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One year after The Secret of Mamo (see Lupin III), the master thief Lupin has successfully evaded Inspector Zenigata's clutches and is planning a new heist. When he inadvertently steals fake money, Lupin realizes that the high-quality printing plates are worth more than the money itself. He tracks down the counterfeiters to the tiny European state of Cagliostro but is soon distracted by the approaching wedding of Count Cagliostro and Clarice, the last princess of the ruling family.
As strings strike up straight out of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," and amid filmic nods to The 39 Steps and other famous caper movies, it's Lupin and his gang against the world, with cross and double-cross, as the thieves shop each other to the cops and change their minds about what they should be stealing (Lupin alone goes from money to plates to a bride in the course of the film). Supposedly inspired by the wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco, the film also draws on one of Kelly's most memorable movies, To Catch a Thief, and Maurice Leblanc's 1924 Lupin novel Countess Cagliostro. From the opening casino heist to the Chaplinesque duel inside a giant clock, this is a superbly paced crime caper and Lupin's best screen outing. First-time movie director Miyazaki would reuse many of the ideas later in his career, including the Mediterranean Riviera setting of Porco Rosso, a courageous nature-loving princess in Nausicaä, a friendly hound in Kiki's Delivery Service, and the mossy ruins in Castle in the Sky. The film also lifted an idea from Miyazaki's work on Treasure Island-the fabled Cagliostro treasure is hidden at the bottom of an artificial lake. Surprisingly, the Lupin franchise lay dormant for several years afterward, not revived until the third TV series in 1984.