The Keep (film)

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The Keep
Original film poster for The Keep
Directed by Michael Mann
Produced by
Screenplay by Michael Mann
Based on
Music by Tangerine Dream
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Edited by
  • Dov Hoenig
  • Chris Kelley
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 16 December 1983 (1983-12-16)
Running time
96 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6,000,000 (est.)
Box office $3,661,757 (USA)

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).


Within an uninhabited citadel (the “Keep” of the title) in World War II-era 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 under the command of Capt. Klaus Woermann 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 under the command of sadistic SD Sturmbannführer Eric Kaempffer 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, Prof. 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 by feeding on their essence, 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.




The sets for the Romanian village were built at the disused Glyn Rhonwy quarry, a former slate quarry near Llanberis in North Wales.[1] Some interiors of the keep utilised the stonework within the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near Blaenau Ffestiniog. Due to heavy rain, the film suffered significant delays in its shooting schedule.[2] Shepperton Studios near London was used for interior Keep scenes featuring the demon Molasar. A secondary crew also went to Spain for footage depicting Greece.

The special effects for the creature were made by Nick Maley, helped by Nick Allder, who had previously worked on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back.[3] Molasar was conceived by Enki Bilal.


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, composed by Tangerine Dream. Most notably, an ambient cover of Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air" was featured during the end sequence of the film. Additionally, Tangerine Dream's arrangement of the song "Gloria" from Mass for Four Voices by Thomas Tallis 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. A limited run of 150 original soundtrack CDs were sold at a concert by the group in the UK in 1997, and Virgin Records soon announced that the album would be available for general release in early 1998, but legal issues with the film studio stopped the release. The full score can be found in the laserdisc and VHS versions of the film.


The film, extensively cut by the studio from its original over three hours of runtime[4][5][6][7][8] to just over one-and-half hour, was given a limited release theatrically in the United States by Paramount Pictures on 16 December 1983. It grossed $4,218,594 at the domestic box office.[9] A board game based on the film was designed by James D. Griffin and published by Mayfair Games.[10] Under their Role Aids label, Mayfair Games also produced a role-playing game adventure based on The Keep.[11]

The film was released on laserdisc and VHS by Paramount Home Video.[12] As of 2015, 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 and available on Netflix (UK and Ireland), streaming with the Tangerine Dream soundtrack.


The Keep has received generally negative reviews, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 31%.[13]

Michael Nordine in the LA Weekly stated The Keep "can’t always keep its many moving parts in lockstep, what with its hinted-at mythos that obscures more than it elucidates and its cast of enigmatic characters whose precise dealings with one another are never made entirely clear". However Nordine praised Mann's direction, saying it showed "Mann's... rare ability to elevate ostensibly schlocky material into something dark and majestic".[14]

F. Paul Wilson has publicly expressed his distaste for the film version, writing in the short story collection The Barrens (and Others) that it is "Visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible." In the foreword of the graphic novel adaptation, he expressed disappointment, claiming to have created the comic "Because I consider this visual presentation of THE KEEP my version of the movie, what could have been...what should have been."


  1. ^ "Anyone work on ‘The Keep’ in 1980s". Life in the Vertical. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  2. ^ McKellen, Ian. "The Keep: Notes by Ian McKellen". 
  3. ^ Everitt, David (1984). "The creature effects of The Keep" (PDF). Fangoria (O'Quinn Studios Inc.) (33): 20–23. ISSN 0164-2111. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  4. ^ Navarro, Alex (5 January 2011). "It Came from My Instant Queue: The Keep". Screened. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Movie Of The Day: The Keep". Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Anderson, Kyle (21 November 2013). "Schlock & Awe: THE KEEP « Nerdist". Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Horror Reviews - Keep, The (1983)". 19 October 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Will we ever see The Keep on Blu-ray?". Den of Geek. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Keep". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Keep boardgame". Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Company Credits for The Keep". Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  13. ^ "The Keep Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Michael Nordine, Michael Mann's Long Lost Film "The Keep" Rises Again, LA Weekly,August 22, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2015.

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