The 1997 film The Keep directed by Michael Mann, based on the novel of the same name by F. Paul Wilson, has always been a memorable movie for me. Everything from the movie poster, the Romanian countryside and village, to the visuals within the keep itself has stuck with me for years. Add in such actors as Jürgen Prochnow, Scott Glenn and Ian McKellen, as well as a hard to come by soundtrack by Tangerine Dream and you have something that definitely stands out as a unique experience.
The movie focuses on a Romanian keep just outside a small village that is newly occupied by the Germans in World War II, led by Captain Klaus Woemann, awesomely played by Jürgen Prochnow (Jürgen’s next role is as Duke Leto Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune, my favorite role of his),probably the best character in the entire film; his speeches alone are worth seeing. The keep is not a fortress, but a prison and imprisons a demon, who through negligence on the part of two German soldiers, is released. Each day new German soldiers are killed and the villagers are blamed for it, and even executed, in an attempt to stop the killings. When later a mysterious message is found written on a wall, a Jewish historian, currently in a death camp, is brought in to decipher it in a further attempt to stop the killings.
The demon however deceives the historian, played by Ian McKellen, after saving his daughter from an attack by two German soldiers, and convinces the historian to help him, to take the talisman that keeps him imprisoned within the walls of the keep, outside it and into the mountains where it is to be hidden, thereby forever freeing him from his prison.
A stranger, played by Scott Glenn, is the only one who can stop the demon, he senses the release and sets off for the keep to stop the demon from ever being allowed to step outside. The ending confrontation has two endings, one in the theatrical release, and one longer sequence only seen in the extended edition released on LaserDisc. Sadly, this movie has yet to see a DVD release.
The soundtrack is a unique one for this type of movie which is part gothic horror, part WWII, and the melodious tracks heard very obviously in certain scenes, seem both appropriate and somewhat inappropriate at the same time, part of the Mann envisioning. Only 3 of the 16 tracks on the soundtrack actually appear in the film.
The effects are on par for the time, very similar to those you would find in other sci-fi and space movies such as Return Of The Jedi and Krull, which were released earlier the same year.
It is unfortunate this movie has not seen its full directors cut, at over 3 hours in length, ever released, so a reading of the book is helpful to fill in some gaps. An excellent fan site can be found at http://www.the-keep.ath.cx/default_en.htm.