Picks and Pans Review: The Keep

updated 01/16/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

It's 1941, and somewhere deep in the mountains of Romania, the Nazis have set up housekeeping in the local castle. Strange things start happening. First, all the crosses on the tombs in the castle glow eerily; then the German soldiers start dying in horrible ways, their heads blasted open, their bodies burned. That is the spooky premise for this movie, which was directed by Michael Mann, who did the intriguing Thief in 1981 with James Caan. Like that film, this one has a spectacular look—the forbidding castle and townspeople appear like something out of the Grimms' fairy tales. The mood, thanks to a sound track by Tangerine Dream (who also scored Thief), is aptly eerie. But the plot is muddled. A monster trapped in the castle wants to get out. Enter Scott (The Right Stuff) Glenn. An ageless semidemon himself, he has come to fight it out with the evil force, anti-Nazi or otherwise. Then there's Ian McKellen, a Jewish history professor headed for a concentration camp until the Nazis bring him in to help solve the mystery. The movie collapses when the monster appears. It is a cross between Darth Vader and the Incredible Hulk. Its eyes and mouth glow red. It roars. It provides guffaws. The only saving grace of The Keep is Alberta Watson, a Canadian actress who plays McKellen's daughter. She at least occasionally relieves the runaway nightmare that this movie becomes. (R)

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