Castle Keep

Tagline : A one-eyed major and his oddball heroes fight a twentieth-century war in a tenth-century castle!

Runtime : 105 mins

Genre : Comedy Drama War

Vote Rating : 5.7/10

Reviews for this movie are available below.

Plot : During the Battle of the Bulge, an anachronistic count shelters a ragtag squad of Americans in his isolated castle hoping they will defend it against the advancing Germans.

Cast Members

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You can keep this movie. Castle Keep, directed by Sydney Pollack and adapted to screenplay by Daniel Taradash and David Rayfiel from the novel written by William Eastlake. Starring Burt Lancaster, Bruce Dern, Patrick O’Neal, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Peter Falk. Music is by Michel Legrand and cinematography by Henri Decae. Ambitious for sure, intriguing even, but ultimately a misfiring piece of pretentious tosh! An endgame allegory that finds Lancaster in WWII leading the defence of a medieval castle and its art collection against the German hordes. The action when it comes is savage and colourful, and Lancaster’s one eyed Major is good fun, it’s just everything else is masquerading as a near hallucinogenic anti-war movie mixed with euro pontifications. There’s some war is hell messages in the mix desperately trying to get out, either as satire or serious (it’s really hard to tell), but this is ultimately faux-art and painful to sit through until the explosions mercifully grace the last quarter of picture. 3/10

***Avant-garde World War 2 flick full of amusing pretentiousness*** Two World War 2 flicks involving a European castle came out in 1968-1969, "Where Eagles Dare" and "Castle Keep." If you're a fan of war films you've no doubt heard of "Where Eagles Dare," which is one of the greatest war action/adventure films ever made; but I wouldn't be too surprised if you've never heard of "Castle Keep" or only vaguely heard of it. There's good reason for this. THE PLOT: The Germans are marching on a Belgium village in the Ardennes where a squad of American soldiers makes a stand at a 10th century castle. "Castle Keep" has a lot going for it: a great cast, including Burt Lancaster, Peter Falk, Bruce Dern & more; fabulous Yugoslavian Winter locations & castle; thrilling action scenes; it's well-made on a technical level by renowned director Sydney Pollack; and it hardly comes across dated, even though it's fifty years old (as of this writing). Fans of the film describe it as "poetic" & "haunting" and it's obvious the filmmakers were shooting for something groundbreaking, meaningful, artistic and amusing. Unfortunately "Castle Keep" is mostly uninteresting until well into the second half, which is when the great action scenes start. The characters have a lot of dialogue but you never get to know them or care about them. Maybe because the chatter comes across as unreal, artsy and inscrutable. Here’s a sample: The Count comments to Theresa, his wife/neice, "They planned this war because there was something they hadn't yet smashed." She replies, "Who are we, Henri?" "We are the keepers." The script is full of such "deep" nonsense. Which I suppose would be okay as long as the story itself is captivating, but it isn't. Want another example of the "unreal" vibe? The soldiers go to the village with empty streets to kill time at the Red Queen, which isn’t a pub if you know what I mean. When they enter, all the prostitutes are standing or lying around in various tantalizing poses in lingerie. I'm sure they were just hanging around like that waiting for five soldiers to walk in. Why Sure! You gotta see it to believe it. I busted out laughing! Speaking of which, I busted out laughing quite a bit throughout, which shows that the movie works as a satire or low-key war comedy. A reviewer offered the interpretation that one soldier, the writer, is simply remembering how it was, not how it really was, and that's why it comes across so dreamlike and bizarre. I find this a valid explanation. Others point out that it's an allegory about the futility of the Vietnam War which was raging at the time of release. Another interpretation is that the message is one of contrast: Life from death, and death where once life was. Actually, the symbolism is too obvious: The castle represents art or anything celestial created by humanity whereas the countess represents inspiration and the writer imagination. War is the ongoing destructive force that destroys everything in its path: The village and the bakery (home and business), the church facility (religion and faith), militarists and civilians, conscientious objectors (that is, those who embrace the folly of ABSOLUTE pacifism, which is different from LIMITED pacifism, as represented by the Allies) and, lastly, art (painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music). The only thing it cannot kill is inspiration and imagination, which will continue to reproduce art despite the ongoing specter of war. Hey, I'm all for "message" films with deeper meanings as long as the film itself is interesting and done with tact; the original "Apocalypse Now" (AP) is a good example. Much of AP is surreal, but you know the characters and care about their fate; plus, surreal or not, AP never departed from reality. “Castle Keep,” by contrast, contains parts that are SO contrived and unreal they’re actually funny (note, for instance, when Rossi meets the baker’s wife). The greatest sin in filmmaking is to be boring. The second is to be pretentious. Unfortunately "Castle Keep" commits both of these transgressions. But, thankfully, there are several amusing and thrilling moments. As far as the latter goes, the tower/plane sequence is great. At the end of the day "Castle Keep" is an avant-garde film palatable to a chosen few. It was groundbreaking at the time but was doomed by its arty pretentiousness. I respect it and enjoy numerous aspects noted above, but I suppose it’s somewhat of a failed experiment. The film runs 1 hour, 47 minute. GRADE: B-/C+

Jean-Pierre Aumont offers us the ultimate in hope over expectation in this wartime drama. He is the "Count" who offers shelter to "Maj. Falconer" (Burt Lancaster) and his battle-weary squad of soldiers in his beautiful 10th century castle. They set up some defensive positions knowing that these ancient battlements will be no match for the Nazi war machine that they are soon to be facing. Perhaps naively, the "Count" and the "Falconer" hope that they will decide against desecrating and/or decimating his ancestral home. Well, the writing is on the wall (or, more accurately, bits of it) but meantime the Major has an affair with the "Countess" and the assembled soldiers get up to all sorts of mischief before being called up to deal with their foe. Peter Falk stands out as the sergeant "Rossi" - who likes his bread, and Bruce Dern pops up too as "Lt. Bix" who seems to have found God - a bit late in the day, maybe? The whole thing is vaguely surreal as some of the platoon care about the artworks (like Paul Schofield in "The Train" - another Lancaster film from 1964) whilst others are very much living for the moment, but as the inevitability of it all sinks in it becomes rather a sad siege story that resembled the three little piggies and the wolf - in the straw version of their house. This is a curious film that I think would have worked better in black and white, somehow colour sanitises it just a bit too much - but it is worth watching.

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