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Kevin J. O'Connor,
Nazis are sent to guard an old, mysterious fortress in a Romanian pass. One of them mistakenly releases an unknown force trapped within the walls. A mysterious stranger senses this from his home in Greece and travels to the keep to vanquish the force. As soldiers are killed, a Jewish man and his daughter (who are both knowledgeable of the keep) are brought in to find out what is happening. Written by
THEY WERE ALL DRAWN TO THE KEEP. The soldiers who brought death. The father and daughter fighting for life. The people who have always feared it. And the one man who knows its secret... THE KEEP Tonight, they will all face the evil.
Possibly this isn't Michael Mann's best - or even next to next to best - movie, but I make no apologies for liking it quite a lot. In fact, my chief complaint about this movie is that it has never been released on DVD so that the full texture and sense of this piece could be better experienced and appreciated. It is a travesty with all the tripe that leaps from the undergrossing screen to overblown DVD these days, that no studio has had the stones to release THE KEEP on DVD.
In a weird, connect the dots fashion, I consider this film to be a critical milestone in Mann's directorial evolution. In and of itself, this makes the film entirely watchable, if not "important". The movie should be indispensable to Mann's devotees, and I find it surprising that it is not. As much as Manhunter (one of my all time favorites) and Heat (right up there with them) are ranked by most as very good films, THE KEEP, if for no other reason than its novelty should be accorded more respect than it gets.
Read the other reviews here and you can more or less understand the story line. The salient facts are there. I differ on several points, however.
First, I don't consider THE KEEP to be a 'horror movie' or even sci-fi, although it certainly has elements of both. I have no recollection of how the film was billed when it opened in '83 (in fact, I didn't see it until it appeared on Showtime, significantly later), but if you are looking for a 'horror' or 'sci-fi' flick, THE KEEP will leave you short. It is more of a 'thriller' if you had to pigeon-hole it, but even that doesn't really work, and this is what I think what confuses many who have seen and subsequently slammed this movie. To those who want a nifty tight film with all the proper cinematic and artistic "T"s crossed and "I"s dotted, you won't find it here and you will be eternally frustrated. What you will find is a unique, visionary realization of an essentially often told story of conflict between ultimate good and ultimate evil, spun in an arguably overly symbolic context.
Second, much apparently has been said about the lameness of the sets and special effects and accents and soundtrack and costumes, etc etc. I can't ever know for sure, but I don't think that Mann, with all his individual sense of style (remember, his visions and realizations virtually defined a substantial part of the 80s -- whether you liked them or not) was all that concerned about the impact of the trappings, but more on what they allowed the story to play against. The interplay of color (or lack thereof), background, character and music all create an enjoyable tapestry, best viewed from several feet away. If you get hung up on the minutae of this film, you've lost the message. In my personal opinion, this isn't a movie that should be watched critically - because it will fail in many ways, as others have already observed. Rather, you should suspend not only your disbelief but your pretentiousness and just let the movie sort of flow around you. It's a bit like drift diving in Cozumel - the warm current moves you along to the degree that details can get lost and fuzzy, but you eventually realize that's what makes the experience different and wonderful.
The music certainly isn't appropriate to the period (1941 Nazi-occupied Romania) but then this isn't a period piece. Quite the contrary, the Tangerine Dream soundtrack adds to the gauzy, dreamlike quality which to me is what makes this movie so compelling and different. The acting isn't the best and in places, yes, the audio is pretty bad, but when considered as a whole, I believe the movie succeeds. My VHS copy of THE KEEP is now getting threadworn from overplay and I hope that someone, somewhere, will bring it out on DVD.
A strong 8 out of 10.
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