The Castle of Cagliostro (Japanese: Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro), 1979.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Featuring the voice talents of David Hayter, Bridget Hoffman, John Snyder and Kirk Thornton.
Charismatic super-thief Lupin III and his gang try to free a beautiful princess from an evil Count, whilst simultaneously searching for the hidden treasure of Cagliostro.
Often referred to as the Japanese Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki has become as beloved in the Western World as he is in his home country, yet because The Castle of Cagliostro predates the Studio Ghibli years, his first ever feature is often overlooked when it comes to singing his praises. Big action, bold colours and a slightly less smooth animation style results in a movie more comparable to Saturday morning cartoons than the elegant magical worlds of his later films. However, The Castle of Cagliostro packs such a punch with action, adventure and comedy, it’s hard not to be swept up in the devilish antics of Lupin III and his gang.
Whilst speeding away from a Monte Carlo casino with a car full of stolen bank notes, Lupin and pal Jigen realise their entire haul are useless counterfeits. To track down the source of these forgeries, they travel to the fictional country of Cagliostro, where their plans are sidelined by a damsel in distress. A beautiful, kidnapped princess needs saving from an evil Count, and better yet, she may hold the key to a long lost treasure. Add to the mix an Inspector determined to catch Lupin and a team of creepy assassins determined to kill him, Lupin requires a few helping hands to aid his rescue of the girl.
Based on the popular manga by Monkey Punch (Kazuhiko Katō), Miyazaki had already dabbled in the world of Lupin III when he was hired as an animator for the 70s TV show. These origins may explain why the movie occasionally feels like an extended TV episode; overall plot often takes a back seat to car chases and stealthy schemes, yet engaging and likeable characters help to smooth over any disjointed bumps.
Gravity defying stunts and slapstick humour feature heavily in the movie; driving up vertical cliff faces, swimming up waterfalls and leaping impossible heights pose no problems for The World’s Greatest Thief. It’s a Bond style escapade that sees the sharp suited thief dodging danger and risking his life with no more than a Sherlockian mind and a trusty grappling hook. Adrenaline pumping turmoil that Miyazaki hasn’t rivalled since.
Despite the flashy differences between Cagliostro and Hayao’s later work, keen fans will notice budding trademarks in this early feature; complex machinery, strong female characters and the use of flight are all evident, while his decision to make Lupin a more honourable, gentlemanly character caused a stir amongst hardcore Lupin fans who wanted the pompous, womanising version from the manga comics.
Blu-ray beautifully cleans up the grain of the 70s animation, so despite this not being an official Studio Ghibli film, it’s definitely one to add to the collection.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★