Lupin the Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy (US - DVD R1)
The classic manga in live action, Gabe snatches a glance of the new release...
Based on the wacky '60s Japanese manga, which led to an equally popular television series, Lupin the Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy is the first live action adventure of the international super thief. The characters are all very true to their comic book origins, and with the exception of Lupin's sword welding samurai friend (who's name escapes me), the gang's all here. As a favour to those of us that don't know these lovable characters all that well (or at all), this film version flashes back to the beginning to allow for a proper origin story.
It seems Lupin is referred to as the Third because he is the heir to a worldwide crime agency, the grandson of the original Arsene Lupin. Lupin the First was an almost mythical French thief who worked alone for his entire illustrious career. His son, Lupin the Second, preferred working with others, and started a syndicate, which he ruled until his untimely assassination. We, the audience, know this because we are told by quick-draw assassin Jigen, the solitary survivor of Lupin the Second's crime family. Jigen has been in search of Lupin the Third, a solitary vagabond uber-theif, in the hopes of convincing him to re-establish the Lupin Empire.
Meanwhile, Lupin is more concerned with the beautiful Fujiko, a sly and talented bandit who has stolen his easily stolen heart. Fujiko is content to lead Lupin on as long as he's willing to use his nearly supernatural powers of larceny to win her fancy. This rogues gallery of heroes is pursued by the bumbling buffoon of law enforcement, Inspector Kouichi.
But why am I wasting my time explaining the plot and characters? Lupin the Third, true to its manga and anime origins, is all about style and humour. The easiest comparison I can make is to Mario Bava's mod-masterpiece, Danger: Diabolik. Both films are based on popular comic series chronicling the adventures of masters of misappropriation, and are in their very nature over-the-top, episodically joyful messes. Unfortunately for Lupin the Third, Mario Bava is a superior director, and Takashi Tsuboshima's fun little flick pales in stylistic comparison. Danger: Diobolik's tendency to take itself a little too seriously ends up being its saving grace. Sometimes pretension can create even more humour.
Lupin the Third is also comparable to the dated camp adventures of Adam West's TV Batman, with its cartoon logic and its tendency to throw every and any joke against the wall until one finally sticks. The absolute absurdity of the humour is honestly affecting, even if some of the jokes are about as lame as a two-legged dog. The shining moments of the scant eighty two minute runtime are those that switch gears the most unexpectedly. Watching human cartoons is fun and all, but watching a chorus of leather-clad nun singing and dancing as they attempt to assassinate Lupin is categorically hilarious.
Lupin the Third is presented in incredibly wide 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The framing seems a little extreme given the lightweight subject matter, but it looks accurate for the most part. There are a few shots where headroom looks a bit tight, but it's hard to tell if this was a filming or transfer mistake. The transfer is solid, but nothing special. Considering the film's age and relative anonymity, the grain and artefacting throughout is more than understandable. My only objection is the muted colour pallet. Lupin the Third is a very colourful film, and I could've done with more vibrancy and contrast.
As with their decent transfer, Discotek Media gets the job done with an average mono soundtrack. There is some room for spacious effects, but any such remastering would be tinkering with the original intent. The original Japanese can be soft at times, and a few of the score’s louder notes buzz a bit, but these are minor quibbles.
Discotek gives up another barebones disc, featuring a small photo gallery and the original Japanese trailer. The real special feature is the informative liner notes provided by the master of lupinthethird.com. This history of the characters and their various incarnations is a worthy read.
Lupin the Third: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy is really best meant for moderate fans of the original series. Hardcore fanatics will most likely be upset by the changes made to the characters, and the omission of one, and those entirely unfamiliar with the series may have trouble involving themselves in the free form plot. If the daffy image of a male and female symbol frolicking in bed to cover the fact that nudity was not permitted on screen at the time appeals to you, you might want to give the flick a shot.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 28th February 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese
Extras: Trailer, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Takashi Tsuboshima
Cast: Yuki Meguro, Kunie Tanaka
Length: 82 minutes
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