The Keep (1983):

Michael Mann's film maudit adaptation of F. Paul Wilson's novel suffers, like David Lynch's version of Dune, from a massive funneling of the original storyline that barely skirts mass confusion. Set in 1941, it starts out with a group of German soldiers led by Jürgen Prochnow arriving at the tiny Romanian village they're supposed to guard. It doesn't take long for the grunts to begin desecrating the ancient crosses adorning a mysterious local fortress, and Something Evil is unleashed -- one Nazi spelunker gets fished out of a hole looking like a half-smoked cigar. Sadistic SS officer Gabriel Byrne steps in, dragging with him cranky Jewish professor Ian McKellen in an effort to hold back the sinewy demon Molasar. Meanwhile, glowy-eyed humanoid Scott Glenn senses what's happening and takes off for a rendezvous with the growling golem, with a pit stop for some tantric sex with the professor's daughter (Alberta Watson). The horror and sci-fi elements rarely mesh, and the dated Tangerine Dream score certainly doesn't help, yet the movie isn't badly directed: the vertiginous downwards pan opening to jeeps muscling their way into the jungle suggests an Indiana Jones installment directed by early Fritz Lang, and the compositions are often like states of mind made visual. And neither is it all atmosphere -- underneath the smoky surfaces and early '80s SFX, there's a meditation on the superman myth that haunts all of the director's urban sagas. The pulp material suggests chaotic silliness, but Mann's control is unshakable. With Robert Prosky.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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