They were all drawn to The Keep

On 21st Feburay, we are please to team up with Electric Sheep Magazine and bring you Michael Mann’s otherworldly dream-horror THE KEEP on 35mm at the Prince Charles CinemaIn advance of which, Shellie Gray sits down with the Keep for the first time, unaware of exactly what it holds within. 

Before Magneto and Gandalf, Ian McKellan starred in The Keep; a relatively forgotten film from Michael Mann, director of Heat and The Last of the Mohicans. Although perhaps not as accomplished as his later films, Mann’s The Keep is a nice slice of early 80s cult filmic pie, complete with a synthy, dreamlike filling.

“We are now the masters of the world!” states a later quite likeable, although woefully misinformed Nazi Officer, grinning to his cohort, as a small group of German soldiers arrive in a quaint Romanian village. He says it in that brash and overconfident tone often used before being beaten, stabbed, maimed or mutilated in a film, however after noting the curious backwards construction of the keep in which he intends to spend a few days, and finding bits of his comrades all over the place the following morning, it would be safe to say, Captain Woermann, with his wonderfully melancholy face, possibly recanted that grandiose statement.


Prior to meeting the force that lives within the keep’s walls, we are faced with the building itself. Wonderfully daunting, full of long corridors that serve up a foreboding claustrophobia, it is, itself one of the villains of the film, along with Gabriel Byrne‘s chilling blue eyed Nazi Major and Molasar, the sadly under explored supernatural creature the keep holds prisoner.

It is true that the first time I viewed this film, I did so with a critical eye and felt it was lacking. If you find yourself in this camp I would urge you to watch the film as if you are in a dreamscape, Tangerine Dream’s soundtrack aiding the gauzy quality. Let the film float around you like a much less malevolent version of the fog accompanying the great Molasar. One could compare The Keep to Fulci‘s The Beyond, in the way that it is truly enjoyable and spectacular in its visuals and atmosphere, if you just don’t cling to the idea of a linear and ‘by the book’ plot line!


The Keep contains some truly beautiful and haunting scenes, such as when Molasar saves Ian McKellan’s daughter (Alberta Watson) from two overly amorous Nazi’s and carries her back to her room. The two are sheathed in smoke and fog billowing around them in a beautiful rendition of the classic monster and maiden pose.


One of the undoings of the film is that it was originally two hours longer, and having been cut, seems to fall short on explaining some of the more intriguing elements of the narrative, such as the mysterious character with alarmingly purple eyes played by Scott Allen. An important thing to note is that a DVD release is not on the cards for The Keep, with Director Michael Mann practically disowning the film due to studio interference. The only way you can have a physical copy of this forgotten gem is to track it down on VHS or Laserdisc.


The Keep is a nice solid and beautifully atmospheric film, with the occasional what the actual fuck moment. However, like I said previously, dreams often don’t come with in-depth explanations, so the best thing to do is strap in and enjoy the light show!


Tickets available here


One thought on “They were all drawn to The Keep

  1. was on film 4 in HD last night! Deviates considerably from the book, still, it’s an enjoyable piece of 80’s fantasy, flawed for sure, but it would make a decent mini series if HBO remade it now.

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