During the Battle of the Bulge, an anachronistic count shelters a ragtag squad of Americans in his isolated castle hoping they will defend it against the advancing Germans.



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Maj. Abraham Falconer
Capt. Lionel Beckman
The Count of Maldorais
Sgt. Rossi
Astrid Heeren ...
Cpl. Clearboy
Lt. Amberjack
Pvt. Allistair Piersall Benjamin
James Patterson ...
Lt. Billy Byron Bix
Sgt. DeVaca
Red Queen
Elizabeth Teissier ...
Red Queen Girl
Anne Marie Moskovenko ...
Red Queen Girl
Merja Alanen ...
Red Queen Girl


Toward the end of World War II, a small company of American GI's occupy an ancient castle. Their commander has an affair with the countess in resident. One guy falls in love with a Volkswagon. A baker among them moves in with another baker's wife. A group of shell shocked holy rollers wander the bombed out streets. A GI art historian tries vainly to protect the castle and its masterpieces. Written by Jim Sadur <jsadur@keyflux.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The bold bawdy novel comes to life! See more »


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Release Date:

October 1969 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Das Schloß in den Ardennen  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(35 mm prints)| (70 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Burt Lancaster wore a patch over a good right eye for his character. Peter Falk, having lost his right eye at age 3, wore a glass eye. See more »


The bazooka they use is a Korean war era 3.5" version and not the WW II version. Also, the .30 and .50 cal ammo boxes seen occasionally were Viet Nam era designs and not WW II designs. See more »


Sfc. Rossie Baker: [enterting brothel with loaves] Everybody should eat more bread. Feeds the heart. And remember, the heart's the second-most important organ in the human body.
See more »


Featured in The Last Detail (1973) See more »

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User Reviews

Just sitting back, until the war comes around.
12 August 2007 | by (the Mad Hatter's tea party.) – See all my reviews

Travelling through Ardennes forest, American Major Falconer leads his small rag-tag platoon to the medieval castle that belongs to the Count of Maldorais, so they can use it as a stronghold against the German soldiers. Waiting for this possible strike, they go about amusing themselves by relaxing or taking in the sights. The Major is bedding the Counts wife, Captain Beckman studying and admiring the count's artwork, Sergeant Rossi living his dream of having wife, child and baking. Private Benjamin storming up ideas of a possible novel, while Corporal Clearboy falls head over heels for a Volkswagen. But their lifestyles are shattered when finally the Germans advanced through the forest and upon the castle.

You want a very offbeat and ambitious war drama; look no further then Sidney Pollacks' dreamlike majestic oddity "Castle Keep". However it tends to be one of those cult films you'll love or be totally put off by its artsy approach. I'm the former. I was totally spellbound by its quirky, bleak and theatrical sense of style interwoven within its lyrically verbose script and moody, self-conscious characters. Adapted from William Eastlake's novel, this is pretty much a calm conversational piece that likes to philosophically reflect on itself with a haunting and decisive charge, before it changes pace (and somewhat direction) to actually lead up to a loud, chaotic, brutal and taut action climax in the dying stages of the film.

Pollacks' smooth n' breezy execution leads the way to a slow plodding pace, where it's a clash of personalities and a lot little trivia set in motion. War is pointless and simply made up of absurdity, and that's how Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel's thoughtfully satiric screenplay lets the story unfold, because honestly it treads water and doesn't sway far from its base work. Seeping off it are random, unexpected sub-plots (like fairy-tale strokes) with Private Benjamin's crisp narration (which it's his story were watching) seem to have a metaphysical current. The rich humour within is uniquely pulled-off, by holding an uncanny, absurd and odd feel. Beautifully crafted and ultra-stylish with many bold and surreal flourishes. One of those few includes the sequence in the rose garden and the wonderfully amusing set-up of the Volkswagen. It was like looking at a painting, just admiring the art in front of you. Then move onto the next frame for another poetic image. But the life is sapped out of it, with more so a deadpan quality making its way into Pollacks' slick direction.

Henri Decae's fluidly illustrative cinematography was picture-perfect with atmospheric lighting, and Michel Legrand's harmoniously spiralling and intrusively baroque music score only adds to its disorienting make-up and cooks up a tuneful awe. Streaming through it was a bold, psychedelic edge due to the times. The beautifully lush backdrop of the wilderness, and grand appearance of the extravagant castle are vibrantly captured to provide another hypnotic dimension to the well-looking production. The performances are astounding. Burt Lancaster's stoically dominating portrayal, with a smart slight tongue is excellently delivered and Peter Falk's no-nonsense, grounded to reality performance is superb as the baker at heart Sergeant Rossi. Don't you just love the smell of fresh bread. Patrick O'Neal is credibly solid as the toey, art-loving Captain Beckham, and Jean-Pierre Aumont as the sly Count of Maldorais. Astrid Heeren is seductively silky as the count's wife/niece Therese. The rest of the support Scott Wilson, Tony Bill, James Patterson, Al Freeman Jr. and Michael Conrad were exceptionally good. Also Bruce Dern is a delight to watch as the fruity, preaching American deserter who has taken up on god's side, as he tries to convince others to do so.

Uneven, but still a one-of-a-kind experience. Almost just like a dream.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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