Now that more or less all of the films produced by members of Studio Ghibli have been picked up by Optimum Releasing, it’s no surprise that they have also bought the rights to Castle of Cagliostro, Miyazaki’s first film as director. The UK DVDs have been distributed by Manga Entertainment for some time now so this is a re-release rather than a new title, but for those who didn’t catch the film last time around this edition is the perfect opportunity.
Lupin III the master thief has broken into Monaco’s national casino and, with his sidekick Jigen, made off with several bagfuls of cash. Following a daring escape our light-fingered heroes realise that the money they have stolen is forged and soon trace the banknotes to the tiny European state of Cagliostro. After almost foiling the kidnapping of a beautiful bride along the way, Lupin and Jigen enlist the help of their friends to rescue her and unlock the secret to Cagliostro’s mysterious castle. And so begins a rip-roaring action-adventure involving gun toting female spies, master swordsmen, shadowy henchmen, frantic car chases and hidden treasure.
Quite different in style from his later films, Miyazaki’s directorial debut is surprisingly light and comical with a healthy dose of slapstick humour. The story kicks off with a car chase at breakneck speed, and the plot scarcely slows down in pace from that point on. In many ways it harks back to the days of the comedy caper films with echoes of the Marx brothers and Peter Sellers in its action scenes and set pieces; its playful style pays homage to the classics while never taking itself entirely seriously.
There are one or two character designs that are very much in his own style, but the rest of them will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with the Lupin III series: the stoic Jigen, Lupin’s old flame Ms Fujiko, Goemon the master swordsman and Inspector Zenigata of Interpol. Goemon’s serious and deadpan attitude to the task in hand is in great contrast to Lupin’s carefree outlook while Zenigata’s dogged determination to catch Lupin once and for all is foiled at every turn to great comic effect.
If you have already seen the Manga Entertainment version, you will notice a few differences in the presentation but the footage itself is pretty much unchanged. The aspect ratio of the picture is now in standard 16:9 widescreen and the DVD menus and cover art have been updated – a change for the better overall, but the picture quality is not noticeably different from the old DVD release. Since Manga made such a good job of the remastering the film in the first place, this is no bad thing although the English language dub does not appear to be the same (it could be the older dub originally recorded by Streamline Pictures, replacing the newer one for copyright reasons). Apart from this, there are a couple of other extras that were not on the previous release: storyboard-to-scene comparisons and a short introduction by Jonathan Clements, which gives a brief overview of the film and some interesting bits and pieces of information concerning its production.
If you already own the old edition of Castle of Cagliostro that Manga released on DVD, there probably is not enough extra content on this version to warrant replacing your old copy. For those who have not seen it already though, this is the perfect way to enjoy Miyazaki’s first directorial triumph. It might not be the magical epic type of film he has since become so well-known for but this is an hour and a half of solid comic entertainment that won’t leave you bored for a moment.