“ Watch the watch. Not the briefcase”

Cover story by T.B. Mindster


Fantiligy issue 4: Pulp Fiction


Pulp Fiction arguably contains one of the most fascinating sequences and stories ever committed to celluloid. In this sequence we see a boxer, or Palooka  Butch,not take a dive, due to family pride which causes him to be on the run and later in a showdown with his nemesis, Marsellus Wallace, in a city street and then in pawn shop which becomes the mouth, or orifice of hell.

Fascinatingly, the destiny and fate of Butch is intertwined with the watch as this becomes a film about boxes within boxes. Even Butch’s profession sounds like a box: He is a boxer and one that refuses to lie down, whether it be in the ring or in a Gimp trunk. Let’s examine the box in more detail.

When we first see the infant Butch, he is watching a “box” a television playing a children’s show about totem poles; symbols of Indigenous pride. He is forced to turn off the box when his mother introduces Captain Koons, a war veteran, close friend and fellow POW combatant of Butch’s deceased father. In Koon’s introduction he mentions that he and unlike the boy’’s father was lucky enough to make it out of the Hanoi Pit of hell. In a sense he was successful in escaping the misery box. He then details the history of the boy’s family watch he has come to present.

This Gold Watch was first purchased in a General Store where it would have sat in a box until being purchased by  private Doughboy Ernie Coolidge, who later kept it in an old coffee pot. The watch was good luck for him, serving him well in the trenches unlike so many who did not make it out of the Western front and the shallow graves that was trench warfare. In a sense he leapt out of his box unlike his son Dane who was not able to “wake” from the battle of Wake island. The watch was transported in a Gunner ship and presented to Butch’s infant father who too was unlucky during the Vietnam war and was captured and forced to hide the watch in the only box he was privy to: His orifice. This caused him to die of dysentery, However, Koons was as loyal as the come and he took over the legacy, keeping “the gold away from the yellow” and safeguarded it in his own orifice for a matter of years. After this remarkable monologue we hear a bell and Butch is seen rising from his own box, a bed in a changing room, ready to fight and take down his opponent.

We then cut to Butch dropping into a box like receptacle, a garbage dumpster. From this height, one could certainly be killed and we ponder momentarily the fate of the fleeing boxer, but alas he makes it out of his makeshift coffin.

In the motel we are given more box like motifs, a shower cell, a suitcase and in a fit of rage, Butch throws the idiot box across the room when he realises the watch is not in the suitcase. When he returns to the hotel room, We see the watch was kept by Butch on a statuette of a Kangaroo, an animal known for not being sedentary but a hopper, or leaper. He then pulls some pop tarts from a box and after a moment or so  the food stuff leaps from its box like toaster like soldiers leaping from a trench. Hitman, Vince Vega Is riddled with bullets and comes to rest in a box like shower cell.

Later, while in his box with wheels, Marsellus is seen returning with a box full of donuts and coffee and is deliberately run done by Butch.

He too rises from the dead and proceeds to pursue Butch like a Zombie with a handgun. Butch stumbles into a place that boxes items : a pawn shop. We discover here, that this is where objects - the living and the inanimate come to die. When we first meet the shop owner, Maynard, he is half asleep, hinting that this is a place that does not encounter much business. The warring gangster and boxer get unconscious in the store and are taken to the basement where they are woken. Zed enters and we soon realise that the two men are deranged rapists. A large box is opened and the leather clad Gimp is brought out and Marsellus, who we are told attributes so much prize to the cavities and digits of his wife, is now sodomised by his assailants.

It looks like a fate worse than death for Butch, his watch will be boxed and sold, and he will have his own cavity tortured and become boxed like the Gimp, but alas he breaks free, knocks out the pathetic Gimp and goes to escape before the watch rings time and he musters up his family’s pride to fight the good fight.Items from the store considered for weapons and the Katana (Which through Tarantino lore must taste blood before it is returned to its housing) Maynard is slashed and stabbed before Marsellus breaks free from his forced submission and ends Zed’s cruel reign.

Thus, the watch, an object that has been housed in many crevices or receptacle, is freed. Tarantino has long been the voice for breathing life into old items and makes no bones that boxing away items is like boxing away the soul. We have no doubt that the watch remained on Butch’s wrist but in this smart phone heavy era, where watch sales have experienced an untold decline in sales, has his kin put away the watch and like so many of the current generation resigned to living like a (I need Mia Wallace to draw a box for me).

© 2020 Fantiligy

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