Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro (1979, JAP) C-102m. *** D: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (the voices of) Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi, Makio Inoue, Gorô Naya, Sumi Shimamoto, Tarô Ishida. Debut feature by Japanese animation god Miyazaki continues the stories around Lupin III, begun in a 1971-1972 animated TV series (for which Miyazaki directed some episodes), a live-action feature in 1974 and an animated feature in 1978, all based on a comic strip by Monkey Punch (though the main character has its foundation in Maurice LeBlanc's early 20th century Arsène Lupin stories). The protagonist is thief and trickster Lupin the Third, who in this story follows some counterfeit money to the state of Cagliostro, where he tries to prevent an evil count from marrying a princess, which would enable him to have access to the family treasure. Fabulous, tongue-in-cheek action adventure with animation that's not up to Miyazaki's later efforts and owes a lot to TV animation, but characters are a hoot and story and set-pieces are spectacular. Closer in spirit to some old Belmondo movies than James Bond, which some people have compared this to. Lupin's sidekick is so cool you never (except once) see his eyes behind the deeply drawn hat! A disappointment at the box-office in Japan, so it took Miyazaki 5 more years to release his next (and breakthrough) film KAZE NO TANI NO NAUSHIKA (NAUSICAÄ). Followed by several more RUPAN SANSEI movies (in total there are dozens of short films and features bearing that title). English titles: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, and LUPIN THE THIRD: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO.

© Ron Altman