Forget all that talk about how Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is one big tribute to obscure film genres. The year’s hottest director may be winking at existential French flicks and the Hong Kong ultraviolent actioner, but Pulp is simpler than all that: It’s about ordinary kids who watched a lot of TV, then grew up to be hard-boiled criminals. Yes, they’re murderers, robbers, and drug addicts, but it’s by their taste for cool cars and cheap eats that ye shall know them — and their creator. Is Tarantino a walking film archive? Maybe. But Pulp‘s pop props and talk peg him as something else: a perpetual 1970s teen who loves…
BURGERS Meat is the matter for these folks. On their way to work, hit-men Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) discuss what a Quarter Pounder With Cheese is called in Paris. Jules wonders what the French call a Whopper. And what do they catch their quarry breakfasting on? But of course: Big Kahuna Burgers 1. Gerald Martinez, a friend and coworker from Tarantino’s days as a video-store clerk, developed the Big Kahuna logo: Surf and turf are twin motifs in Pulp, which is set in the director’s greater Los Angeles stomping grounds.
SURFIN’ The soundtrack opens with the beefy guitar of surf-rock Dale; the movie opens with Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) in a diner discussing their future in crime. Pumpkin wears a Hawaiian shirt festooned with surfers 2, which makes him look cool even when he isn’t. Jules tells the jittery lovers that they’re all going to act like ”three little Fonzis here. And what’s Fonzi like?” ”Cool,” says Honey Bunny. ‘Correctamundo,” says Jules.
‘TOONS Everyone’s a kid at heart. Pusher Lance (Eric Stoltz) watches a Three Stooges clip while eating General Mills’ Fruit Brute 3, one of the friendly monster line which includes Frankenberry and Count Chocula. Since the cereal wasn’t made after 1974, Stoltz actually ate Fruit Loops, says production designer David Wasco. Tarantino is a fanatic fan of Speed Racer, hence the vintage tee Lance wears. Mia (Uma Thurman) flaunts her Flintstones fluency by drawing a cartoon square in the air (quoting 1965’s ”No Biz Like Showbiz” episode) — as in ”Vincent, don’t be a…” The only real kid in Pulp sits rapt before Clutch Cargo, the ’50s cartoon character with the live-action lips.
WHEELS Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel) drives his $70,000 Acura NSX ”real f—in’ fast” (Tarantino originally wanted a silver Porsche). Vincent’s ride, a ’65 Chevy Malibu Super Sport, belongs to the director, who bought it from his pal Martinez after selling his True Romance script in 1989. But since Tarantino never drove the four-speed convertible, he’d planned to total it in one Pulp scene. It survived, however, and now sits parked in story cocreator Roger Avary’s yard. Stripped of his getaway car, Butch (Bruce Willis) finds the keys to Zed’s custom-designed Harley-Davidson chopper 4, which is branded with the name of Tarantino’s girlfriend, Grace.