Friday, 6 August 2010


Part 5: The Keep
Year: 1981
Director: Michael Mann
Tagline: "They Were all Drawn to the Keep"
Starring: Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne, Juergen Prochnow, Ian McKellen, Robert Prosky, Alberta Watson

The Plot: It's 1941 and the Germans have arrived in Dinu Pass, Romania, a key tactical territory, and take up residence in an ancient castle. When a pair of rapacious soldiers chisel out one of the many silver crosses embedded in the walls, they unwittingly release a centuries-old evil. It proceeds to kill some of the soldiers each night, precipitating the arrival of the SS who naturally suspect partisans are at work. Meanwhile, in Greece, a mysterious man is alerted by the goings on in the pass, and begins his journey there.

The Actors: A real mixed bag. Gabriel Byrne and Juergen Prochnow are fine as the bastard and nice Germans respectively, but Scott Glenn's role is so mysterious and wordless that it could have really been played by anyone. McKellen and Watson are ok as the Jewish father and daughter enlisted by Prochnow to discover what's killing his men.

The Monster: Theories as to the nature of Molasar, the monster in The Keep, run abound on the internet. Ultimately, it boils down to the book by F. Paul Wilson upon which the film is based, which clearly defines the creature as a preternatural evil being upon which the vampire legends were probably based. When initially released, it takes on a gaseous form; presumably as it kills more people (by "sucking" their life energy from them) it acquires more power and eventually forms the muscular, red-eyed being you can see in the photo. Whether the creature is a physical embodiment of man's evil is another theory, which would presumably make the Scott Glenn character (also a non-human), the polar opposite. Special-effects-wise, the monster looks a bit rubbery, but the glowing eyes are still suitably creepy.

The Film: The Keep is generally acknowledged as a flawed masterpiece. Michael Mann, as you might expect, puts more effort into the visuals than anything else, and this makes for an eerily beautiful yet baffling movie. If you haven't read the book, I suggest you watch the film first, otherwise you will be even more disappointed. One bonus, however, is the superb music by Tangerine Dream, although it doesn't appear to be to everyone's taste!

Monster! Monster! Factor: eight out of ten


  1. I like the sound of this. I wonder if I can persuade the wife to watch it with me? Thanks for the heads-up, JD.

  2. my missus hated it. Mind you, her favourite movie is Dirty Dancing!

  3. I've heard about this one before, I've wanted to see it too, even more now!

  4. Caught it on Sky just recently. Great to see again after all these years, especially considering it's not even been available on DVD.

    I always thought the creature was revealed too much near the end. It was far more creepy when shrouded in smoke.

    The one shot I always remembered for years, and stood out brilliantly to set up the creepy ominous atmosphere, is that long pull-back into the cavern as they look through the small gap in the wall... The film is almost worth it for that shot alone. :-)