I’m not a historian or a military buff, so I had very few obvious reference points when I started writing THE FRONT: RED DEVILS (which was released this week, in case I hadn’t mentioned). Much of the second half of the book is set in the fictional surrounds of a concentration camp at Polonezköy, Poland. I had a very clear image in my head of how parts of the camp would look, and that got me thinking about a long-forgotten horror movie I’d always planned to watch but hadn’t been able to locate. That movie was MICHAEL MANN’S THE KEEP. Whilst not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, I certainly enjoyed it enough to recommend it to you here.
It is World War II in German-occupied Romania. Nazi soldiers have been sent to garrison a mysterious fortress, but a nightmarish discovery is soon made. The Keep was not built to keep anything out. The massive structure was, in fact, built to keep something in…
Long before MIAMI VICE, HEAT, MANHUNTER and LAST OF THE MOHICANS, Michael Mann wrote and directed THE KEEP from a novel by F. PAUL WILSON. Legend has it he turned in a three hour cut of the movie to Paramount, which was subsequently hacked down to a running time of half that length. And it shows. THE KEEP is a bizarre, incomprehensible mess of a movie, but it looks great and it’s certainly entertaining to watch.
With a strong cast (including SCOTT GLENN, JÜRGEN PROCHNOW, GABRIEL BYRNE and IAN MCKELLEN), it’s a visually compelling movie which bears many of Mann’s trademarks – moody 1980s synth soundtrack (by TANGERINE DREAM, no less), loads of dry ice, etc. It also has some eighties horror movie staples, including rubber monsters with glowing red eyes. All good stuff, but it makes a film about Nazis and demons set in the 1940s feel remarkably confused.
Given the issues the director experienced with the studio, it’s clear THE KEEP could, and should, have been a very different movie. The version we have is, unfortunately, a real disappointment and a missed opportunity. It disappeared for decades (presumably because it wasn’t good enough, or wasn’t ‘so bad it’s good’ enough to warrant much of a distribution), but it’s freely available now and can be streamed on Amazon and YouTube etc. It’s definitely worth an hour and a half of your time.
And if I may be so bold… if you do have a little time to kill, why not check out THE FRONT: RED DEVILS too?