The Keep (film)

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The Keep
Original film poster for The Keep
Directed byMichael Mann
Screenplay byMichael Mann
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyAlex Thomson
Edited by
  • Dov Hoenig
  • Chris Kelley
Music byTangerine Dream
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • 16 December 1983 (1983-12-16)
Running time
  • 96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$6,000,000 (est.)
Box office$3,661,757 (USA)

The Keep is a 1983 British horror film written and 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, originally published in 1981.[1]


Following the commencement of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, a motorized Gebirgsjäger unit of the Wehrmacht under the command of Captain Klaus Woermann and his adjutant, Sergeant Dietrich Oster, occupies an uninhabited citadel – simply known as 'the Keep' – near a village in Romania to control the Dinu Mountain Pass in the Carpathian Mountains. Two German soldiers, privates Lutz and Anton, attempt to loot a metallic icon within the keep but accidentally unleash a spectral entity, which kills them. The being, known as Radu Molasar, proceeds to kill five more soldiers in the following days and begins to take corporeal form. A detachment of SS Einsatzkommandos under the command of the sadistic SD Sturmbannführer Erich Kaempffer arrives to deal with what is thought to be partisan activity, executing three villagers as collective punishment and taking other five as hostages, despite Woermann's protests.

At the instigation of the local village priest, Father Mihail Fonescu, the Germans retrieve an ailing Jewish historian, Prof. Theodore Cuza, from a concentration camp. He deciphers a mysterious message written in Old Slavonic using the Glagolitic alphabet emblazoned on a wall of the citadel before Molasar saves the professor's daughter, Eva, from sexual assault by two Einsatzkommandos and cures Cuza of his debilitating scleroderma by touch. The professor becomes indebted to the entity who demands that Cuza remove a talisman from the keep so that Molasar can escape its confines.

Having remotely sensed Molasar's presence, a mysterious stranger named Glaeken Trismegestus arrives from Greece, seducing Eva and incurring the professor's ire. The malign power of Molasar begins to affect the villagers, seemingly driving them mad. After an unsuccessful attempt by the professor to have the stranger stopped, Kaempffer and Woermann clash over the former's sadistic crimes; Woermann furiously denounces the Nazis, claiming that the monster hunting them is a reflection of their evil. When their conversation is suddenly interrupted by the sound of horrible screams and machine gun fire coming from the keep's inner courtyard, Woermman is shot and killed by Kaempffer. Afterwards, Kaempffer flees the scene and rushes to the now-silent courtyard, only to find that all the SS and Wehrmacht soldiers present inside the citadel have been slaughtered in a gruesome manner by Molasar. Stumbling across the mutilated corpses and the wreckage of military vehicles that litter the courtyard, a terrified Kaempffer is killed when he is confronted by Molasar as Cuza goes to remove the talisman from the keep. When Eva attempts to prevent him from doing so, Cuza refuses Molasar's command to kill her. In response, Molasar returns Cuza to his diseased state. Glaeken arrives, retrieves the talisman and confronts Molasar. After their battle, the latter is weakened and banished back into the innermost recesses of the keep. Glaeken is transformed in a storm of light and seals the aperture that freed Molasar, containing the entity within once more. The villagers, freed from Molasar's influence, escort Eva and Cuza away.



The movie had a very troubled production. Shooting started in September 1982 and lasted for 13 weeks. Filming was very grueling, and once principal photography was finished, additional re-shoots were done which extended the filming for a total of 22 weeks. The look of the main villain of the movie, Molasar, was changed many times during filming because Michael Mann wasn't sure how he wanted him to look. There was even a mechanical figure built which was to be used in the scene where Molasar talks with Dr Cuza for the second time, but that design was changed to a man in a suit once Mann decided to film the scene differently. Two weeks into post-production, visual effects supervisor Wally Veevers died, which caused enormous problems because nobody knew how he planned to finish the visual effects scenes in the movie, especially the ones that were planned for the original ending. According to Mann, he had to finish 260 shots of special effects himself after Veever's death.[2]

Because of this, several new endings had to be filmed long after the crew and original cinematographer had left the production. Originally Mann had two ideas for the film's climax: one with a battle between Glaeken and Molasar on top of the keep, and one taking place inside the keep.

The original climax that Mann chose involved Glaeken and Molasar in an epic effects-laden battle on top of the keep tower, ending with Glaeken opening an energy portal that blasts forth from the ground of the keep. It was to be some type of dimensional portal, which probably would have had effects similar to the star gate in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (a film Veevers also worked on). The two were to fall from the keep wall and get sucked into the portal and tumble through a void. After that, Glaeken would materialize in the cavern below the keep by a pool and be reawakened as a mortal man.[3][4]

With the constant production extensions and the film already well over budget, Paramount refused to pay for the filming of the additional footage needed for this finale, so the simplified ending Mann put together for the released film was a weak, somewhat unsatisfactory compromise.

The 210-minute cut[edit]

Michael Mann's original cut of the movie was 210 minutes long. He was only allowed to have a two-hour-long movie. Test screenings of the two-hour cut were not positive so Paramount cut the movie down to 96 minutes, against Mann's wishes. These last-minute cuts resulted in many plot holes, continuity mistakes, very obvious "jumps" in soundtrack and scenes, and bad editing issues. Even the sound mixing of the movie could not be finished properly because of Paramount's interference which is why every version of the movie suffers from bad sound design. The original June 3, 1983 release date was pushed back to December 16 due to the many problems in post-production.

The original happier ending, which had Eva finding Glaeken inside the keep after he defeated Molasar and Eva and her father leaving Romania by boat with Glaeken, was completely cut out by Paramount in order for the movie to have a shorter running time. Removal of these scenes made no sense because numerous stills of this ending were shown in many movie magazines when a movie was to be released and even cast and crew members, including Mann, said in interviews that the movie had a happy ending. Part of the "happy" ending, in which Eva goes into the keep and finds Glaeken, was used in 1980s TV versions of the film. Other deleted scenes include more backstory between Glaeken and Molasar, actual explanation for why Eva and Glaeken fall in love, Glaeken killing the captain of the boat (the one who brings him into Romania) who tries to steal his "weapon" which he uses in the end to kill Molasar, more scenes between villagers and with Father Mihail and Alexandru, and Alexandru being killed by his sons when the keep starts to corrupt the village.[5]

Theatrical and TV trailers for the movie were edited by using the footage from one of the earlier, pre-release cuts of the film which is why there are some alternate and deleted scenes included in them: a longer conversation between Woermann and Alexandru in which Woermann says that the keep looks like it was built to keep something in; a longer version of the scene where Molasar is talking with professor Cuza for the first time (also in this scene Cuza asks Molasar "What are you?" one more time); Glaeken talking with Eva asking her if she found what she was looking for and if she expected to find him; Glaeken touching Eva's face while she asks "What's happening to me?"; Glaeken walking inside the keep with his eyes turning white; longer version of the ending where Glaeken is standing at the entrance of the keep looking over Molasar's fog/white smoke; different version of the scene (different visual effects) where Glaeken is walking towards the room where Molasar is waiting for him (in this alternate scene Glaeken's sword is covered with some glowing grey light).

Contrary to some rumors, there actually was going to be a scene near the ending showing Molasar killing all the German soldiers inside the keep. Much of the effects for this scene including shots of soldiers heads exploding were filmed but this scene, which would include a lot more complicated effects, couldn't be finished after Veever's death.[6][7]


The sets for the Romanian village were built at the disused Glyn Rhonwy quarry, a former slate quarry near Llanberis in North Wales.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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. In 2020, all the music that Tangerine Dream's recorded for the 1984 album was finally released in full on the boxed set compilation Pilots of Purple Twilight (The Virgin Recordings 1980–1983). On July 17, 2021, the same tracks were released on LP for the Record Store Day.

Parts of the soundtrack can also be found on the Logos Live album from 1982.

Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson also composed a rejected score for the film which later became the basis for material on her album United States Live.


The film, extensively cut by the studio from its original 3.5-hour runtime[11][12][13][14][15] to just over one and a half hours, 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.[16] A board game based on the film was designed by James D. Griffin and published by Mayfair Games.[17] Under their Role Aids label, Mayfair Games also produced the role-playing game adventure The Keep based on the film.[18][19]

The film was released on laserdisc and VHS by Paramount Home Video.[20] Although the film was available for purchase on YouTube, as well as streaming on Amazon Video and available on Netflix (UK and Ireland), streaming with the Tangerine Dream soundtrack, it was not released on DVD or Blu-ray Disc in any country until January 20, 2020, when it was officially released on DVD in Australia by the Via Vision Entertainment label. This Australian DVD release is in 2.35:1 aspect ratio and includes the original trailer as a special feature.[citation needed]


The Keep holds a 40% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[21]

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".[22]

Gene Siskel, film reviewer for the Chicago Tribune, rated The Keep two out of four stars, complaining that the Tangerine Dream soundtrack tended to overwhelm the dialogue. Siskel wrote, "Stay away from The Keep, one of the most inaudible movies ever made. Oh, sure, you can look at the pictures, but without the dialogue it's going to be most difficult to figure what's going on".[23]

Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, film reviewer Susie Eisenhuth praised the movie, calling it "visually spectacular" and "mesmerising from the opening moments". "The Keep is the sort of movie I expect to see in one of the big cinema centres, being fed to the masses raised on Spielberg and spectacle", Eisenhuth wrote in her review.[24]

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."

It's been mentioned that Michael Mann disowned the movie but in a 2009 interview he said that the production design and the form of the film were in better shape than the content, which is why he likes it for those aspects.[25]

Although a financial and critical failure at the time of its release, The Keep gained a strong fan following and is considered by some to be a cult classic.[citation needed] Fans of the movie have made petitions for release of the original cut and for the movie to finally get a DVD/Blu-ray release.

A documentary conceived in 2011 and entitled "A World War II Fairytale: The Making of Michael Mann's The Keep", claims that it will offer production history, interviews, and other info on the film. An initial Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for the documentary did not reach its final goal, although additional funding was raised, and the documentary's producers predicted project completion by the end of 2016.[citation needed] Various funding and production delays moved the documentary completion to end of 2018 and early 2019. As of October 2020, the documentary has not presented any material to the public outside of a trailer.

On Feb 12, 2016, at BAM, an Internet fan question asked whether Mann had plans to re-release his 1983 sci-fi horror film. Mann's answer: "No ... we were never able to figure out how we were to combine all these components that were shot (pre blue and green screen). That one’s going to stay in its ..." at which point Mann trailed off.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "In Defense of Michael Mann’s THE KEEP", Coming Soon, Oct. 19, 2015
  2. ^ Mad Movies #47, 1987
  3. ^ "Pictures of Mann's original Duel ending".
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hors Serie Starfix #2, Dec. 1988
  7. ^ Starfix No. 3 Hors Serie (April 1984)
  8. ^ "Anyone work on 'The Keep' in 1980s". Life in the Vertical. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  9. ^ McKellen, Ian. "The Keep: Notes by Ian McKellen".
  10. ^ Everitt, David (1984). "The creature effects of The Keep" (PDF). Fangoria. O'Quinn Studios Inc. (33): 20–23. ISSN 0164-2111. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  11. ^ Navarro, Alex (5 January 2011). "It Came from My Instant Queue: The Keep". Screened. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  12. ^ "Movie Of The Day: The Keep". Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  13. ^ Anderson, Kyle (21 November 2013). "Schlock & Awe: THE KEEP". Nerdist. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  14. ^ "Horror Reviews - Keep, The (1983)". 19 October 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  15. ^ "Will we ever see The Keep on Blu-ray?". Den of Geek. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  16. ^ "The Keep". Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  17. ^ "The Keep boardgame". Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Swan, Rick (January–February 1985). "Capsule Reviews". The Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (72): 37–38.
  20. ^ "Company Credits for The Keep". IMDb. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
  21. ^ "The Keep Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  22. ^ Michael Nordine, Michael Mann's Long Lost Film "The Keep" Rises Again, LA Weekly,August 22, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  23. ^ "21 Dec 1983, 60 - Chicago Tribune at". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  24. ^ "30 Sep 1984, Page 108 - The Sydney Morning Herald at". Retrieved 15 April 2018.
  25. ^ The Art of Film: John Box and Production Design (Wallflower)

External links[edit]