the show so rarely focuses on Tarantino’s flicks, but I think it gives us a fairly compelling and insightful discussion.
We also get five trailers for the film, each from a different country: US, Japan, UK, Germany and France. The Japanese clip is the only one that differs significantly from the others; it sticks with the same basic formula but offers some different scenes and shows some more graphic violence and language. (The narrator also refers to "Ving Ramos" and "Yuma Thurman", which is entertaining.)
The other four stick with the same framework but make some minor alterations. The US version edits out foul language; it cuts out "nigger" and excises the profane part of "Die you motherfuckers!" whereas the other clips keep it. The UK piece simply shortens the ad, while the German version dubs it into the native language, the only one of the three non-English countries that does so (Japan and France offer subtitles).
I have to say that in any version - but mainly the US one, which is the edition I saw when the film arrived - it's a hell of a trailer. It does an amazing job of selling the movie and makes it look tremendously sharp, clever and exciting. All of which is true, of course, but I just thought the trailer deserved special mention; I watched it right after I viewed the movie, and the ad made me want to watch it again!
After this we get a whopping 13 TV spots and a nice collection of Still Galleries. The latter splits into different domains: “Pulp Fiction Posters” (48 screens, many of which depict close-ups from the various ads), “Behind-the-Scenes Photos” (170 mostly black and white shots of Tarantino and the cast, plus some color images from Jack Rabbit Slim’s), “Special Photo Shoots” (42 publicity shots), “Academy Award Campaign and the Trade Ads” (48), “Location Scouting and Set Construction” (27), “Production Design and Logos” (14), and “Props and Memorabilia” (71). It’s a solid set of stills that includes a great deal of worthwhile material.
More stillframe stuff shows up in the Reviews and Articles section. This features eight reviews of the flick and 12 articles. There’s a lot of good reading here, though I would have liked some dissenting viewpoints; the participants all seem very pro-Pulp, so the attitudes don’t differ enormously.
Lastly, the DVD’s booklet includes some materials. In mixes photos and ads plus two essays: a post-Cannes report from Richard Corliss for Time, and Owen Glieberman’s review for Entertainment Weekly, both of which also appear in the DVD’s “Reviews and Articles” domain. We also get a small reproduction of a Jack Rabbit Slim’s menu.
I've seen Pulp Fiction about ten times now, and it has yet to lose any of its luster or appeal; the movie seems destined to stand as one of the best films of the Nineties, and probably of all-time. While not flawless, this new DVD provides the best picture and sound I’ve yet seen for Pulp in a video format, and it packs in lots of solid extras as well. If you own one of the old DVDs or possess no copy of Pulp at all, this one’s a no-brainer - the Collector’s Edition of Pulp Fiction belongs in your collection.