Cult movie buffs can finally add director Michael Mann’s elusive fantasy/horror film The Keep to their collections with the first legitimate release of the film since the VHS and Laserdisc era.

Despite the plethora of films available on home entertainment formats, some titles still remain frustratingly unavailable and have consequently become ‘Holy Grails’ amongst collectors. One of the most coveted of these is director Michael Mann’s haunting and hypnotic World War II fantasy/horror movie The Keep (1983), in which a Nazi garrison assigned to guard a pass in the Romanian alps take up residence in a gothic fortress that was built not to keep something out, but to keep something in…

Ignoring the warnings of the fortress’s caretaker to “never touch the crosses” that adorn the interior of the keep, two soldiers remove one from the wall and subsequently unleash a malignant force that is far worse than the Third Reich.

Loosely adapted by Mann from the novel by F. Paul Wilson (who has since written several sequels), The Keep is a strange and ethereal film that boasts an exceptional cast including Gabriel Byrne, Scott Glenn, Jurgen Prochnow, and Ian McKellen as an ailing Jewish professor enlisted to discover what is killing the German troops. Mann saturates the film with an eerie ambience, which is complemented by a haunting score by Euro synthesiser kings Tangerine Dream.

Despite its impressive pedigree and stylish execution, The Keep failed to resonate with audiences and critics on its initial release in 1983, but has since attracted a devoted cult following who have doggedly petitioned for its release on DVD and Blu-ray.

Moreover, Mann’s original three-hour cut of the film – which was reduced to 96 minutes by studio Paramount – has become the stuff of legend, with fans clamouring for the director’s original version to be restored.

Unfortunately a Director’s Cut will remain a pipe dream, as Mann revealed to STACK in a recent interview. “[The Keep] tragically never got to be what I wanted it to be for a number of reasons. One of the most tragic things is that my spectacular visual effects supervisor died very early on in post-production and we could never figure out how the components he did were supposed to come together,” he explained.

While we may never experience Mann’s original vision for The Keep, the silver lining is that the theatrical version of this elusive, long lost cult classic has finally made its worldwide debut on DVD, thanks to the efforts of local distributor Via Vision Entertainment.

“Michael Mann’s The Keep has been one of the most requested films from physical media collectors all around the world, as the movie has not had an official release since the VHS and Laserdisc era,” says Josh Hibberd, Head of Acquisitions & Commercial Development at Via Vision.

“Due to this absence in the market the film has had quite a few ‘unofficial releases’ throughout the years with substandard picture and audio. It was exciting for us to secure an official licence with Paramount Pictures to finally deliver a quality release of the film for the first time worldwide.

“We were initially hoping to give the film a deluxe Blu-ray release but due to the lack of HD materials currently available in the archive it wasn’t possible at this time,” he adds. “However the existing SD transfer from the original negative was in surprisingly very good shape and included the fantastic original score by Tangerine Dream. Ultimately we felt it was more than worthy of a DVD release and no doubt many horror fans will agree.”

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