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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.
I wish that Mann had been a more experienced director when he tackled this really bizarre film, but all things considered it is really a damn fine movie. The soundtrack has some problems, but the dialogue and acting are so interesting that the faults of the film are balanced out. I especially enjoyed the conversations between Byrne's SS Major and Prochnow's German Army Captain. In fact, I almost wish that the majority of the film had dealt with this rather than the bizarre supernatural stuff. I really do advise this film to anyone that is interested in strange cinema. If you can get past the unfortunate flaws of the film, I think you will notice that it is actually a kind of fascinating little movie. I have seen it many times (first back in '85) and still find it a good watch (although most of my friends do not). In other words, this movie is not for everyone, but I thought it is quite interesting.
Some people mention movies like LORD OF THE RINGS and BLACK HAWK DOWN as
being extremely poor stories saved by their technical truimphs and
THE KEEP I can understand where they`re coming from . This is a visually
striking atmospheric movie with a rather confused and under developed
All the best aspects of THE KEEP are mainly to do with what`s on screen . Alex Thomson`s cinematography is awesome , check out the scene of the fishing boat sailing into the rising sun , or the full moon shining out from behind the clouds or that fantastic scene where Lutz looks into the cavern as the camera pans back for almost a full minute . Michael Mann brings an unspeakably doomladen atmosphere to the movie and manages a quite remarkable image featuring the initial appearance of Molasar . Considering the budget is only 6 million dollars the special effects are quite good for this scene featuring an image of smoke , light and a haunting soundtrack . Mind you this one of the very few instances where Tangerine Dreams synth soundtrack is successful , elsewhere in the movie it`s very inappropiate . The acting too is a mixed bag . Most of the cast are merely okay while Gabriel Byrne plays just about the most blood chilling and convincing Nazi I`ve ever seen in a movie , but Scott Glen is wooden and Ian McKellen gives an awful performance as Dr Cuza , a Jewish intellectual who seems to have all the speech patterns and mannerisms of a Hollywood producer . Having said that it is interesting to see McKellen play someone who goes through a character arc similar to the one Frodo goes through in THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Michael Mann`s treatment of the screenplay is far less successful than his directing . A gestapo death squad battle against a monster , er so who are we supposed to root for ? During the war even some hardened Waffen SS men despised these murder squads and this is echoed by the character interaction between Captain Woermann and Major Kaempffer . However it turns out Woermann has profoundly anti fascist ideals in a conversation with Dr Cuza which means he stops being a character and becomes a cliche . Was everyone in Germany at this time either a Nazi or an anti Nazi with no in between ? I just wish Mann had blurred the lines a little . It should also be pointed out that Woermann`s first words of dialogue actually do sound like they come from a Nazi stormtrooper which indicates Mann has written inconsistently for the character . Another serious error with the screenplay is that it`s never really explained who Glaeken and Molasar are . Some people have described Molasar as a Golem , but he`s not . A Golem is basically a clay statue from Jewish folklore not as is Molasar an ethereal being of great power . Of course it could be that because Molasar needs Cuza`s help he appears to Cuza as a Golem but once again this seems to confused a lot of people due to the script , and I`m puzzled as to how Glaeken fits into all this . When adapting a screenplay everything should be made clear on screen to everybody , not just to people who have read the source novel
I gave THE KEEP seven out of ten mainly due to the technical achievements ( Remember this only cost $6 million ) but a word of warning only watch this if it`s in a widescreen letterbox format . I saw this on Sky movies the other night and a poor quality scanned version was used which meant the visual impact was totally absent
The Keep is weird. It has extraordinary visuals and some powerful sequences,
but a bit too much of the action is tricky to follow because the scripting
is muddled and some of the dialogue is delivered in an inexpressive and
unclear manner. The film is based on a book by F. Paul Wilson, which is one
of my all-time favourite novels.
The action revolves around a forbidding Romanian fortress set in a hillside. It is occupied by German soldiers during WWII, but the soldiers are foolish enough to disturb some of the glowing crosses embedded into the walls. From within the keep, an ancient and powerful evil force is unleashed, and only a mysterious drifter called Glaeken (Scott Glenn) knows what it is and how to destroy it.
The scene in which the evil is released is brilliant. Two soldiers venture into the inner depths of the keep, and one is mutilated by the unseen power. Another terrifc scene involves old cripple Ian McKellen being given a new lease of youth by the evil force. There's also a beautiful and erotic love scene between Glenn and Alberta Watson. Other aspects of the film aren't so good. As mentioned, there's a lack of clarity in the story telling. Also, the final conflict between Glenn and the evil force is hasty and under-developed. The pace of the film suffers from a slow and rather uninspiring opening half-hour. However, genreally speaking, The Keep is worth watching, especially if you're a fan of the book.
I saw this film years ago and have searched for it over and over again. I have been a lover of Lovecraft for a long time and to me this film encapsulates the very best aspects of a Lovecraft story. No, by the way, it isn't one. But The Keep brings out the nature of the minds of men and the horror that anyone can possess inside. I agree with the last review that this film should not be viewed as horror or sci-fi though as a follower of both genres I have to say it holds my taste well. What I remember and am haunted by with this film is the overall aura, the bleak greyness, the compulsion 'it' draws out of those near it, and the question it ultimately asks of the viewer as well as the characters. There are many films out there like this one that have been pushed to the back burner and left obscure and to be honest and maybe a bit rude I think it is because they ask so much of the viewer. Movies such as The Last Wave, The Quiet Earth and such demand that you stop and become engulfed within your own mind. There are plenty of people out there like me that are smart and interested in the fringes of sanity and the crux of good vs evil. The other titles I listed have managed to make it onto DVD and yet this title has not. Maybe with more and more of Lovecrafts work making into the DVD viewing world there will be a place for more films like this one on the shelf again soon. I can only hope.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is really Michael Mann's "The Keep", not F. Paul Wilson's. It is
an interpretation of Wilson's novel, certainly not a slavish
adaptation. Mann dispenses with much of Wilson's exposition, and has
drastically rewritten scenes in order for them to exist solely as eye
and ear candy. He is aided and abetted by Tangerine Dream, who deliver
a hypnotic and surreal score.
The movie does not hold together narratively or dramatically, and the love story is forced and awful. Alex Thomson's cinematography, however, is mind-blowing -- worth singling out are the boat sequence, the scene in which the Molasar (the imprisoned evil) visits Dr. Cuza (Ian McKellen), and Scott Glenn's motorcycle ride through the forest. Mann is expert at creating powerful, transcendent visuals, and sometimes he even gets the drama right, too ("Heat", for example), but in "The Keep", he is overwhelmed by the material.
The film flopped badly when released, not surprisingly, but it is well worth seeing for its audacious set pieces and European visual style. A solid rewrite may have ironed out the confusion and strengthened the strained, awkward relationships between the characters.
Recommended with reservations.
This exciting movie is set during WW2 , when a detachment of the German
army (commanded by Jurgen Prochnow) is sent to guard a mysterious
Rumanian keep located on a strategic mountain pass in Carpathian Alps .
The Nazis ignore villagers' warnings and of a Ortodox monk (Robert
Prosky)about a weird presence inside. But one of the soldiers
unwittingly releases an unknown spirit trapped within the walls. As the
soldiers are mysteriously killed , the SS (Gabriel Byrne) arrives to
deal with that is thought to be partisan activity . What the SS
encounters, however, is an evil force trapped within the citadel, a
menace that will do anything to flee. With no way of combating the
force, the Nazis have no option but to seek the aid of a Jewish man
(Ian McKellen) and his daughter (Alberta Watson), who are both
knowledge about the keep and who can translate signs vital to combating
the rare menace . Meanwhile appears a strange man (Scott Glenn) with
supernatural power, an angel exterminator named Glaeken.
This fantastic movie packs action, violence, terror, suspense with creepy and eerie scenarios. The film is based on Paul Wilson novel , also screenwriter along with Michael Mann. Some versions include different endings and additional footage. The star-studded cast is well headed by Jurgen Prochnow, Scott Glenn and Ian McKellen and excellent plethora of secondaries as Gabriel Byrne, Robert Prosky, William Morgan Sheppard and a very secondary role by Bruce Payne and Roselie Crutchley. Impressive production design with breathtaking scenarios by John Box. Colorful cinematography with flog and fume and plenty of lights and dark by Alex Thomson. Eerie musical composed by means of synthesizer is made by Tangerine Dream (Christopher Frank, among others). The motion picture is professionally directed by Michael Mann, a successful director and usual screenwriter from the 80s with several hits (Manhunter,The last Mohican, Heat,Insider, Ali, Miami vice). The story will appeal to terror genre fans and WWII buffs.
A group of German soldiers led by Captain Klaus Woermann are sent to
take guard at a Keep near a Romanian pass. One of the soldiers believes
that a cross-embedded in the wall is made of silver and digs it out.
Only to release an evil presence, known as Molasar. It knocks off a
couple of soldiers every night. Sturmbahnfuhrer Kaempffer and his SS
patrol arrive in town to stop the problem. They believe it's simply
partisan activity, but they soon find out its far from it. So they get
the help of a Jewish man, Dr Theodore Cuza (along with his daughter
Eva) who knows a bit about this Keep. Meanwhile, a mysterious man,
Glaeken Trismegatus is on his way to stop this evil.
Wow! But huh? Yeah, after spending a long time trying to see this hybrid movie. I finally got the chance and it was a very flawed, but reasonable effort by director / writer Michael Mann. I remember reading the quite interesting and extremely unique premise and being totally compelled by the idea of it. I guess not reading F. Paul Wilson's novel is a bittersweet thing, as I came in with very little expectations, but on the on other hand I was left clueless about certain disjointed sub- plots. Anyhow It's Mann's vision we got. The material is terribly mangled, jadedly rushed and comes across as pure pulp. However it's Mann's surreal direction, Alex Thomson's arresting photography and the moody electronic music score by Tangerine Dream that clicks in this atmospheric combination of fantasy, war and horror.
Sure, there was interference by the studio in the final product (with a a lot of scenes hitting the cutting room floor), but Mann seemed more preoccupied with his visuals than with the plot and characters. They became nothing more than forgettable background features. The storyline was all over the ship with forced details (like the creation of evil entity) and a script riddled with confusing holes. There's an odd assortment of performances. Those who stood out were the humane German captain played by Jurgen Prochnow and Gabriel Byrne as the tyrant SS officer. Alberta Watson as Eva felt awkward and Ian McKellen was fine. However Glenn Scott looked as if he was somewhere else in a very laboured role as Glaeken Trismegatus. An intriguing character that had VERY little to do and was hard to understand.
Visually there are plenty of potently dreamy images that spontaneously pop up. There's sharp craftsmanship in depicting certain sequences that just stick in your mind. Like when Byrne's character encounters Molasar. Worked into this is a very effective score that works the emotions thoroughly and creates a very out-of-this-world vibe. What captures this layout beautifully is Thomson's photography. His always in the right spot to get that impressive shot and original angle that just lingers on screen. The special effects is a big (if over-extended) light show that has style and the monster design can look a bit rubbery, but eventually the monster design by Nick Maley does come off. Mann knows how to stage a visually powerful scene, but if your looking for suspense. There are very few build-ups and little scares at all. The pace is slow, but the eerie setting holds up tightly and has a huge impact in the overall feel.
It isn't perfect, but it's a really unusual and hypnotic good vs. evil opus by Mann.
Very interesting story line and special effects. The kind of movie you don't mind seeing over again (if you like spooky stuff). Good performances by all actors, some of whom have gone on to bigger and better things like Ian McClellan. Twists in the plot are unexpected and the mix of genre makes it interesting also: Nazis fighting other world type of creature. You also are never quite sure who is good and who is evil. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, the preparation for the battle of good and evil is interesting. This is the kind of movie that you initially do not expect much from, but are pleasantly surprised. Not sure why it is not on DVD.
A few of a detachment of German Army soldiers are mysteriously murdered
in a Romanian citadel - 1942. The SS arrives to investigate and put a
stop to the killings. However, there is an evil force at work within
the Keep which will do anything to escape.
The Keep is a high concept yarn. The initial find set up and shooting of the villagers are stand out moments. The visuals and effects are stylistic, strong lighting, wind machines, optical layers are very much of there day. The special make-up has a startling 'cool' look to it, the 'Molasar' and Trismegestus designs are particularly well executed. Notably are the cast which includes the likes of Gabriel Byrne and Robert Prosky. Jürgen Prochnow is on fine form as Captain Klaus Woermann, Scott Glenn is intense and Ian McKellen is memorable as Dr. Theodore Cuza. The sets are well crafted, the on location shoot adds credence to the WWII setting and costumes add to the believability.
Nevertheless, rather than being intriguing with a slow pace The Keep plods along without building any real tension or suspense. The editing is a little jumbled, it appears to be a mixture of good and bad takes leaving it somewhat disjointed especially in the final reel, it may have benefited from only using those 'good' takes with a shorter running time. Tangerine Dream's score is of its time but doesn't compliment the scenes, it's highly intrusive and takes away much of the atmosphere, subtlety and eeriness.
Even with director Michael Mann at the helm and given the excellent story based on F. Paul Wilson's novel and Mann's adequate screenplay it never gels together. It's not sure whether it wants to be an art house, MTV video piece or gritty supernatural. Should Mann had attempted this recently he may have been able to fuse it together satisfyingly. I suppose retrospect is a fine thing. Curiously, Mann's workprint ran for 3 hours, after the studio saw what he had they wanted it cut to no longer than 90 minutes and assigned it second-level advertising. Mann has since distanced himself from the film.
Through all its disjointedness The Keep is an interesting film with a strong mythical good versus evil theme that plays on old religious fables. Molasar (Michael Carter) is the most menacing evil entity/being ever committed to celluloid and it's a shame that this has fallen into obscurity robbing the character and The Keep of even cult status.
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