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DVD Review

DVD cover

Lupin the Third
The Secret of Mamo


Starring (voice): Eiko Masuyama, Goro Naya, Kiyoshi Kobayashi and Kô Nishimura
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 15
Available 04 August 2008

Arsène Lupin III, grandson of the identically named star of Maurice Leblanc's famous stories, is the world's greatest international super-thief. With his partners in crime, Daisuke Jigen and Goemon Ishikawa, he is the bane of Inspector Zenigata who has spent most of his life trying to catch him. Although Zenigata thinks that Lupin is dead he is very much alive and planning on stealing a rare philosophers stone, which can grant immortality, from a pyramid for the mysterious Mamo. But large breasted femme fatale Fujiko Mine plans to double cross Lupin and take the stone for herself. When she finally does the case changes to a diabolical plan, which threatens the whole planet...

Lupin The Third: The Secret of Mamo (Rupan sansei: Mamo Karano Chousen 1978, 1 hr, 42 min) was the first of the action-comedy Lupin films. Directed by Yasuo Otsuka and Soji Yoshikawa, it was inspired by the original manga illustrated and written by Kauhiko Kato under the pen name of Money Punch. When the manga first appeared in 1967, few could imagine what a huge franchise it would spawn, with films, TV series, CD’s, games and shows, Lupin has become an institution in Japan.

The success of the first film allowed the studio to bring in Hayao Miazaki to direct the second movie, the much more satisfying The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), which became an instant classic.

Stylistically the two films have much in common. The characters bodies are elongated and the whole thing is full of Keystone Cops comedy. This stylised presentation of the characters is something which will either turn you off the film or endear it to you more; personally I found that it fitted very much into the overall look and feel of the film. However, what made Cagliostro a classic is mostly missing in the first film.

Mamo’s desire to be a funky, psychedelic experience leads to the plot being uneven as it is interrupted with zaniness, which sometimes is tangential to the film's main narrative. Lupin is a harsher, crasser, character than that envisioned by Miazaki and as such is a little less endearing to the audience, who may have problems with his slightly misogynistic outlook towards females. That said, it never damaged the popularity of Matt Helm or James Bond.

The film's print is nothing short of miraculous given that it was made in 1978. There was no information from the PR company to indicate if this was a restored print, but I would hazard a guess that it was. The sound, although presented in only Japanese and English stereo, appears also to have been cleaned up - presenting a nice, clean dynamic range. Both audio tracks capture the action and humour of the film, with the Japanese vocal actors just edging ahead of the English track.

Given the success of the Lupin franchise, the disc doesn’t really reflect this, giving you only 27 pieces of concept art and eight trailers for other shows. I would have thought that there would be a plethora of shorts and documentaries to choose from.

Although not as good as Miazaki’s take on Lupin, then again he is a genius, Mamo has lots to offer Lupin fans. The core comedy is still there as are the almost seemingly random bit of story and happenings that are somehow thrown into the pot.

The film is well worth a look, especially for Lupin fans, shame about the extras though.


Charles Packer

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