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Corto Maltese and the Gilded House of Samarkand (2002)
"Corto Maltese: La maison dorée de Samarkand" (original title)

 -  Animation | Action | Adventure  -  2002 (France)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 137 users  
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In 1921, laconic adventurer Corto Maltese is in Turkey where several armed factions fight for control. He finds a map to a lost Persian treasure there. He'll need his friend Rasputin who's in Samarkand prison run by Corto's double.

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(screenplay), (comic)
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Title: Corto Maltese and the Gilded House of Samarkand (2002)

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Cast

Cast overview:
Richard Berry ...
Corto Maltese (voice)
...
Raspoutine (voice)
...
Marianne (voice)
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Storyline

Hugo Pratt's famous comics adventurer, Corto Maltese while sojourning in Adana, Turkey, discovers a map to the treasure of Cyrus, an ancient king of Persia. To assist him in his quest, he enlists his old friend/nemesis the unbelievable Raspoutine whom he first has to help escape from the prison of Samarkand (aka "La maison dorée de Samarkand", the golden house of Samarkand). On the long and tortured way to the riches, he encounters all kind of interesting characters, soldiers of fortune, lost British actors, and even his doppelgänger. Written by Serge Ansay

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prison | turkey | suicide | army | dervish | See All (14) »


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2002 (France)  »

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Corto Maltese and the Gilded House of Samarkand  »

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1.33 : 1
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Followed by Corto Maltese - Under the Sign of Capricorn (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not a bad way to end the franchise, but uneven pacing and focus are problems here as well
11 November 2014 | by See all my reviews

Circa 2002, several French and Italian production companies and TV channels joined forces to create an animated series of shorts and features based on the adventures of popular Italian comic book character Corto Maltese, a laconic adventurer and former sea captain who travels all across Europe and its colonies as well as Africa, Asia and other places during the 1910s and the 1920s and witnesses first hand the many horrors and atrocities that the brutal bloody history of the early 20th century had to offer, from World War I to various civil wars and communist and other revolutions. This is why the comic book was (and still is) very popular in Europe, but is virtually unknown in the US.

Every story has a basic formula - Corto is hired, convinced or has reasons of his own to go to a certain exotic location where treasure, people or mystery await, but gets caught up in local infighting on the way there and becomes a witness to history. With the help from the people he meets along the way, he eventually reaches his goal, only to discover that the trip was more interesting than the destination.

Corto himself is a tall, thin, slick, charming trustworthy man with very sentimental and laconic view of life, who easily makes friends and can handle himself in most fights, although on occasion he does act brash and bites off more than he can chew. Corto has no problems with violence or killing when deemed necessary, but he is disturbed by death and pain of the innocents. He often tries to help those oppressed or in need he meets on his journeys, which often gets him into serious trouble. However, he never fights lost battles and has a distinctive sense of self-preservation, as well as lots of acquaintances and luck. The ladies are often attracted to his charm, attitude and willingness to take action, but also to his slight naiveté that sometimes they and even some of his temporary allies try to take advantage of. However, Corto is no James Bond and while he often cares about his female companions in a platonic way, he rarely beds the girl, unless he's actually interested in her.

He could be considered as the European Indiana Jones, although Corto, as a fan of poetry and art, has only superficial knowledge of archeology, kills somewhat more indiscriminatingly, often waxes poetic and his world is much more adult, dramatic and darker than Indy's with little to no magical, fantastical or sci-fi elements.

The Gilded House of Samarkand is the final entry in Corto Maltese 2002 animated franchise, although his adventures do continue in the comic book (his final comic book tale was about the fictional lost continent of Mu). The Gilded House of Samarkand is set in 1921. Corto is in Turkey where the political situation is quite chaotic. Several armed and political factions are fighting for control ever since the end of WWI in which Turkey lost its empire. One night, while sentimentally watching the stars on a roof of a random house, Corto notices a hidden piece of paper - a long forgotten map to a legendary Persian treasure stolen by Alexander the Great. Corto then immediately gets taken in by the local nationalist military faction that still wants to rebuild the former Ottoman Empire. However, everyone mistake him for his lookalike, a powerful local military strongman that everyone's afraid of, so he's immediately released. Having a double slightly uneases superstitious Corto. The map takes him to a local dervish society where he gets further information. He then tries to find his adventuring partner Rasputin, a violent unscrupulous but sometimes humorous bandit and lookalike of the infamous eponymous historical figure, who's stuck in prison in the city of Samarkand. Corto embarks on a perilous journey that immediately goes wrong and meets various characters, some friendly, some vicious, witnesses a historical battle involving the invading Red Army and helps a young Armenian girl, survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

Every entry in this animated franchise has similar qualities and faults.

Most Corto's adventures are like a cross between an old b&w Hollywood epic adventure combined with the sensibilities of a serious historian. Although Corto's feats may seem ridiculous at times, the locations he visits and the events he witnesses are presented in a highly atmospheric, quite brutal and often realistic way with a touch of comical, while the slow depressing intensity of the adventure never dissipates. The stylistic brooding conservative art design is quite atmospheric, very faithful to the comic and the animation looks less cheep than it is. You'd never guess the films were partially animated in North Korea (no joke).

As for its faults, the story often references moments and characters from Corto's past that are never explained. If you haven't seen the other movies and shorts, or read the comics, you'll still be able to follow and enjoy the film, but you will feel slightly lost. Furthermore, the pacing is a bit off. Some less relevant moments will be covered in detail, while other more important ones (like the ending) will be simply brushed over. Thirdly, the tone is sometimes off. The violence and brutality, while gory and realistic, sometimes seem frivolous. Also, Rasputin sometimes acts completely amoral, if not evil, but Corto still sticks with him afterward, although he does berate him a bit.

Still, in the end, this is a more or less successful, if not entirely satisfying end to Corto's 2002 animated franchise. Hopefully, we will see more of him eventually, since just like Indy, he never really ages, being himself a part of history.

The movie is available on DVD in Europe and has optional English subtitles, so folks from the US can import it. You can also get "Corto Maltese - Collector's Edition" that's in English and contains all of Corto's animated adventures.


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