June 28, 2009

THE KEEP (1983) on the big screen in London

Michael Mann needs little introduction, but seeing this, his second feature is ridiculously hard. The Keep, is to get two rare screenings at London's BFI South Bank in August. It's a horror film set in World War 2, and pits a troop of Nazis against an ancient evil in a Transylvanian castle...

Mixing gothic horror with science fiction, using synthesiser band Tangerine Dream on a period film, and an extensive last-minute re-edit all lead to disfavour with critics and audiences alike. An unusual cast included Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot, Judge Dredd), Scott Glenn (The Right Stuff) and an early film role for Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings). But the rocky locations, gigantic sets and extensive special effects keep this unique film suspenseful, atmospheric and repeatedly eye-opening.

I saw it first time around on a limited UK cinema release, and expected it would always be around on home video. But the 2.35 widescreen cinematography (a Michael Mann trademark) has only been seen on the laserdisc release. Hopefully, one day, he'll have to time to remaster this for DVD. But in the meantime...

There will be two screenings in NFT3 on August 4th and 9th. For more details, keep your eyes peeled on the BFI website. I'll do a full Black
Hole review after seeing it again.

For a heap more info on The Keep, there's this extensive fansite, which is still promoting the aborted London screening of January 2008, which was hoped would prompt a debut on DVD.

There's more here on the Michael Mann fansite, Manhunter.net.

Here's a very cramped-looking full-frame trailer...


  1. You forgot a young Gabriel Byrne as the Nazi officer!

    I actually saw this one in the theater when it came out. Parts of it are very beautiful and spooky, but overall it's kind of a mess. I suspect that somehow the editing/cutting is responsible. It's always a bad sign when there are scenes in the advertising or trailers that aren't in the finished product. I distinctly remember things in the trailer that didn't make it to the theatrical release.

    By the way, this shows up on cable occasionally, so keep an eye open for it if you're interested.

  2. I'm still holding out for it on DVD.. possibly when michael Mann has finished re-editing all his other movies...

  3. This film would have been hailed as a classic, had the studio, not cut out an hour and a half of footage, from the film, and let Mann, finish the damn picture properly. Because we only have the 96minute version,(which we dont really have at all,even that abridged version is not officially available) the film flopped, and will probably never see the light of day again. What a loss!! I used to think there was some chance of a directors cut, which could somehow alleviate some of the damage done to the narrative of the film, which in the 96minute version is practically incoherent to most people who see it for the first time, but as time goes on, I see this becoming less, and less, likely. I think the suits at Paramount regard it as an "un-marketable" film, which means the kiss of death for any Picture, unfortunately. So, Untill the second coming of Jesus Christ manages to change all this, well just have to wait.

  4. Would absolutely love to see a restored directors cut of The Keep. Saw it first as a teenager and I seem to remember more dialog scenes between Molosar and Cuza than are in the version I currently own. There is a site called Kingdom Chronos and the guy on there who reviewed the keep claims to have actually seen the directors cut of the film which he says he actually downloaded from a torrent on the net. I find this claim dubious but I believe that there was a vhs available for a time which contained more scenes from the original cut.My local video shop had a vhs tape which did contain one or two scenes that arent in the version I own at the moment. One scene was at the end with glenn scott surviving the confrontation with Molosar and fleeinhg on a boat at the end.Of more interest, there was another scene when Molosar and Glaeken come face to face near the end of the movie. This scene is near the end of the movie where both Gleken and Molosar appear in the same frame, for the very first time in the film, Molosar starts to back off Eva and her father when he sees Glaeken and retreat back into the rear of the keep. As both characters are come within a couple of feet of each other, there is a shot where, as i said, both appear in the same frame for the first time and Molosar seems to point back behind Gleken to Eva cuza(this is visible in most versions of the film, albeit it is hard to see because of the lighting and quality of copies available today). Glaeken looks back over his shoulder at Eva, at this point, in the version I saw, Molosar speaks, as he points to Eva and I seem to remember the dialog consisted of Molosar saying that he can see Evas essence was all over Glaeken or,(and) "you care for her?!?!" or something to that effect, which cues Glaeken to look back at her over his shoulder. There is then further dialog between the two where Molosar references what Glaeken spoke about earlier in the film to EVa Cuza about how when Molosar goes, he goes and Molosar attempts to convince Glaeken that there is no need for confrontation and that he can have the woman(Eva). In the version of the film I currently own, the sequence of dialog is totally missing, although you do see Molosar point back at Eva and you do see Glaeken take one last mournful look over his shoulder before the "duel", the dialog is utterly gone. Why, is anyones guess, but I am quite sure that I saw that scene on that old vhs in my local videoshop. I dont believe the cut I saw was a directors cut but it definately contained some different scenes to the one I currently have, which seems to be the most widely seen and the most incoherent. I specifically remember that Glaeken and Molosar did speak to each other just before they fought, at the end of the movie, and there was a revelation from Molosars lips where he makes it clear that he does not want to fight Gleken because he knows that if he destroys Glaeken, he will be destroyed himself, this mirrors what Glaeken told Eva earlier on in the film when he says "when he goes, I go!". I also remember how Molosar was reluctant to fight with Glaeken and I remeber him trying to talk him out of it and using Eva to bait Galeken, there is a moment of hesitation on Glekens part but he is resigned to his mission in the end.I wish now that I had never returned that video tape but at the time I didnt know that it would become so hard to find these days. I also seem to remember that there were more scenes with Cuza and Molosar talking to each other than the one short scene whewre Cuza initiates his pact with Molosar but I dont remember the details of them.

  5. Wow. I'd expect an alternate, earlier version of THE KEEP to be full of similar surprises. Far more different than BLADE RUNNER, for instance.

  6. I loved this movie. I mean, who could complain about a fantasy gothic horror science fiction world war 2 film with Nazis? It had some truly memorable sequences, and some really nice "gotchas".

    Its interesting to hear of all the different versions that are out there - I've definitely seen the longer version, but would absolutely have loved to have seen it the way Mann originally intended.

    Terribly under-rated, like so many other cross-genre films.