Castle of Cagliostro
(Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro) (1979)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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The Castle of Cagliostro is the first film Hayao Miyazaki directed, and, while not nearly as good as his later work, it is an enjoyable movie that is indicative of the talent he would soon display.

Lupin III is a master thief, who, while visiting the small country of Cagliostro, discovers both an ancient counterfeiting operation and a plot by the country's regent to forcibly marry the young heiress to the throne.

The Castle of Cagliostro is an adventure movie and is one of the best of that genre. The action sequences are elaborate, well choreographed, and exciting. The narrative is intriguing and engaging, if, occasionally, a little arbitrary. None of the characters is particularly memorable, but all do complement the film and help to heighten the sense of excitement it produces. The regent is an evil, threatening figure. The heiress is a likeable girl who elicits our sympathy and makes us hope she will be rescued. Lupin himself is brave and inventive, and so on.

The animation, while not as beautiful as what Miyazaki would later create, is, nonetheless, both attractive and stylistically similar to that of his other films. Admirers of the director may take additional pleasure in noting how Miyazaki has incorporated various elements from The Castle of Cagliostro into several of his subsequent movies. Details of the castle itself are borrowed in Laputa. The face of the young heiress is borrowed in Nausicaä. The room in which the girl is kept is borrowed in Spirited Away, and so on.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a charming, light-hearted picaresque adventure. It is not a masterpiece, but it well worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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