Saturday, 24 December 2011

Review - The Castle Of Cagliostro (1979 - Dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

Here's a little Christmas present for you, dear readers: one of my favourite films. 
(Reader - 'Couldn't you have got us a PS3 game, or something alcoholic?' 
evlkeith - 'Don't be so ungrateful, it's Christmas and it's the thought that counts.'
Reader - 'Yeah, but even a bottle of vodka would make me happier than a thought, wouldn't it?'
evlkeith - 'Fair enough. Point taken.')

I can watch The Castle Of Cagliostro at any time of year, but the nostalgia factor seems stronger at Christmas. Just hearing the first few notes of the opening theme instantly takes me back to my childhood. I can't say that I saw this when I was little, but it perfectly sums up the type of animation I watched and loved as a child.

Lupin is a 'gentleman' thief. I can't quite recall the word 'letch' being in the definition of 'gentleman', or the action of 'sticking out your tongue and waggling it around at scantily clad ladies' being referred to either, but at least Lupin is more restrained here than in Lupin The Third: The Secret Of Mamo. He rescues the Lady Clarisse d'Caglisotro from the clutches of the Count's evil henchman. Subsequently, she is captured again and Lupin is embroiled in a plot involving counterfeit money, the ineffectual Inspector Zenigata from Interpol and the titular castle.

The castle is one of the stars of the film, full of hidden doors, moving walkways and traps. There is also a great sense of verticality to it, with many scenes inducing vertigo in the viewer; Lupin running and leaping between the peaks of the towers is a major highlight. Lots of events within the film are foreshadowed by things you see or hear earlier. The ending could be straight out of a Hitchcock (or Harold Lloyd) film. It also contains a very grisly, but subtle, crunch sound effect (remember this is supposedly a family film). 

The animation is a little bit rough around the edges (it was made in 1979), but there are so many great little touches and ideas that you can ignore any shortcomings: Lupin trying to swim back up a waterfall (and almost succeeding), the refraction of light as Lupin peers at Zenigata through a waterfall, plus there's a rocket-powered car that can drive up and down cliffs.

This is my favourite Miyazaki film. Just. I know that it doesn't have the loftier environmental themes of some of his other work, but it is a cracking adventure story. And the villain must have the biggest head and hands of any human villain. What more do you want? (Reader - 'Er... that bottle of vodka?')

If you like this you could also try:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, To Catch A Thief.

1 comment:


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