|"Better Living Through Eat, Drink, & Lupin III"
A review of Manga Entertainment's Castle of Cagliostro
Over twenty years ago, Hayao Miyazaki directed perhaps one of the most enjoyable, timeless adventure stories in the history of film, Lupin III: Cagliostro no Shiro (Castle of Cagliostro). It has taken over twenty years for the film to be given a treatment in the US worthy of a film of it's calibre. Manga Entertainment's release of 'The Castle of Cagliostro' on VHS and DVD finally gives rabid, picky, devoted anime & Lupin fans (like myself) something we honestly can't complain about.
This is most assuredly not like it was in the past. Outside of the hard-core C/FO types, the first 'mainstream' attention CoC got was in the goofy-but-fun-trying-to-cash-in-on-the-dragon's-lair-hype laserdisc-based game 'Cliff Hanger'. With the 'plot' basically intact, taken from CoC with an obligatory chase seen from Lupin III vs. the Clones (Mystery of Mamo) thrown in, Cliff Hanger introduced many kids to the world of Lupin, even if they didn't know it yet.
I know this because I was one of those kids. I remember playing the game (and really, really sucking at it btw), sitting around with friends in the junior high cafeteria talking about how cool the 'ninja' scene was, and trying to get all the move sequences down. I didn't know about 'anime' back then. It'd be another year or so before Robotech, and all I had been exposed to was Battle of the Planets (which inspired nothing but a separated shoulder from leaping from the loft at Tony Fontana's house). But I knew that game was cool and the stuff it was made from was very cool. Nearly five years later I first saw the actual movie. It instantly became and still remains my favorite movie of all time, bar none, animated or otherwise.
In 1993, I wrote an interesting piece for a short-lived publication, Manga Newswatch, in which I reviewed CoC's first legitimate home video release in the States, Streamline Pictures' version of Castle of Cagliostro. Summoning up all the sarcastic vitriol I possessed in my arsenal, I proceeded to grind down what I considererd to be one of the shoddier productions (even by fanboy Streamline-ire standards) I had seen from Streamline. While in an overall sense the job might have been considered just 'average' or merely 'below average', I was left with the impression that in terms of quality control, no extra expense was taken to ensure the film had any more quality put into the dubbing than say a crappy television episode of Zillion. Lazy writing, directing and casting choices, along with a smug attitude to arbitrarily change story elements or add 'jokes' (I use the term loosely) left a bad taste in my mouth. For all the talk Carl Macek had spewing for the past few years about not wanting to detract from the beauty of film by covering them up with subtitles, his english production sure as heck did enough to distract from this particular film.
When I begin my review of the Manga Entertainment DVD version, I'll also include snippets of my earlier Manga Newswatch review for comparison purposes. In my 'later years' as a fan, perhaps I have mellowed, perhaps that teeth-gnashing rage has settled into more of a seething resentment, we shall see soon enough. In preparation for this review I have rewatched a fan subtitle of the film, Streamline's dub of the flim, and just for the nostalgic heck of it, I rewatched a copy of the Cliff Hanger arcade game laserdisc.
The DVD itself comes in the now seemingly standard case for anime DVDs, with scarce printed materials and relatively few if any extras. Why would people consider commercials and previews for other 'hot, upcoming titles' as value-added extras, I'll never know. The video quality was good, especially after years of watching VHS. Perhaps not up to standards set nowadays, but for a 20+ year old film with problems with the master it came out well. A new English track is on the gee whizbang digital 5.1 whatever thingamajig while the japanese audio track has been left in it's glorious mono. (tho for me without a stereo system, it doesn't really matter). I'd also like to remind everyone before I look at the dub here, let it be said that the very good subtitle track on the DVD courtesy of Neil Nadelman & ZRO Limit Productions was an absolute joy to watch. If ever it was the end of the world and I could keep one thing, that dvd track might be it (until I break my glasses with some Burgess Meredith action, word.)
Lupin III -- Let's get one thing straight off the bat. No one will ever have the ability to play this character in any language that even comes close to matching the late Yasuo Yamada. A career voice-over actor in japan, Yamada was Lupin III. Mannerisms, speech patterns, attitude, emotion. (Yamada also did a large amount of dubbing of american films, as he was the japanese voice of Clint Eastwood, and also played King Arthur in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.)
Given the circumstances, the english voice of Lupin is well suited for the task. While not quite succeeding with the complete range of the character, the voice does lend a bit more of a feel of experience to the role. The character is in his early 30s in the movie, not the seemingly barely pre-pubescent Jimmy Flinders voice of the Streamline dub.
Jigen -- I like this voice a bit better than earlier versions. An only slightly-fakey gruffness to the voice, he plays a bit older than the Streamline version, but has no where near the baritone levels of the original japanese voice.
Goemon -- Quite good. Fits the character of the strong, silent type well. Beats hearing that Sergeant Dante Robotech voice, yech :(
Fujiko -- Good. I had no problems with her voice, acted well in character.
Clarisse -- Almost the right mix of despair & whiny-ness in the voice, maybe a touch too much whiny :)
Count Cagliostro -- Pretty standard fare. Nothing exciting, but does play a few of the more devious scenes of Cagliostro well.
Zenigata -- well acted but missing something. Portrayed the character well, especially in my favorite scene of his, the bad acting/finding the printing presses on tv scene. Unfortunately though well acted, the voice just sounds pretty lousy. Needed a more gruff sounding actor than one trying to hard to force the gruff voice.
Jodo -- Now this is my favorite voice in the entire dub. A very, very good character voice that fits well within the context of the film, and doesn't sound forced at all.
Other voices -- Karl the dog was fine, maybe a bit too much of a Husky accent; I liked Gustav played with the German (but not too overbearing/Ahnold parodying-like) accent. Most of the minor voices I didn't have a problem with, though in a masochistic sort of way I caught myself pining for the gardener to spew out "Destroy the micronians!" in that Dolza/Streamliney kinda way.
What went right?
They pretty much left it the f&$* alone :)... Evidenced by the way they kept the opening theme and credits intact, as compared to the hideous display of the Streamline tape. Instead, Manga integrated the english title around the existing japanese title credit, let the un-edited japanese credits play, then produced a credit sequence at the end of the film with the translated credits. (The original film ends with the 'Fin' symbol, this dvd fades out, then starts up the theme music again with vertically scrolling credits.)
On a similar note, upon some repeat viewing of the new dub it's apparent that unlike some dub productions, the actors here were shown the original japanese performances. Why some voice directors and actors don't prefer this, I have no idea. Just like reading a script with directions on it, it's another tool to examine the characters & motivations.
Story elements that were mucked around in Streamline's version were left alone in Manga's version. A Good Thing. One of the most egregious fo-pahs in Streamline's version is the explanation of Claricss's absence (as spoken by the barmaid) was that she 'was away at college', where in the original (and in Manga's) it was explained she was away in a convent. This is a semi-crucial point in the story, explaining a bit how Clarisse comes off as emotionally sheltered, as well as resigned to her 'fate'. This illustrates the brilliant choice of not changing a nice piece of writing. Gee, how quaint!
Also there is the brilliantly done tower scene where Lupin first enters in attempt to rescue Clarisse. In the Streamline version, there was a ton of knight in shining armor BS non-techno babble, glossing over the original fun dialogue of Lupin explaining about the 'honor of the thief' while being both heroic and mischievous at the same time. The Manga version keeps the spirit of the original about as well as could be expected.
As a picky fan type, one thing I like about the dub is that they pronounce Lupin like it should be, LOO-pahn. :) After years of pussy-footing around the whole gee-I'm-too-scared legal beating around the bush remedies like 'Wolf', 'Rupan III', and even TMS' own preferred English name for the character, 'Cliff Hanger', Lupin appears alteration-free. Either this nebulous legal matter was resolved, or Manga did what Carl Macek did in his later Lupin dubs ('Mystery of Mamo', & the tv episode dubs), which was to basically say 'fuck it' and did it anyway. With either scenario, you get a big 'Huzzah! Finally!' from this little corner of space.
What went wrong?
Although nowhere to the level of Streamline's production guffaws, such as the "Now we're cooking with gas" and "Should've worn an asbestos suit" lines, the producers of this dub apparently couldn't stay entirely free from some 'creative additions'.
In the opening scene post-credits, Lupin & Jigen are in disguise as they pass through the border guard. In the original the scene is played silent, while in the Manga dub, Lupin is heard telling the guard that Jigen 'he's my dad', followed by a lame joke about Jigen 'hey I don't look that old'... blahblahblah...
After Lupin falls into the castle dungeon, as the camera pans around the cavernous rooms while Lupin walks around. Manga thought it'd be cute to insert some nice home decorating jokes, much to my disdain. Things like this p.o. me to no end. I can understand it if is being used to replace an untranslatable reference or pun, but to just simply insert of their own damn volition, that deserves at least a newspaper smack over the back of the neck with a nice 'bad boy!'.
The print of the movie, while quite good, wasn't quite as good as it could have been. There was all sorts of communications and supply problems, as practically all of the delay in producing the dvd (originally supposed to be released last September), was because they hadn't been able to obtain a good master from japan. The sound on the japanese track was ok but nothing special for dvd, although leagues better than on tape.
Generalized DVD Bitch
Nothing ticks me off more than things like 'interactive menus' as 'features' of a DVD, it's as if someone tries to market the Table of Contents as the selling point of a novel. Granted this is a gripe about just about the entire DVD industry, but very few anime discs even plan 'features' besides carrying both languages and boring trailers. At least Manga will be bucking that trend with the upcoming Wings of Honneamise DVD, which will contain a commentary track by Hiroyuki Yamaga & Takami Akai. I hope it starts a trend in US anime DVD relesaes.
I wholeheartedly endorse this fine 'merican product and give it Gavv's Seal of Approval. In fact, I'd suggest dragging random people off the street and show them this classic. To do otherwise would be a crime against man, nay, a crime against the universe itself! You guys in college, make that extra trip to the plasma clinic for that extra change. In other words, buy it, it's well worth the dough.
The Hypnotic Eye Contest:
Congratulations, we have a winnah! More precisely two winners in my contest to decipher the origins of this column's title "The Hypnotic Eye". First is the email sent in from John F. Martin:
It's easy! From the cheesy movie of the same name. Bad, *bad* ('50's?) schlock of the nth degree! >_< The only place I've ever actually seen it was in "It Came From Hollywood!" which had people like Dan Ackroyd and Cheech and Chong basically doing an early version of MST3K. Funny stuff.
Nice magazine. I'll be stopping by every issue. Ja!
and our second winner is Jeff Tatarek:
"The Hypnotic Eye" gets its name from a classic piece of badfilm--one of those 1950's crapfests that tried to distract the audience from the sleazy cheese on the screen by having them make hand gestures (no, not THAT one, although some may have done it without ill effect) at certain points of the movie. The classic "It Came From Hollywood" contains a clip from the trailer for the film, including some weird Svengali-type magician exhorting us to look into "Dee Heepnotic Eye!", and posing in exactly the same way as your column's artwork.
To prove everything, here's a couple of still images from that very trailer for "The Hypnotic Eye"! For the two winners I have...well, I shall come up with some very cool and unique prizes, unfortunately I've already run out Saint Seiya pencil cases and Nadia toothbrush sets, so they shall have to make do with what Gavv finds in his amazing bag o stuff!