Thursday, July 27, 2023

Review: Miyazaki's "THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO" is Something Else Entirely

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 34 of 2023 (No. 1923) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro – original Japanese title
Running time:  102 minutes
MPAA – not rated
DIRECTOR:  Hayao Miyazaki
WRITERS:  Hayao Miyazaki and Haruya Yamazaki (based upon the manga by Monkey Punch)
PRODUCER:  Tetsuo Katayama
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hirokata Takahashi
EDITOR: Masatoshi Tsurubuchi
COMPOSER:  Yuji Ohno


Starring:  (English voices – Manga Entertainment dub) David Hayter, Bridget Hoffman, Kirk Thornton, Kevin Seymour, John Snyder, Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Milton James, Michael Gregory, Barry Stigler, and Joe Romersa; (Japanese voices) Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue, Goro Naya, Sumi Shimamoto and Taro Ishida

Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro or Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is a 1979 Japanese animated action-adventure and comic-fantasy animated from director Hayao Miyazaki.  An English-language dub of the film was first theatrically released in the U.S. in 1991 under the title, The Castle of Cagliostro, the title that I will use for this review.

The Castle of Cagliostro focuses on a master thief, Lupin III.  The film Lupin is based on the manga character, Lupin the Third, created by late manga artist, Kazuhiko Kato (1937-2019), who is best remembered by his pen name, Monkey Punch.  In the film, a dashing thief struggles to free a princess from an evil count who needs her in order to gain a mysterious treasure.

The Castle of Cagliostro opens in Monaco.  There, Master thief Lupin III (David Hayter) and his partner, Jigen (John Snyder), flee the National Casino with huge quantities of stolen money.  As they will soon learn, however, the stolen bills are actually distinctive, high-quality counterfeits known as “Goat bills.”  Lupin decides to seek out the source of this counterfeit money, the country known as the Duchy of Cagliostro.

Shortly after arriving, Lupin and Jigen see a young woman being chased by armed thugs.  It turns out that she is Lady Clarisse de Cagliostro (Bridget Hoffman), and she is running away from her fiancĂ©, the Count de Cagliostro (Kirk Thornton), the regent of the Duchy of Cagliostro.  The Count has arranged a marriage with Lady Clarisse in order to cement his power. The marriage will also help him recover the fabled ancient treasure of Cagliostro, for which he needs both his and Clarisse's ancestral signet rings.

Lupin is determined to save Clarisse from this arranged marriage.  In addition to his partner Jigen, Lupin calls in the highly-skilled martial artist and swordsman, Goemon (Michael Gregory), and the rival professional thief, Fujiko (Dorothy Elias-Fahn).  Meanwhile, Inspector Zenigata of Interpol (Kevin Seymour) sees Lupin's activities in the Duchy of Cagliostro as a perfect opportunity to catch the thief he has been chasing for so long.  Can Lupin rescue Clarisse? Will Count Cagliostro destroy them both?  And just what is the treasure of Cagliostro?

I have previously reviewed the following Miyazaki-directed films:  My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Monoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl's Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), and The Wind Rises (2013).  As Netflix is shutting down its DVD-by-mail division, I am hoping to get to the Miyazaki films that I have not previously watched.

I had heard of The Castle of Cagliostro in connection with Miyazaki, but I had put off seeing it.  I wish I'd seen it earlier, as it is a delightful and maniacal comedy.  The film is not without flaws, as it stretches credulity a bit far, even for a Japanese animated film.  Lupin is not just a master thief; he is also apparently a super-human thief with supernaturally good luck.

Still, I treasure The Castle of Cagliostro's loopiness because Miyazaki and his co-writer Haruya Yamazaki are imaginative when it comes to the comic and action-adventure possibilities of the twists and turns this quasi-mystery takes.  As both designer and storyboard artist, in addition to being director, Miyazaki is inventive in the way he stages the action as a series of chases and fights that are as defined by feats of aerial stunts and gymnastics as they are by martial arts and combat skills.

The characters are quite nice, especially gallant Lupin, who is apparently more ruthless in the original manga, and his partner, Jigen, the amiable, but quite skilled tough guy.  However, the star here is Miyazaki in his first feature-length film.  He makes the action unrestrained by gravity, natural law, or architecture.  Thus, the film is a rollicking adventure with a humorous tone that belies the threat of brutal violence and death that frequently pop up in the story.  I really like The Castle of Cagliostro, and I highly recommend it to fans of Hayao Miyazaki and to those searching for the great animated films.  I also plan on buying my own physical copy.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, July 27, 2023

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