The Keep is a 1983 horror film directed by Michael Mann and starring Scott Glenn, Gabriel Byrne, Jürgen Prochnow, Alberta Watson and Ian McKellen. It was released by Paramount Pictures. The story is based on the F. Paul Wilson novel of the same name, published in 1981 (1982 in the United Kingdom). Despite being a critical and commercial failure, it retained a cult following, mostly due to the film’s music score by Tangerine Dream and the film’s mixture of Gothic horror and World War II elements.
Wilson has publicly expressed his distaste for the film version, writing in the short story collection The Barren (and Others) that it is, “Visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible.”
Within an uninhabited citadel (the “Keep” of the title) in World War II Romania lies entrapped a dangerous entity named Radu Molasar. The inner walls of the citadel contain 108 T-shaped icons, supposedly made of nickel. When the German Army occupies the castle to control the Dinu Mountain Pass following the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, Molasar is unleashed by a pair of looting soldiers who identify one glowing icon as being made of silver. In the ensuing days, Molasar kills several soldiers. A detachment of Einsatzkommandos then arrives to deal with what is thought to be partisan activity, executing villagers as collective punishment.
At the instigation of the local priest, the Germans retrieve a Jewish historian, Professor Theodore Cuza, from a concentration camp. He deciphers a mysterious message emblazoned on a wall of the citadel. Molasar saves the professor's daughter, Eva Cuza, from sexual assault by two Einsatzkommandos, and then enlists the aid of her grateful father to escape. Cuza is also cured of his debilitating scleroderma by the touch of Molasar and therefore becomes doubly indebted to the entity, who is taking on a solid form. However, a mysterious stranger named Glaeken suddenly arrives to foil this plan. After an unsuccessful attempt by the professor to have the stranger stopped, the two supernatural beings confront each other. Molasar, who is not perturbed by Christian crosses, is weakened and drawn back into the innermost recesses. Glaeken is transfixed, taking the place of the seal that was broken by the German looters.
- Scott Glenn as Glaeken Trismegestus
- Alberta Watson as Eva Cuza
- Jürgen Prochnow as Captain Klaus Woermann
- Robert Prosky as Father Fonescu
- Gabriel Byrne as SD Sturmbannführer Eric Kaempffer
- Ian McKellen as Dr. Theodore Cuza
- W. Morgan Sheppard as Alexandru
- Royston Tickner as Tomescu
- Michael Carter as Radu Molasar
- Bruce Payne as Border Guard
The sets for the Romanian village were built at the disused Glyn Rhonwy quarry, a former slate quarry near Llanberis in North Wales. Some interiors of the Keep utilised the stonework within the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near Blaenau Ffestiniog. However due to heavy rain, the film suffered significant delays in its shooting schedule. The special effects for the creature were made by Nick Maley, helped by Nick Allder, who had previously worked on Alien and Empire Strikes Back.
Molasar was conceived by Enki Bilal. The Keep was filmed between July - August 1982.
The theme and incidental music was composed by Tangerine Dream. The band previously worked with Michael Mann on his first theatrical film Thief. The score to The Keep is primarily made up of moody soundscapes as opposed to straightforward music cues. However, music is still present in the film. Most notably, an ambient cover of Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air" was featured during the end sequence of the film. Additionally, a new arrangement of the song "Gloria" from Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd can also be heard in the film.
Due to rights issues, the version of the film that is currently available on streaming media sites contains a different score than its original release. The original soundtrack had a limited release in 1997, with a Virgin Records release to follow. However, this subsequent release was abandoned. The full score can be found in the laserdisc and VHS versions of the film.
The film was released on laserdisc and VHS by Paramount Home Video. As of 2013, the film has not been officially released on DVD or Blu-ray Disc in any country, but is available for streaming on Amazon instant video with a drastically different soundtrack than it's original release.
A board game based on the film was designed by James D. Griffin and published by Mayfair Games.
The Keep has received generally negative reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 27%.