Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1983
Directed by
Michael Mann
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Keep

It's WWII and a detachment of Wehrmacht soldiers under the command of Captain Woermann (Jurgen Prochnow) occupy a fortress on the Romanian border in order to guard against an attack by  Russian forces. The soldiers attempt to loot the mysterious structure but in so doing release a supernatural force that starts killing them.  An SS contingent arrives and their commander (Gabriel Byrne) believes that the villagers are responsible for the murders and so begins executing them.  When this doesn’t stop the murders the village priest (Robert Prosky) brings in an ailing Jewish linguist Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellen) to decipher a script in a dead Romanian language on The Keep’s wall. The creature appears to Cuza, cures him and appeals to him to help him escape his incarceration so that it can wipe out the Nazi evil.  But then a stranger (Scott Glenn) appears and asks Cuza’s daughter (Alberta Watson) to help him destroy the greater evil of the creature.

Michael Mann began his film-making career in the late 1970s with TV cop shows like Starsky and Hutch before making his feature debut with the impressive crime thriller, The Thief, in 1981. His follow-up, The Keep, a Dr Who/Twilight Zone-ish yarn which was based on a 1981 novel by F. Paul Wilson may please sci-fi/horror/sci-fi geeks but will probably leave most fans of Mann’s characteristically high gloss style unimpressed.

For what it is the film is well made with an economical but effective production design, Tangerine Dream’s electronic thrummings creating a forebodingly other-worldy atmosphere and a cast which, at least in hindsight, is remarkably good. But Mann seems ill-suited to the material and the result is as if the ghost of Ed Wood somehow led him into self-parody.  Whilst the core idea of Naziism being a manifestation of occult evil is quite interesting this potential isn’t really borne out by Mann’s script which is borderline incomprehensible or his direction which lacks force.

Mann fails to imbue events with any dramatic conviction whilst the ham-acting which affects virtually the entire cast but especially Ian McKellen and Scott Glenn (although Byrne is surprisingly good as a sadistic SS officer) only serves to undermine the credibility of what we see. Indeed at times it is laughable.

Depending on perspective The Keep needed to be a lot worse or a lot better. As it is a lot of effort has been expended for not a lot of gain.

Available from: Viavision




Want something different?

random vintage best worst