Castle of Cagliostro (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Kim Wolstenholme
Review Date: Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Release Date: Monday, October 17, 2005



What They Say
Master thrief Lupin III, a.k.a "The Wolf", and his right-hand gunman Jigen are hot on the trail of a counterfeiter who swindled them. Bust when their search leads them to the secluded European country of Cagliostro they find far more than they bargained for. Lupin unwittingly attracts the attention of the nation's mysterious monarch when he tries to help a damsel in distress escape the Count's henchman and, in the process, stumbled upon the key to finding the lost fortune of the Cagliostro clan...

With the help of the beautiful Fujiko, the stoic swordsman Goemon and the bumbling Interpol inspector Zenigata, Lupin undertakes to penetrate the defences of the Count's fortress, rescue the girl, break-up a counterfeiting scheme and escape with the hidden treasure of the castle of Cagliostro!

Written and directed by anime pioneer and visionary Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service), fans of all ages will enjoy this lighthearted romp.

The Review!
Miyazaki's directorial debut adds to the Lupin cannon in this highly enjoyable film where Lupin pits his wits against a master counterfeiter.

Audio:

For this review I listened to the movie in it's original Japanese language track and noticed no problems. Both the English and Japanese tracks are basic Stereo and use the left and right speakers sparingly. I spot checked the English soundtrack and also noticed no problems.

Video:

The new release by Optimum is meant to be 1:85.1 and anamorphically enhanced but it's not without faults. Firstly there is edge enhancement and unfortunately there seems to be quite a lot of this. The first scene where it really becomes visible is in the opening credit sequence when Lupin and Jigen are waiting for a train to go past a level crossing, but it rears it's ugly head throughout the movie. Next are noticeable compression artefacts, although these are not nearly as frequent as the edge enhancement. Finally there is an element of grain present throughout, although I suspect this is down to the age of the film rather than any problems with the transfer. While this sounds terrible the problems are all infrequent and overall the picture is not too bad, colours are fine and there is nice contrast throughout the darker scenes (especially in the dungeons and the night time ninja fight). One final thing to note is that the picture is also framed strangely with the black areas that appear round the screen being totally different sizes.

The subtitles on this release have a couple of grammar / spelling mistakes and rather annoyingly are situated quite high up on the screen. This results in a fair bit of the picture being obscured, which is a shame as Castle of Cagliostro has an amazing amount of detail on display.

Packaging:

Packaging not available as only a review disk was supplied.

Menu:

The menu starts with a little montage of clips from the movie, which moves to a static menu, which uses the oft-reproduced picture of Lupin climbing up the wall of the castle. The menu options are arranged at the bottom of the screen and it's easy to see which ones you have selected. Although there is a separate language selection screen, the disk automatically takes you to this screen when you select the Play Movie option so there is no need to change languages before you start the film. This is actually quite a nice touch for those people who are unaware of what a language set-up screen actually is, and something I would like to see more of. There is also a nice animated transition from the menu before the film starts. All the menus are nice and quick to access, and there is a nice bit of transition animation between each menu selection.

Extras:

There's a nice selection of extras on this disk kicking off with an Introduction by Jonathan Clements where he talks about the origins of the movie and provides the viewer with some historical information concerning Miyazaki himself. The Storyboard to Film comparison lets you watch the entire film in storyboard format with the option of changing from the storyboard to the film at any time. While you probably won't want to watch the entire film in this format it's nice to switch between the two during the action sequences. Design Sketches is really what it says, a selection of design sketches in a slideshow format. There's some nice artwork here, but it's a shame that they didn't think to provide any musical accompaniment. Finally there is a trailer for Grave of the Fireflies, which appears to be the original Japanese trailer with no translation.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

Castle of Cagliostro was the first movie that Hayao Miyazaki directed, released a couple of years after Lupin III's first big screen outing in The Secret of Mamo. The character of Lupin III originally appeared in a Manga by Monkey Punch who in turn drew inspiration from the French writer Maurice LeBlanc's tales of Arsene Lupin Gentleman-Thief. Lupin's a dashing thief who can't resist the lure of a big heist or a pretty girl, and both of these are featured heavily in Lupins second movie outing.

Miyazaki had quite a task on his hands when he agreed to direct the Castle of Cagliostro. Lupin was a much-loved character who had already been well established, therefore changing the character too much could have spelled disaster for the movie. Instead Miyazaki gave Lupin a fantastic adventure which includes all of his friends and foes, as well as giving a little bit of background into Lupin's past.

The film opens with Lupin and his companion Jigen making their escape from a casino where they have just robbed the vaults. Of course the casino's security forces come chasing after Lupin and Jigen, but don't come anywhere near catching them; Lupin is way ahead of them. While Jigen celebrates their fantastic haul Lupin realises that the money they've stolen isn't all it seems to be. What they actually got their hands on is a fantastic amount of the infamous 'Goat' money " counterfeits so good that many an expert has been fooled. Not to be deterred Lupin decides to go to the source of the Goat money, the Duchy of Cagliostro and get his hands on the plates used to produce the money.

Lupin has attempted to steal these plates before, when he was just starting out on his thieving career, so he already has some idea of what he's up against. What he didn't expect to be involved in was saving a young girl from the evil clutches of Count Cagliostro, and finding a treasure that's bigger than anything he's ever come across before.

Lupin's penchant for a pretty face comes into play quite early on in the film when he helps a young girl who's fleeing from some pursuers. Dressed in full wedding regalia she is being chased down by a car full of thugs, who look like they are about to catch their prey. On the spur of the moment Lupin decides to help, and while he manages to get rid of the car full of thugs, he doesn't quite manage to save the girl. The girl Lady Clarisse de Cagliostro does however leave him a clue to her identity " a signet ring bearing the crest of the Cagliostro family.

With this piece of information, Lupin finds out that Lady Clarisse is due to be married to the Count Cagliostro, and he decides to save her from this forced marriage as well as get his hands on the forgers plates. The story when broken down like this is very simple, but its execution is what makes this film stand out from the crowd. In a sense the film is just a series of set pieces (what film isn't really), but it's the way these have been fitted together to move the story forward that really makes this something special.

The film starts on a high, with Lupin and Jigen's successful heist of a casino and the aborted chase by the casino's security, before moving down a gear to show them travelling to the Duchy of Cagliostro. Once they've arrived at their destination Miyazaki steps up the pace once again with a group of Ninja's attacking Jigen and Lupin, an underwater obstacle course to get into the castle undetected and a particularly well done encounter across the roofs of the Castle when Lupin is trying to get to Clarisse in her isolated tower. In between this action are quieter scenes, such as Lupin managing to talk to Lady Clarisse to tell her that he will rescue her, and the surveillance operation that Lupin. Jigen and Goemon undertake at Clarisse's old ancestral home.

It's this change of pace that makes Lupin so enjoyable to watch, the slower moments are just as well done as the action, and are there to enable the viewer to find out a bit more about these characters, although this is really Lupins film. The film places a large emphasis on comedy as well, not just in the dialogue, but in the action scenes as well. Lupin's escapades around the castle owe a lot to the slapstick of early American cinema and one sequence in particular seems to hark back to Harold Lloyd.

Much of the comedy comes from Lupin himself, in fact sometimes it's hard to image that he is such an accomplished thief, but the main source of amusement is, as ever, Lupins nemesis - Inspector Zenigata of Interpol. Zenigata's mission in life is to finally capture Lupin, but his every attempt usually ends in disaster and this time is no exception. However, much to their surprise Zenigata and Lupin actually end up working together as they are trapped in the castles dungeons where no man has ever left alive.

Castle of Cagliostro really paved the way to Miyazaki's unique style, while he really couldn't change the look of the main characters too much, the backgrounds and incidental characters all have his distinctive look. One thing I have always loved with Miyazaki's work is the amount of detail that can be found, and Castle of Cagliostro is no exception, and like much of his work this is a film that can be watched repeatedly with no loss of enjoyment.

In Summary:
Castle of Cagliostro has really got all the elements that make a good film great " a simple, yet effective story, thrilling action, a nice big dollop of comedy, a suave leading man and a suitably dastardly villain. Miyazaki's directorial debut may not be as polished or as wide in scope as his later films, but it's still among his best work. This re-release from Optimum really is a nice package, but if you already own the movie it's probably not worth while upgrading to this newer version. If however, you don't, then this disc is very highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Introduction by Jonathan Clements,Storyboard to finished film comparison (multi-angle),Design Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42" Plasma, Sony 335 DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Optimum Asia
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 92
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lupin the 3rd