Friday 28 September 2018

Film Review: Castle Keep, 1969

I usually like Burt Lancaster. And I also like Peter Falk. Well, as Columbo, at any rate. But here, together, they don't add up to more than the sum. Lancaster is much better playing it straight, as he does in The Train. Here, there's a dated late-60s/early-70s weirdo vibe. It's almost surreal, possibly even psychedelic.

Lancaster as Maj. Falconer.

Avec his ragtag band of ne'erdowells.

They say war is mad. Certainly it is here. But it doesn't feel at all a realistic kind of madness. Rather it's very affected, and self-conscious. Lancaster's eye-patch wearing commander character seems like some pseudo-mystic, and his troops an ill-assorted rag-tag of ne'erdowells. Not one character in the film seems real, let alone engaging. 

Pvt. Benjamin.

Those good ol' lobby cards.

At first it looks like the core group's arrival at a chateaux full of art treasures, somewhere (one assumes) in post D-Day France, or perhaps Belgium, is a ticket to easy-street. But no, it all goes gung-ho, ending in an orgy of destruction and violence that left me rather nonplussed. In many ways I was just glad the mostly very unappealing characters were getting killed off. I only felt sorry for the faceless 'krauts', the building, the art, and (to a lesser degree) the hapless aristocrat who lived there.

The Hun arrives.

Prepare to repel boarders.

Doubtless this bizarre film could furnish the fuel for many a lengthy PhD thesis, on the value of art, or the madness of war. And those areas of intellectual inquiry are doubtless worth pursuing. But as a film? Sorry, no: it's pretentious rather than clever, showy rather than substantial.

Falk as Sgt. Rossi.

Bruce Dern, in wild-eyed mode, as Lt. Bix.

The appalling modern DVD cover.

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