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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.77%
Worth A Look40.21%
Average: 3.09%
Pretty Bad: 17.53%
Total Crap: 13.4%

3 reviews, 79 user ratings

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Keep, The
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by Mel Valentin

"A "guilty pleasure" by any definition."
4 stars

Michael Mann's career has spanned television and film over four decades and close to forty years ("Miami Vice," "Ali," "The Insider," "Heat," "Last of the Mohicans," "Manhunter," "Thief"). Mann's first narrative film, "The Jericho Mile," it was a made-for-television feature-length film about an Olympic-level runner serving a life term in San Quentin, aired on ABC in 1979. Filmed on location (at considerable risk), "The Jericho Mile" was superlative, gripping drama. Two years later, Mann wrote and directed "Thief," an indie-level, urban crime film. For his follow-up effort, Mann decided to adapt F. Paul Wilson's bestselling period horror novel, "The Keep." It bombed with moviegoers and critics.

Set in 1941 as Nazi Germany consolidates its control over Western and Eastern Europe, The Keep follows Klaus Woermann (JŁrgen Prochnow), a captain in the German Wehrmacht, and his men as they arrive at an abandoned citadel in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. The ancient keep is unlike anything Woermann has ever seen. The keepís walls are embedded with one-hundred-and-eighty nickel crosses. Alexandru (William Morgan Sheppard), the village mason, claims the keep is haunted, but Woermann dismisses Alexandruís warning. Woermann recognizes, however, that the citadel was constructed to keep something from escaping rather than to keep invaders out. On the first night, the demon imprisoned inside the keep murders two soldiers. But thatís only the beginning. Each night, more soldiers die.

In response to Woermann's increasingly desperate pleas (and to get reassigned, which his superiors refuse), the German high command sends a detachment of SS (Einsatzkommandos) troops led by Major Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne) to the keep. Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne), suspects a more mundane, natural cause: anti-German partisans hiding in the Romanian village. A message scrawled in a dead language on a wall inside the keep, however, convince Woermann and Kaempffer to seek help in deciphering the message. Ironically, their only option is a Jewish medievalist, Dr. Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellen), and his daughter, Eva (Alberta Watson). In Greece, a mysterious stranger, Glaeken (Scott Glenn), heads to Romania, hoping to stop the demonís escape from the keep.

Viewers who expect verisimilitude with period war or period horror films will find a great deal to dislike with The Keep, especially the production design. Mann relied on German expressionistic set design (circa 1920s) as a baseline for the keepís artificial-looking interiors. More positively, Mannís decision to build the exteriors and the Romanian town in an abandoned quarry in Wales, England adds a level of realism otherwise missing from The Keep. Mann used construction cranes to move equipment and people to and from the set every day (a small price to pay for the eventual results onscreen).

Mann's stylistic choices make little aesthetic sense. Mann never met a smoke or fog machine he didn't like or feel compelled to use in just about every scene, needed or unneeded. Obscuring the interior sets makes sense, both aesthetically (for mood and atmosphere) and financially (the more smoke used, the less detailed the sets have to be). Mann also seems a fan of dramatic lighting, juxtaposing the angled walls of the citadel with angled lighting (presumably from the outside world) and, of course, slowly drifting smoke. Mann also uses smoke effects to keep the monster hidden from view, at least until the end, when the red-eyed demon's emergence reveals an actor in a hyper-muscular, rubber suit (it's as disappointing as it sounds).

Mann commissioned an anachronistic, non-classical score from electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream. The score is suitably moody, creating a semi-psychedelic, oneiric haze that often matches the smoke-and-lighting effects Mann uses repeatedly for scenes inside the keep. Tangerine Dream's score becomes borderline cheesy, however, when itís used to underline a seemingly endless procession of slow-motion shots (soldiers running toward the camera, soldiers running away from the camera, characters in an intimate embrace, etc.). Thereís another negative: Tangerine Dreamís score does little (actually, it does nothing) to suggest or maintain The Keepís more overt horror elements.

The mix of Gothic horror with World War II horrors may strike some viewers as callous, callow, and insensitive. That may be true, but if Steven Spielberg's adventure/fantasy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, proved that caricaturing Nazis could be highly profitable. The Keep, though, was a self-consciously serious film, art-horror if you prefer. There was none of the tongue-in-cheek humor found in Raiders of the Lost Ark to make The Keep more palatable to general audiences or to remind them that they were seeing fantasy not reality. Not surprisingly, The Keep failed at the box office, leading Mann to television work (e.g., Miami Vice) for several years before trying his hand again directing feature films with 1986's Manhunter (Hannibal Lecter's first appearance onscreen).

Ultimately, "The Keep" is a minor film by a major filmmaker, a misfire, an attempt by a talented filmmaker to try out an unfamiliar genre. That it almost works is a testament to Mann's abilities, but, as Mann himself has admitted in interviews, "The Keep" is a cautionary tale about filmmaking: going into production without a finished screenplay (alas, a lesson Mann forget when he brought "Miami Vice" to the big screen last year). It's difficult to imagine the long-rumored three-hour cut being appreciably better than the released version. Still, even with all its flaws, "The Keep" should have been available on DVD or Blu-Ray long ago (when so much inferior product is).

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originally posted: 01/12/07 06:51:34
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell best i remember it sucks i was 12 at the time 1 stars
4/03/17 Stephen M. St. Onge Mann took a great novel, and wrecked it by completely changing the villian. Incredibly bad. 2 stars
11/01/15 Scott Amundsen How Could So Much Go So Wrong So Fast? 2 stars
3/19/14 Nick Johansen Strangely addictive. Worth looking at for Prochnow, Byrne, and McKellen's performances 5 stars
3/19/12 Martin Incompetent rehash of well worn B-movie clichťs put together without style or sense. 1 stars
3/06/12 Donny Darko Could not be worse. 1 stars
11/27/11 Pete Weird movie. Michael Mann shouldn't do horror. Oddly watchable curiosity. Cool monster. 4 stars
12/29/09 IroQuois Thiis movie is great. Weinberg's infantile rant bares his nescience & favor of ADHD cinema. 5 stars
10/23/09 Gangster89 Throughout most of her life, she has been quiet and introverted. , 4 stars
9/29/09 Patrick Love what their is of this movie! Would love to see a directors cut! 5 stars
9/21/09 Matt Love this movie. Just watched my DVD transfer from VHS. Never gets old. 5 stars
6/25/09 sad person Funniest movie I've seen in a long time, sadly, unintentionally so. 2 stars
6/21/09 PATRICK RYAN Great movie, Would love to see a restored directors cut on DVD. Please Michael Mann 5 stars
6/02/09 Dr Zebby A film more about mood than narrative. Excellent photography & TD score. Judge for yourself 5 stars
4/27/09 Troy Excellent cast,Great visuals.A pity the studio butchered it. 5 stars
3/31/09 awalkingsatire this was bad. like, really really bad. freaky 80's techno soundtrack made me laugh. 2 stars
1/04/09 snOOze Weird, slow, dark, different, excellent. For cinema lovers only. 5 stars
12/15/08 Mark This film should not be confusing to anyone with an average IQ 4 stars
9/24/08 Mark A confusing, muddled mess of a story line. Annoying music and good actors in a BAD movie! 2 stars
2/13/08 John I really want a remastered directors cut to replace my laserdisc. HD DVD?? 5 stars
7/31/07 Allen Zbranek Love this movie... Where is the director's cut dvd? 5 stars
6/15/07 al smith stunning visuals and very atmospheric 4 stars
3/23/07 paul m i have all ways loved this movie .. .. it is od .. but that is what makesit grea 4 stars
2/21/07 Stephen An underrated film that's aged well. Needs some sort of Dvd treatment. 5 stars
1/06/07 Bill Visually, most beautiful film. Story good enuff for sequel. 4 stars
8/28/06 Gordon a gem....HAS to be seen widescreen........stylish 4 stars
7/17/06 mark movie is...but the soundtrack and imagery occasionally mesh to make it worth a look. 3 stars
6/20/06 michael jack shitersby would't know a good movie at any time. ihe's mentally challenged 4 stars
6/20/06 Jason Hyde an odd one. it looks great, but never quite gels the way it should. and the book was better 3 stars
5/19/06 lachlan you describing it as a"haunted nazi castle movie" demonstates the unreliability of your rev 4 stars
1/19/06 Don A classic that is under rated,a must see 5 stars
7/20/05 CDM Great German WW II vintage stuff 4 stars
4/12/05 David Fowler Brilliant, surreal horror! Magnificent visuals, cast, and Tangerine Dream score. Hypnotic!! 5 stars
4/03/05 Jack Sommersby An incoherent, laughable, disingenious adaptation of a brilliant novel. 1 stars
12/08/04 richard One of my top five movies 5 stars
11/01/04 Robert Has been awhile but memrable 4 stars
8/11/04 paul kierley jaw dropping, and not in the good sense! 2 stars
7/17/04 Trancedevio Much better than most people think! Great photography, music and cast. 4 stars
7/02/04 Anubis 67 Excellent 4 stars
6/29/04 Colin Foote Flawed due to agressive editing by the studio. But a very well shot film by Michael Mann. 4 stars
6/25/04 Jeff Great movie, I really liked it! 4 stars
6/20/04 donald palmer i thought that movie was exceptionally good and would highly recommend its viewing 5 stars
5/28/04 Paul Brilliant 5 stars
12/06/03 dave lalibertte great supernatural horror flick 5 stars
11/02/03 Dynamike Good overcomes Evil. that was re-generated from the evil that lay within the SS 4 stars
10/12/03 Himself The cinematography and cast are great! 5 stars
10/05/03 john holdsworth totally amazing film, a must see. 5 stars
9/06/03 andy firth its not that bad! 4 stars
8/20/03 zrski I liked the music and sound in general. 4 stars
7/14/03 Bentcat Never compare movies to books, they are separate artforms entirely-Cinematography Right On 4 stars
6/01/03 Guapa I loved this movie... 5 stars
4/27/03 jesse x watched 3 times to see if i'm missing something - i'm not.. read the book. 2 stars
2/21/03 anthony harrison number 3 in my list of best films i have ever seen in my life..bluw me away!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/08/03 Charles Tatum All style, no script 2 stars
1/23/03 Al Van Great Score, Some Great Visuals (Hey folks this was PRE-CGI) 4 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby Incomprehensible, crappy adaption of magnificent novel. 1 stars
12/23/02 Marcelo I love the scene when soldier runs toward the cross, forget the rest... 2 stars
11/20/02 Darrell Z. Epic flick, but the "BitchSlap" review is better. 4 stars
10/13/02 Blodge Beautiful cinematography, very atmospheric. Book is better. 4 stars
9/15/02 The Watcher Not quite a true story as told by my grandfather, but close enough 5 stars
8/23/02 Lee Harris A superb movie, wonderful music and great atmosphere. The book of course is even better! 5 stars
7/04/02 corgi to military history buffs, the german uniforms, insignia, vehicles, etc. are letter perfect 3 stars
6/25/02 Bat This movie is a lot better then people say. The score is probably the best in the world. 5 stars
6/21/02 Kirsty Watched this years ago.found the soundtrack fantastic and the film unusual. Bought it! 4 stars
6/17/02 William Scalia By today's standard's of creativity, this film is a masterpiece. 4 stars
6/07/02 Joe Robinson Very good Movie. 4 stars
2/21/02 Thomas James Ramsbottom The book is better, but the film has one saving grace: the majestic introduction of Molasar 4 stars
2/13/02 George Rottman I really enjoyed this one, regardless of the "experts" 2 stars
1/30/02 james irvin Quite a good movie. great beginning but it does fade near the end. 4 stars
1/10/02 frank Somewhat of an oddity but good 4 stars
12/11/01 robert Creates a stunning atmosphere - I love it. 4 stars
11/22/01 donna interesting and different 4 stars
9/15/01 Eric Total wreck of a film. Laughable score. It butchers F. Paul Wilson's brilliant novel. 1 stars
7/18/01 Paulette I'd really like to see it again. 5 stars
5/02/01 Gregg Hollins This is a very hard to find movie but it is a good one to see. This is not main stream 4 stars
1/26/01 Bodhi Great visuals,great athmosphere,overly serious,silly performances but interesting. 4 stars
1/24/01 realityflaw To understand the story you should read the book.They did the best they could in 1&1/2 hrs. 4 stars
8/04/00 Sillyboy Silly crap but semi-watchable thanks to a good cast and some nice visuals. 2 stars
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  16-Dec-1983 (R)



Directed by
  Michael Mann

Written by
  Michael Mann

  Scott Glenn
  Alberta Watson
  Jurgen Prochnow
  Robert Prosky
  Gabriel Byrne
  Ian McKellen

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