The Castle of Cagliostro

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Voices by Yasuo Yamada, Eiko Masuyama, Kiyoshi Kobayashi. (1979, PG-13, 100 min.)

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 26, 1992

What can you say about a film whose story credit goes to a guy named “Monkey Punch?” I'd like to say that sums it all up right there, but it doesn't, not really. Castle of Cagliostro has more in common with the comic adventures of the old Astro Boy or Speed Racer shorts than it does with Vampire Hunter D (see review below -- C of C and VHD are screening as a double bill). The film follows the exploits of master international thief, “The Wolf,” and his sidekick Jigen as they search out the mysterious Count Cagliostro, another in a long line of stereotypical, power-mad schemers hellbent on Global Domination, heh, heh, heh. The Count, it seems, has been mass-producing various forms of world currency in an effort to topple the economies of existing governments in hopes of replacing them with his own corrupt “New World Order” (so plausible it's scary, isn't it?). The Wolf and Jigen are more worried, however, about the kidnapping of beautiful Princess Clarissa, whom the count plans to wed (or snuff -- his evil intentions are never all that clear). Smitten, The Wolf manages to infiltrate the Count's impregnable castle and the hunt begins. Unlike so many other recent examples of Japanese animation, C of C refrains from the Technicolor ultra-violence that helped make films like Golgo 13, Akira, and Vampire Hunter D such audience favorites, and instead focuses on broad, almost slapstick humor and chaos to keep viewers riveted. Sometimes it works, and unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't. Shots of The Wolf toppling off castle parapets and scaling sheer walls without benefit of a climb-line are more annoying than they are humorous, but C of C is so ingratiatingly good-humored that it's hard to take it seriously enough to complain. Sure, it's no great triumph of moviemaking, but it is entertaining, and a more or less plausible way to kill 95 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

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