Saturday, 16 February 2013

No.70 : The Keep

The Keep at IMDb

Nazis and the occult are well worn bedfellows in the movies with largely forgettable results. I’d never seen the 1983 effort ‘The Keep’ before, but it was better than I anticipated, though not by much.

The film opens with Jurgen Prochnow leading a group of German soldiers to a castle in a remote part of Romania. The war has yet to touch this area and he’s happy to be given this backwater job rather than a place on the Russian front. His men however are less thankful and use the soft posting as grounds to scare the locals and pillage what they can from ‘the keep’ - basically the prison bit of the castle.

The men soon disregard their ‘no looting’ orders and pry silver crosses from the brickwork. One cross stays stubborn, and when forced it brings a full stone block from the wall with it. This new gap opens into a massive chamber, which is well realised as the camera pulls back to reveal its scale. The new opening awakes something that has lain dormant in the keep and it wastes no time in getting out and frying its liberators.

Jurgen and a typically nasty SS man start an investigation into the deaths and to an inscription they find painted on the wall. They determine the best man to answer the questions they have is Ian McKellan who is presently languishing in a concentration camp. In the very next scene he’s at the keep with his daughter and translating doom for all. Meanwhile Scott Glenn awakens in Greece to a bad case of glowing eyes and heads towards the keep himself.

McKellan manages to make contact with the monster and is told that if he can remove an artefact from the keep the beast will no longer be anchored there and will rid the world of Nazis. To demonstrate his power he makes McKellan go all Benjamin Button and the old man sheds 40 years in seconds. He initially keeps his wheelchair though - possibly worried that it’ll affect his benefits.

Glenn by now has shown up and after boffing McKellan’s daughter gets shot up by the SS man, revealing green blood. He falls into a pit but no doubt he’ll still have a part to play. With all the Keep based Nazis dead, including Jurgen and Gabriel Byrne in a funny haircut, McKellan makes for the door with the monster restricting device. Should his quest to rid the world of Nazis be achieved at any cost or are some prices too high to pay?

If you don’t take it seriously ‘The Keep’ is a lot of fun. Seemingly director Michael Mann disowned the film after his 3 hour cut was halved but I think in this case the studio called it right. 90 minutes of crappy dialogue and ropey special effects is fine, but 3 hours would be taking the piss.

The whole film has an 80s aesthetic from the daughter’s big hair to the totally inappropriate synth soundtrack from Tangerine Dream. The effects, as they are, are mostly post-production additions of light and lasers and frankly they make ‘Flash Gordon’ look like ‘Avatar’. The same reversing smoke effect is used frequently but you wished they’d used it more when the monster is full revealed - he looks like one of those ‘Slam Man’ training dummies.

McKellan does OK with his preposterous dialogue and he seems to be enjoying himself, hamming it up for all he’s worth. His ‘old man’ make up is rubbish and it’s no surprise when he’s ‘transformed’ into his younger self. Glenn’s role is underwritten and I imagine a lot of his character development was lost in the edit. He basically gets the bright eyes, shags McKellan’s daughter , gets shot and then saves the day. A good day’s work you may think, but he seems totally anonymous when mysterious was being sought.

‘The Keep’ is no classic but good fun and fast moving, and well worth a look.

THE Tag Line : One to Keep (as a guilty pleasure) 70%

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