Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Castle Of Cagliostro (1979) Film Review
The second big screen outing of Lupin III is already one of the best Anime movies ever made, while rivalling anything Disney or Pixar has to offer. Green ogres, fat superheroes or a zillion gigabytes of computer animation still cannot compare to 12 frames of hand-drawn charm.
For the uninitiated, Lupin III is the grandson of Arsene Lupin, the gentleman thief, created by Maurice Leblanc in the Twenties. He's always breaking into some impenetrable vault, or has a zillion gadgets up his sleeve to help with escaping if things go awry. He's also rather whacky and buffoonish, which makes his antics a joy to watch.
Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle), in his movie debut, tones down the out of control wackiness of the Lupin III TV show and gives Lupin a rather decent plot to dig his teeth into. This is not an excuse to string together a bunch of insane set pieces.
Seconds after robbing a Monte Carlo casino, Lupin and Jigen discover that every dollar note they have swiped is a fake. Only one place in the world is known to make these counterfeits and Lupin's underworld knowledge leads them to the tiny European country of Cagliostro (think Luxemburg, only much, much smaller).
Half a moment after crossing the border, Lupin and Jigen are involved in a car chase and rescue the Lady Clarisse from a bunch of goons. But she's promptly kidnapped again, though manages to leave Lupin a clue in the form of a strange wedding ring.
Their suspicions over the kidnapping lead them to the titular castle where they discover that an evil Count has seized control of the country, using - guess what? - funny money. And the ring is the key to a great treasure that can only be uncovered when the Lady Clarisse is married to the Count.
Lupin deliberately blows his cover to Inspector Zenigata (the perpetually stressed Interpol officer who is always chasing him) as a diversion, while he breaks into the castle to rescue Clarisse. What follows is scene after scene of hairs breadth escapes and impossible scenarios.
Miyazaki's attention to detail is what truly elevates this beyond typical animation quality. There are enough moments of quietness and atmosphere to balance out the loud scenes. A strong sense of setting also comes from the imaginative "photography". Too many animated movies disorientate the audience with frenetic direction and over-indulgence, but Castle Of Cagliostro works so much better by taking its time and choosing the best angles to cover the action. His trademark flying machines and overeating scenes make their first big screen appearance here.
Far from his typical sub-genre of eco-friendly animation, Miyazaki is obviously a big fan of Lupin and has made a movie that refuses to be missed. Even Spielberg called CoC "one of the best adventure movies ever." It definitely gets the Gator MacReady claw of approval. Five stars just aren't enough. Any fan of Miyazaki should check out this film immediately.
One should be aware that the Maurice Leblanc estate doesn't entirely approve of the Lupin III franchise. As a result he is mostly known in this version as "Wolf" (get it?). The Manga release of this film was entirely re-dubbed in English with Lupin restored but the new Optimum DVD uses the original English voice actors.Reviewed on: 21 Oct 2005