The Keep
1983
Director Michael Mann's visual artistry is highlighted in this 1983 horror outing starring Jürgen Prochnow as Capt. Klaus Woermann, whose German soldiers are slain by an ancient spirit after they commandeer a Romanian castle during World War II. Jewish scholar Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellen) is forced to investigate and wants to unleash the demon to decimate the Nazis, but an enigmatic wanderer (Scott Glenn) intends to keep the evil contained.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

I watched this 80's horror flick because I wanted to see more of director and screenwriter Michael Mann's early work, but apparently he disowned this after more than half of the running time was cut by the studio. That explains some of the frustratingly underdeveloped subplots, like a man and woman shown passionately in love (and in bed) after a single brief meeting. Mann's visual flourishes are still striking, and even this early in his career, he was more focused on evoking complex moods than advancing his own plot, which it helps to know going in if you want to enjoy the film. An eerie synthesizer score by Tangerine Dream is not everybody's cup of tea, but I liked it.

There's some good material here, like Ian McKellen as a decent but tortured scholar who gives in to one evil in order to stop another, and a running moral debate between two Nazis that, for once, shows some nuance between officers of the Third Reich instead of treating them all like interchangable one-dimensional stock villains as other B-movies do. But the movie is harmed considerably by its main character, a superhuman traveler whose powers, motives, and existence are never explained, presumably because of trims by the studio, and Scott Glenn's stoic performance weighs down every scene he's in like a rock. You can see some elements of Mann's later successes in this work, but thank goodness he learned from his mistakes too.

− December 28, 2012 • more by Scottlog in or create an account to reply

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