Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arsene Lupin: 813

It's Lupin time again folks. So far LeBlanc's seminal character has appeared twice at The Pulp Reader and is returning again today for the grand novel 813.

What garners this current return is the fact that Black Coat Press has just published a rather amazing book called ARSENE LUPIN VS. COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO. This collects the Cagliostro cycle (the books COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO and COUNTESS CAGLIOSTRO'S VENGENCE plus the short story The Queen's Necklace). The first book appeared in English in 1925 and has not been reprinted since, while VENGENCE has not previously been translated to English. Both books are new translations, which may be a good thing as the original THE MEMOIRS OF ARSENE LUPIN translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos was not completely faithful and even changed Lupin's original name of Raoul to the terribly mundane "Ralph".

What does this have to do with 813? Not much, but I have never read this story and so thought it'd be great to give it the Pulp Reader treatment while reading the Cagliostro books at home.

813 has had a few media treatments, first appearing in the 1920 American silent movie "813" starring Wedgwood Nowell as Lupin. A Japanese version was filmed in 1923, and later Japanese animation company Tatsunoko filmed an animated version in 1979 called "Kaitō Lupin - 813 no Nazo". Then finally in 1980 an acclaimed French mini-series called "Lupin joue et perd".

As a small aside, once again I want to give a nod to the 2004 movie ARSENE LUPIN. I found it to be highly entertaining with a plot that is maybe too complex for general movie-going American audiences and too effects laden and full of explosions for French audiences. This landed it in a no-man's land where it has suffered a lack of distribution in Region 1 DVD countries. Probably the only way to see it in the states is by finding the DVD on ebay or other secondary marketplaces like that.

One of my favorite type of reviews is one with a lot of historical insight into the subject at hand. As such I'd like to point to the able folks at mysteryfile.com who reviewed the movie several months ago.

Back to 813. As major as this novel is supposed to be, there is not a lot written about it. Therefore I've put up this chronology from Cool French Comics which gives the best rundown of story. It serves as a great hook to get you interested in this story. There are some SPOILERS so you may not want to read beyond the first paragraph if this concerns you.


April-June - The murder of millionaire Rudolf Kesselbach in Paris begins the prodigious affair of "813", Lupin's greatest epic. Kesselbach's secret may lead to the redrawing of the political map of Europe. Lupin's adversary is the mysterious "L.M.", or L de Malreich, a more-than-human, black-clad, merciless killer, whom Lupin refers to as the "Monster" or the "Vampire." L.M. eventually unmasks Lupin who was hiding behind the guise of Lenormand, and arranges for him to be arrested.

July-December - Lupin is thrown in jail, but continues the fight from his cell. He learns that the Kaiser has called upon Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of "813", but the great detective fails to solve the riddle. In August, the Kaiser arranges for Lupin to be freed. Lupin eventually finds the solution, but is outwitted again by Malreich. (Fairness forces one to acknowledge that Lupin solves the mystery in circumstances that may have given him an edge over Holmes.)

January-April - The "813" saga continues. Back in France, Lupin finally defeats Marcheich. (Or has he?) Devoured by megalomaniacal ambition, he uses his own daughter, Geneviève, to further his plans, against Victoire's wishes. He hopes to marry her to Pierre Leduc, the heir to the Duchy of Deux-Ponts-Valdenz. But Lupin's scheme eventually collapses: instead, Leduc falls in love with Dolores Kesselbach, whom Lupin also loves. Tragedy ensues, resulting in the deaths of both Dolores and Leduc, and the permanent alienation of Genevieve. A thoroughly depressed Lupin fakes his own death and disappears.
Okay, is your appetite whetted? Mine is!

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