To put it simply, Castle of Cagliostro is the best Hollywood film never made by Hollywood.
put it simply, Castle of Cagliostro is
the best Hollywood film never
made by Hollywood. Full of thrilling set pieces,
charismatic characters and enjoyment levels set at maximu, Hayao Miyazaki’s
first feature film hasn’t lost any of it’s excitement. Originally released in
1979, Castle of Cagliostro has gone on to influence the work of Pixar and
Steven Spielberg. And you can see why, it has everything a good film
needs. A brash, intelligent lead, a damsel in distress, a dastardly villain and
of course a grand set piece.
Arsene Lupin III is
a world renowned thief. He’ll steal anything from anyone and anywhere. The film
opens up with him and his assailant, Daisuke Jigen robbing a casino before making their getaway in a
modified Fiat 500. Quickly into their escape though, Lupin discovers
that all the money is counterfeit and believes it to be from the fictional
country of Cagliostro, so decides to travel there. Almost upon arrival they are
caught up in a high-speed chase involving a young girl and group of thugs.
After rescuing the girl, they realise that she is actually Princess Clarisse of
Cagliostro. She is a few days away from being married off to the villainous
count of the country, against here will. By doing this the Count will have
control of a precious ring, that is in the possession of Princess Clarisse.
Legend has it that if two rings are united the fabled treasure of Cagliostro
will be unlocked and remain hidden for no longer. It just so happens that the
Count owns the other ring. Fearing his intentions, Lupin takes it upon himself
to prevent the wedding from happening and take the treasure for himself. This
sets off a chain of events that sees Lupin’s gang do battle with not only the
Counts assassins but also his enemies at INTERPOL, leading to the eventual
uncovering of the shocking truth behind the wealth of Cagliostro.
Throughout the film Lupin is the main
focus. There is barely a scene where he isn’t present, a cute move by Miyazaki.
Lupin is one of the most recognisable faces in all of anime and manga. First
conceived during the 1960’s, Lupin has appeared in numerous films and
television shows since. Even a few video games. Not to take anything away from
his previous efforts but Cagliostro is regarded as his finest hour. As already
mentioned Lupin is practically exploding with personality. Charming, cunning,
brave, arrogant, Lupin flies in the face of adversity. Always equipped with a
suitable one liner and stacked to the rafters with gadgets, there is an essence
of James Bond about him. Both stylish. They always get the girl. Neither
mind who they annoy. Athleticism and intelligence are also key traits. The only
difference being that they operate on opposing sides of the law. Oh, and Bond
has an Aston Martin, not a Fiat. Although it’s highly unlikely, a
collaboration between the two would be thoroughly entertaining. With Skyfall
currently doing record-breaking business in the cinema, any Bond nut would
appreciate the similarities between Lupin and 007.
As for the standard of this high
definition re-release, the overall quality hasn’t been tampered with too much.
For a long time the dubbed version of Cagliostro went through many fits and
starts with numerous different versions being synched over the original.
Thankfully Studio Canal have restored the original dub so fans can once
again enjoy this film in the way it was intended. Animation wise, this isn’t
the most spectacular of Miyazaki’s films. Bearing in mind this was his first
feature, it doesn’t really bare a resemblance to any of his other films.
Concentrating more on humans and a riveting story, Cagliostro is void of the
weird and wonderful characters that you would usually associate with the
director. This isn’t a criticism though. It’s captivating to see an early
example of Miyazaki’s talent. You can pinpoint moments in this that would go on
to influence his later work, but for it’s own movie it more than stands up.
The one thing preventing Castle of
Cagliostro being hailed as one of Miyazaki’s greatest work is the fact that it
doesn’t fall under the Studio Ghibli name. Although not a major problem,
Cagliostro at times lacks the warmth and depth that you would usually associate
with that company. Interestingly though, this is being released on the same
week that My Neighbor Totoro, also out on Blu-ray. Studio Canal
obviously see a strong connection between the two and probably feel that a
little more appreciation should go to Cagliostro. Overall this is a hugely
entertaining film, with lovable characters and spectacular sequences. A really
underrated gem, from the mind of a genius.