‘Pulp’ on TV? You Bet


“Pulp Fiction,” Quentin Tarantino’s groundbreaking 1994 film that drew mountains of acclaim and buzz for its exploration of the bizarre and colorful world inhabited by small-scale assassins and criminals, makes its “world television premiere” tonight on KTLA-TV Channel 5.

And it has not been cut from 2 1/2 hours to 20 minutes.

That might come as a surprise to audiences who recall the R-rated film’s brutal violence, its almost nonstop torrent of obscenities and racial slurs, the frequent drug use, the gallows humor surrounding the disposal of a body whose head has been shot off, and the homosexual rape of a crime boss by a pair of racist sadomasochists.

Even more surprising, “Pulp Fiction” will air in a three-hour block starting at 7 p.m., an hour that is generally considered a safe TV haven for children and families. The first half-hour of “Pulp Fiction” will bump the regularly scheduled “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”


The TV version of “Pulp Fiction” has been edited under the personal supervision of Tarantino, who wrote and directed the movie. Several of the film’s stars, including John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Ving Rhames, Amanda Plummer and Harvey Keitel, participated in the overdubbing of much of the film’s coarse dialogue. KTLA made what officials there described as an additional 10 to 15 “minor edits,” mostly for language.

Virginia Hunt, KTLA’s director of programming, said she believes the reworked “Pulp Fiction” will satisfy admirers of the original film while also proving acceptable to those who have never seen it or who might have objected to the explicitness of the theatrical version.

“The flavor of the movie is there,” Hunt said in an interview. “Quentin didn’t lose the movie, but he did tone it down to make it much more palatable for what comes into the living room. Still, the spirit of the film is there.”

The station has given “Pulp Fiction” the strongest possible parental guidance rating, TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under 17). It also will broadcast an advisory warning viewers of “mature subject matter” and “violent content”--not only at the beginning of the film but also after each of the nine commercial breaks.

And Hunt is taking the added precaution of staying at the station during the broadcast of the film and inserting a ratings icon while the film is playing just before any particularly intense or violent scene.

“There are several scenes in the film that, no matter what you do to them, they are disturbing,” said Hunt, calling the film one of the most challenging she has dealt with in her 20 years at KTLA.


Tarantino and Buena Vista Television, which is distributing the film, declined comment.

KTLA purchased the film in a package that also included the previously shown “The Crying Game,” about a man who falls in love with a woman who is actually a man. The theatrical version of “The Crying Game” featured a shot of male nudity that was edited out of KTLA’s version.

Even with the early start, Hunt said she isn’t particularly worried about children seeing the broadcast. The advisories should alert parents, she said, adding that youngsters who tune in at 7 expecting to see “Fresh Prince” are likely to be turned off by the opening minutes of “Pulp Fiction,” in which a couple of small-time robbers (Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth) have a rambling discussion in a diner.

“I think real young viewers will be bored and gone after they watch that for a bit,” Hunt said. “If it had opened with a violent scene, I would have had more of a serious problem with it.”

“Pulp Fiction” was hailed as one of the most significant films of the decade when it was released in 1994. It established Tarantino as an important filmmaker and revived the career of ‘70s icon Travolta. The film earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture and captured the best original screenplay Oscar for Tarantino and Roger Avary.

Travolta and Jackson play Vincent and Jules, two hit men under the employ of ruthless crime boss Marsellus Wallace (Rhames). Among the characters who cross their path are Wallace’s sexy wife Mia (Uma Thurman) and Butch, a down-on-his-luck boxer desperate for a final chance at making good (Bruce Willis).

In KTLA’s version, several of the movie’s more controversial elements have been eliminated or altered. A scene of Vincent shooting heroin is gone; elsewhere drug taking is implied but not specifically shown. A scene in which Vincent accidentally shoots a man sitting in the back seat of a car, causing blood and skull to splatter, has been shortened considerably, though blood is still seen spurting over the rear window.


A scene in which Butch and Marsellus are held captive in the pawn shop lair of two sadomasochists also has been dramatically altered. A character dressed from head to toe in black bondage leather, nicknamed “The Gimp,” has been eliminated, as has a shot of Marsellus being raped.

“If you know the film, you know what’s going on,” Hunt said. “If you don’t, then you think he’s just getting beat up.” Marsellus still calls one of his attackers “a rapist” later in the scene.

Even with the cuts, “Pulp Fiction” will still grow a bit. A short interview scene between Vincent and Mia that was cut out of the theatrical version has been put back into the film.

* “Pulp Fiction” airs at 7 tonight on KTLA-TV Channel 5. The station has rated it TV-MA-VL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 because of graphic violence and crude language).