* Prices may differ from that shown
As I have just written about Bedknobs & Broomsticks and discovered the magic of 70's film making, I thought I would write about another 70's film, but this time, it is from the other side of the world, and involves my favourite director - Hayao Miyazaki & my favourite production studio - Studio Ghibli. For those of you who have not yet discovered the magic that is Studio Ghibli, or would just like a bit of background (it is very interesting, really it is!) please take a look at my "G = Hot winds blowing through the Sahara Dessert" review.
~Ok the good bit - Plot~
The film opens with action! Two men are seen running away from a casino, coolly jumping over barriers, men are chasing them with machine guns and security guards are desperately trying to catch up. The two characters make their get-away in a little Fiat 500, as all their pursuers cars seem to have been cut in half!!!
Whew! All that excitement over, our two characters are sitting in their little 500 (based on Ohtsuka, the head animator of the Lupin Series', car), which is filled to the roof with cash, driving down a motorway, the passenger is gleeful, but the driver calmly turns to his mate and tells him they have picked up a car full of counterfeit money, which is so good it has even fooled the government! They promptly get rid of the dosh by opening the car sunroof & doors and letting the money fly away. They devise a new plan to find out where all this fake money has come from. Later we learn that the driver (and it appears brains of the whole operation) is a guy named Lupin & his side-kick is a guy named Jigen.
Lupin decides that all this cash must have come from a tiny little country named Cagliostro, so that is where they decide to go, upon arrival in Cagliostro, they get a flat tire, as Jigen is changing the tyre a little Citroen 2CV (based on Miyazaki's first car) zooms passed with a girl in the drivers seat, there's a 1940 Humber Super Snipe (with bullet proof tyres) in hot pursuit. Lupin & Jigen go after them all and try to rescue the girl, unfortunately the rescue doesn't quite go to plan, Lupin does get the girl, but gets knocked out in the process, the girl tries to revive him by removing one of her gloves and dipping it in some nearby water, but needs to make a quick exit as she spots an approaching boat.
When Lupin finally comes round, he finds that he still has the glove, but inside there is a ring with a picture of a goat on it, this triggers something in his memory...what could it be?
Lupin and Jigen continue into Cagliostro and learn that the Duke and Duchess of Cagliostro were killed in a fire that gutted their palace some years ago, an evil Count, Count Cagliostro is now ruling the country & the girl that they rescued was Lady Clarisse, the daughter of the departed Duke & Duchess of Cagliostro, & she is to marry Count Cagliostro in the next couple of days.
Later that night, shadowy assassins enter Lupin & Jigens room to try and recover the ring, these guys seem to be bullet proof, our heroes need to once again make a clever exit, our brain boxes realise that the ring must be as of much worth to the evil Count as Clarisse. So what do they do? Rescue her of course!
The rest of the film follows Lupin's attempt to save the girl, bring about the demise of Count Cagliostro, find the source of the counterfeit money, solve the mystery of the ring, battling with his old "enemy", Inspector Zenigata, oh and discover the treasure of Cagliostro, but not without a little help from his friends - Jigen, Goemon, & Fujiko.
When this film was shown in Japan, a lot of the audience would have already been familiar with the characters, the relationships between the characters & the characters history. This does not however detract from the film if you watch it without any prior knowledge of the TV series or mangas, I have just included a little bit of history about each character to help you learn something new!
Arsene Lupin III - Descended from a famous French Gentleman Thief, created by Maurice Le Blanc, named Arsene Lupin (Lupin III's Grandfather, Arsene enjoys popularity in the French-speaking communities, just as Sherlock Holmes does in English-speaking ones. Lupin first appeared in the No. 6 edition, dated July 15 1905 in a magazine called "Je Sais Tout". Anyway, back to the film, the main man & a rather loveable character, he appears to be a bit of a bumbling idiot, but I guess that is why he is so loveable, with all his super human stunts, since he is so good at what he does, if he was a slick serious character, he would have been a lot more difficult to warm to. In this movie, Lupin stays pretty true to the character created for the TV series and mangas, that of an accomplished thief, quite often taking it upon himself to steal what he wants and foil the criminals that he is stealing from in the process!
Daisuke Jigen - Lupin's marksman, highly skilled in his discipline, a man of very few words, always wearing a hat & quite often smokes fag ends. Apparently he has never missed a shot. I quite liked this character, he was cool and calm & acted as a perfect side-kick to Lupin as Lupin is the "crazy" one, he needs someone calm by his side to balance it all up.
Goemon Ishikawa XIII - the master swordsman, based on (and apparently descended from) a Japanese folk hero named Ishikawa Goemon, a great ninja warrior and bandit, basically Japan's equivalent of our Robin Hood. Apparently he was boiled alive after a failed assassination attempt on Toyotomi Hideyoshi who ruled Japan from 1582 until 1598 or alternatively 1600, when Tokugawa seized power after the Battle of Sekigahara. Anyway, Goeman is a man of even fewer words than Jigen, he does not often get involved with Lupin's capers in the TV series, but they call him in for the movie, as it is quite a big job.
Fujiko Mine - finally a strong female character, she is witty, intelligent & cunning, she is an expert in gun handling. In the film she disguises herself as Clarissa's lady in waiting, so that she can get closer to the treasure of Cagliostro. When she realises that Lupin is on the same caper she abandons, as Lupin's capers often have a habit of getting out of hand. In the film Fujiko spends a lot of her time wondering around in a tight camo cat suit, Lupins relationship with Fujiko is one of those on/off relationships, they were lovers in the past, sometimes friends and sometimes enemies, well only if they are working on the same job!
Inspector Koichi Zenigata - his only mission in life is to arrest Lupin, based on a character called Zenigata Heiji, who was also a policeman, the main man in a popular series of novels, films & TV shows, the series was set in the Edo Period (1603 - 1867). Although sworn enemies, I don't think either character could live without the other. Zenigata is a great character and I actually really liked him in the film, he is intelligent and knows how to get his own way.
~A Bit more Lupin III background for anyone that is interested~
Now, I should make this clear that although this film is available in shops with the clear Studio Ghibli branding & numbering on the spine, this is actually a Pre Ghibli Film. This film was released in 1979, but Studio Ghibli was not actually formed until 1983. Unlike the other Ghibli films that are available, the English version of this film was not a Ghibli-Disney release, as this was pre Ghibli-Disney deal. I have a feeling that this is the version available in the UK is a version released by Streamline, as Lupin is referred to in the film as "Wolf".
Lupin III was originally, and I believe, still is a popular anime in Japan, which was based on a series of mangas by Monkey Punch. In all there are three TV series, five feature films & loads of TV movies. Now the Don Miyazaki had to be in there somewhere, & he is, he co-directed the first TV series with Isao Takahata & together they went on to make Lupin III; Castle of Cagliostro, (the second Lupin III movie) which Miyazkaki wrote & directed. So you might say that Miyazaki bought about the birth of the popular Lupin III, so it was only right that he wrote and directed the final episode in the last series "Farewell, Beloved Lupin".
~Hmmm are these ideas really your own?~
As mentioned earlier, Lupin is based on LeBlanc's character & there was in fact a real Alessandro Cagliostro a man that named himself Count, a scoundrel from the 18th century (a French alchemist, Freemason & Forger, he was implication in a 1780's scandal that led to the French Revolution), who in fact did counterfeit money, in one of LeBlancs books - Countess Cagliostro, there is a mystery woman, who turns out to be the granddaughter of Cagliostro, named Clarisse & she eventually marries Lupin(!) - don't worry that is not a plot spoiler. At the end of the film the location of the treasure is also, I believe, based on another LeBlanc Book - The Green-eyed Lady.
***A Tazzyfact alert for you (haven't had one of those for a while)***
Disney's The Great Mouse Detective (1986) has a lot of scenes that are very er...let's say familiar & Disney were accused of Plagiarism, but no law suits were ever filed.
Back once again to Disney, but this time Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Gary Trousdale (Co-director) has admitted that a scene at the end of the film was directly "inspired" by similar scenes in Cagliostro.
....oh the controversy!
I believe that this was Miyazaki's first film, from here you can see how his style developed, it is really different to all the other Ghibli films that I have watched. The animation is very anime in style, and lacks a lot of the "prettiness" of his later films, also, strangely enough there is a princess that needs to be rescued in this film, Miyazaki's films often feature strong, independent women, often in the lead role or in a lead role. This is not to say however that Lady Clarisse is a pansy, she is quite feisty, but just not as strong as later female characters Miyazkai develops, having said that, Fujiko does show the more familiar traits of Miyazaki's female characters.
I did enjoy this film, there was something very "old school" about the way that this film has been put together, the animation techniques used reminded me a lot of the cartoons I used to watch as a kid, and the way that the characters were drawn are very typically anime/manga, unlike the newer Ghibli films, like Spirited Away, where the lines are much softer. This does not however detract from the film, in fact it lends to the atmosphere, my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed this film, and has claimed that it is now one of his favourites. I think this might be a gender thing, this film is action packed, and something is always going on, I could highly recommend this to anyone, but I think the ones that would love this the most are young boys of 6 years old and above, they will love all of Lupin's gadgets, the martial arts fighting scenes and of course the above all the action, oh and there is no soppy love story despite the fact that Lupin is "saving the girl".
My only gripe with this film would have to be the ending, I won't spoil it for your, but I felt that in comparison to the rest of the film it was very weak and there were so many other things that could have been done with the story. Over all I found the film to hold my attention, keep me guessing what would happen next, it was humorous and all the good guys were likeable and the bad guys loathable!
Any Ghibli/Anime/Manga lovers, go out there and buy a bit of Ghibli history, anyone else, go out there and buy a thoroughly memorable action packed film!
Thanks for reading guys, sorry it was so long, I just loved the film xxx
In recent years with the development of CGI and the huge success of such films as 'Toy Story' and 'Shrek' the more traditional animated films have been on the back foot and with Disney recently announcing that they do not plan to continue making animated features it seem that the genre is under threat of extinction. However one sub genre of animated film that seems to be thriving is Japanese Anime and Manga.
Influences of this primarily adult cartoon style can be seen in mainstream Hollywood movies such as Kill Bill and The Matrix trilogy. The work of the undisputed master of the genre Hayao Miyazaki has also achieved recognition and box office success in the west with films like Princess Mononoke and brilliant Spirited Away. 'The Castle of Cagliostro' (COC) is Miyazaki's first major feature and follows on from the Lupin animated TV series.
As in the series the films features the Master thief Arsene Lupin III and his gun toting sidekick Daisuke Jigen. Following a bungled Casino robbery the two find themselves in the small European duchy of Cagliostro. There they must rescue the beautiful Lady Clarisse from the clutches of the sinister Count Cagliostro and of course Lupin also has his sights of a fabulous treasure hidden somewhere in the Castle.
For those of you that know Miyazaki's recent work don't expect this early offering to match up to the visual artistry or depth of storytelling of the enchanting 'Spirited Away'. COC was made in the late 70's on a much smaller budget and without the technical advances that the modern animation studios now have, however it is still streets ahead of any contemporary Hollywood offering. The animation is still top quality with few cheap still shots, the action kept up at a furious pace by the use of very detailed animated backgrounds. Although primarily marketed as a children's film (certificate PG) this is really an adventure thriller aimed at adult audiences just as much if not more than at kids. The character of Lupin originally seen manga comics was more of a womanising double dealing anti hero not a suitable role model form children although Miyazaki presents him in a more sympathetic comic light here.
The film contains some great set piece sequences that are so imaginatively constructed by Miyazaki that they have drawn praise from many directors including Steven Spielberg that is said to have based his opening of 'Temple Of Doom' on COC's opening car chase. The film is full of death defying exploits by Lupin and the story is strong enough to have you riveted through out. In contrast to the original comic incarnation of Lupin as with the earlier TV series Miyazaki portrays him a more of an amiable rogue and there are also many laughs to be had from the story. Certainly my kids were regularly laughing out loud at some of the jokes. The translation from the Japanese may be a problem for some of the gags but mostly the visual humour is more important and works just as well.
Considering it was made over 25 years ago this film as aged very well. The animation still seems vibrant the dialogue is still believable and apart from the rather cheesy 70's musical soundtrack almost every aspect of the film compares well with most current offerings.
In contrast to modern animated films there are no star voice-overs in this English dubbed version and I'm not well versed enough in Japanese film to tell you if any of the original Japanese voices belong to big name stars but it really doesn't matter, the excitement of the story and the skilfulness of the direction more than make up for the lack of gimmicky star names.
I watched this film with my kids and was conscious of the fact that some Japanese anime might not suitable for younger audiences. They often involve a lot of violence and some amount of sexual detail and even though this carries a PG rating sometimes the censor can be a little more lenient with animated features. Overall though COC was fine for kids there is no gore or realistic violence on display and what violence there is presented in a comic book fashion often with humorous overtones. The one aspect that probably made it a PG rather than a U is the slightly adult language, a few mild swear words do creep in and considering this version was dubbed seemed to me rather unnecessary saying this the language is no worse than that heard in any junior school playground so it didn't worry me too much.
Overall this is a vibrant stylish animated film that is enjoyable to all lovers of animation who are looking for something slightly different from the conventional Hollywood products. Lovers of Manga will also appreciate this although for some ardent fans it might seem be a little tame these days. Finally anyone who enjoys a good old-fashioned action adventure of the James Bond type should also be happy with this. COC is certainly a good place to start is you wish to explore the work of Japanese anime and specifically the works of the very talented Hayao Miyazaki.
The original DVD release of this film was in 2002 and despite a new version being released in 2005 (see below) the older version is still found on sale and is usually the one that is available for rental.
The DVD version of COC is certainly worth buying and can be easily picked up for less then £10. It does contain a few extra features a stills gallery and a couple of trailers for two other Anime films Akira, Ghost in the Shell and X: The Movie all more recent and none by Hayao Miyazaki. The interactive menu and choices of dub or subtitles are fairly standard. One further thing to mention is the excellent quality of the transfer onto DVD the original film has been re mastered and it looks brilliant the colours and sound looking just like new.
The new version has different extras but they are still few and far between.
Since this review was written a new version of this DVD has been released including different DVD extras. The best of the bunch is the short introduction by Jonathon Clements, which manages to set up the film nicely for people who are new to Hayao Miyazakis work. Clements is well qualified to comment on the film being the co-author of the The Anime Encyclopedia and has always had a keen interest in Asian and especially Japanese culture. This provides an insightful (albeit short) and interesting prelude for old and new fans alike.
The rest of the bonus material is not likely to interest your average film viewer but might be worth a look for those who are especially interested in the creative process of the anime makers. There is a storyboard item that compares these images to the finished film scenes and also included are the early design sketches by Miyazaki. The only other extra to speak of is the original theatrical trailer that again might be of interested to the proper film anoraks.
As I mentioned before the transfer quality of both image and sound is again excellent on this later version and all the other features appear as before. I doubt if a re-release of the Movie was worth it but I suppose with the recent interest in Miyazakis film generated by Spirited Away it was his earlier films were going to be promoted more strongly and a re-release would generate some extra publicity and sales. It is a pity that more effect wasnt made in making the DVD package better in terms of bonus features as compared to the earlier release.
Whatever is on offer and whichever version you come across the fact is that COC is worth buying simply for the film and it does have that all important 'repeat watchability' aspect that will ensure it is a good value addition to your or your kids DVD collection.
At the time of this review 'The Castle Of Cagliostro' can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £14.99 (+p&p) the older version can be found either second hand or for rental and I would highly recommend either!
© Mauri 2005