Oh, thank heaven. Our brief investigation into the long series of Lupin III annual-ish television specials concludes with what is easily the best of the four I selected. Napoleon’s Dictionary and Dragon of Doom were pretty good, while Twilight Gemini was godawful. This one stumbles through a climax that’s a little bloated and weird, but getting there was an absolute joy and sliding our heroes against a world of strange magic and supernatural powers worked surprisingly well.
To be sure, there’s a lot in this movie that I bet bigger fans of Lupin than me have seen before. There’s an underworld kingpin of enormous power and influence never mentioned in any previous adventure, great big super-jewel treasures, and a new arch-enemy for Goemon who gets the upper hand by getting into Goemon’s head for a minute. But it’s all done exceedingly well in this movie, which is apparently the only one that’s been given to Teiichi Takiguchi to direct, although he did move on to work on one of the television series a few years later.
The big key that makes this one such a standout is that a 14 year-old girl figures out who Lupin is and decides she will become his apprentice. Lupin tries very hard to discourage her – hilariously badly at one point, as he thinks she is a lot younger than fourteen and he can scare her off with monster stories – but of course he ends up stuck with her for most of the running time. Frankly, I’m amazed that it took forty years for anybody to come up with such a wonderfully simple idea. Unless a bigger fan of Lupin than me would like to tell me that actually they did it in a two-parter in 1979.
What else? There are clever deathtraps, a bit where Lupin gets uncharacteristically pensive and introspective about why he’s a criminal, and his famous grandfather actually shows up in a flashback, which I’d never seen them do before. The climax is a little wonky, but all the supernatural revelations come fairly and honestly within the rules that the movie establishes. Overall, a fine couple of hours of entertainment. We’ll check out one more Lupin III adventure before we wrap up the blog, and if it’s at least as good as this, I’ll be satisfied.