Thursday, December 24, 2009
REVIEW: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
The Lupin III franchise, created by legendary manga artist Monkey Punch, had been around for 12 years in comic book form, and a TV series since 1971, when occasional episode director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) helmed this feature-lengther.
The character of Lupin III just so happens to be the great nephew of Arsène Lupin, the daring gentleman thief and detective – a kind of Gallic Sherlock Holmes – created in 1905 by Maurice LeBlanc. He featured in a rash of French flicks in the silent era.
His descendant is an equally enigmatic thief who speaks fluent Japanese (or differing degrees of American English depending on the dub), with an insatiable appetite for food along with an overt weakness for women - including the femme fatale of the series, Fujiko Mine. Meanwhile he’s aided and abetted by his trusty cohorts Jigen and Goemon, in pursuit of some hilarious heists.
Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro (The Castle Of Cagliostro, 1979) is the highlight of a sensational series, and it’s due as much to the assured touch of Miyazaki as it is the enigmatic cast of characters involved in the story. This time Lupin bites off more than he can chew when he tries to rescue a damsel in distress and comes up against the sinister Count of Cagliostro and an international counterfeiting syndicate.
Any fans of subsequent Miyazaki romps like Castle In The Sky, Crimson Pig, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away will find germinating elements from all of those movies at play here.
Incidentally, the late, great Yasuo Yamada, who voiced Lupin, had a habit of also dubbing Clint Eastwood’s dulcet tones in the Japanese versions of everything from Rawhide to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - and he even turned up to play Omawari-san in Panda! Go, Panda! (see last entry).