Wanda saw The Keep in my Amazon Prime movie queue last night while I was browsing through them and said, “oh, let’s watch that.” So we did, and now I’m prompted to do a “top 10 guilty pleasures” list starting of course with The Keep!
#1. The Keep. A 1983 movie about a group of German soldiers assigned to defend a post in a remote village in Romania that oh-by-the-way also houses an ancient evil, The Keep gets no love, despite featuring an A-list cast including Ian McKellen, Gabriel Byrne, and Jürgen Prochnow. I remember reading somewhere that Michael Mann, the director, flat refuses to talk about this film, and the Wiki notes that F. Paul Wilson, who wrote the book upon which it is based, has “publicly derided it.” Movie sites are equally ashamed. IMDB gives it a nearly respectable 5.8 score; however, at Rotten Tomatoes it clocks in at a dismal 31%.
Personally, I think it has a an odd sort of charm to it. I’ve seen The Keep at least four times, beginning back by myself back in the 80’s on VHS in my efficiency apartment to just last night via Amazon streaming with my wife. The first time, particularly, it really drew me in. The performances and dialog are good, and the Tangerine Dream soundtrack is a perfect match for the film’s very 80’s looking bright lights and slow motion this could almost be a music video style cinematography. The monster is derided somewhat, and in truth he does look a bit like the Michelin man, but if you just go with it, and with the plot too for that matter, it provides a fun good versus evil romp that at least entertains some complexity in the idea that evil succeeds when good men allow themselves to succumb to it via their good intentions.
#2. Speed Racer. Speed Racer
was a box office flop and was nominated for a Golden Raspberry. It has a 6.1 on IMDB, and 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics such as Wesley Lovell of Cinema Sight cite “the film’s paper thin plot and the cheesiness of its actors” as reasons for this. Really? You were expecting Citizen Kane? Yeah, they hammed it up a bit. How could anyone make a Speed Racer move and not make it over the top? Why would anyone want to? And as for the plot being paper thin, simply delineating who the good guys are and who the bad guys are would have been enough, but the plot actually goes beyond this to include a sub plot centered on Speed’s older brother Rex and to outline tensions within the Racer family. Speed Racer is a colorful, noisy, cheesy, heavily stylized, movie that evokes the spirit of the cartoon without simply repeating it and is loads of fun. In short, it’s exactly what it should have been. Plus the Ali Dee song is fantastic. How could it have gone so wrong?
#3. Lifeforce. Lifeforce is based on Colin Wilson’s novel The Space Vampires. There are two kinds of people in this world, those who are drawn to a title such as The Space Vampires, and those who are not. Those in the former category are in for a treat. Someone on IMDB described it as perfectly as it is ever likely to be described as, “the greatest naked space vampire zombies from Halley’s Comet running amok in London end-of-the-world movie ever made.”
#4. Legend. Say what you will about Tom Cruise. He’s serviceable enough in this movie, but the real star of the show is Tim Curry as Darkness. The guy obviously goes all out in all of is roles. His performance is over the top, and it’s perfect. And if the movie as a whole looks a bit like an extended music video from that era, that’s okay too.