This 1983 Michael Mann-directed cult film, while not a success at the time of its release (in fact, I believe it lost a lot of money) can be best described as coming from a school of film I like to call “Why Nazis Should Avoid Archeology” – a genre that includes the first and third Indiana Jones movies, among others. It is a dim and very grey movie, which can be both attributed to bad lighting and the fact the the Nazis had outlawed color for most of the time they were in power.
Set in Romania during the Second World War, the castle in question is seized by the German Army to control a vital pass through the mountains. Very quickly the leader, Captain Klaus Woermann (Jurgen Prochnow) is warned by the local priest not to go inside, but if they are to go inside, don’t touch anything. And really... don’t go inside, Ok? As you may guess, they go inside. Some of the soldiers start trying to pry out a silver cross embedded in the stone walls. This releases the evil entity, Radu Molasar, who absorbs the life-energy of the two looting soldiers, even while it is yet a coherent mist-like wraith.
The deaths are treated as partisan activity, which brings in the Evil Germans, the feared Einsatzkommandos (comprised of SS and Gestapo personnel) who were in charge of finding, and killing, Jews, Communists, Partisan (or guerilla) fighters, and, in general, anything or anyone they didn’t like. It is interesting that the movie does show how not all German military were Nazis, most were just soldiers following orders. But these Einsatzkommandos, led by the mean and bad-styled Sturmbannfuerer Eric Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne), who immediately sets out to shoot five villagers for every dead German. This despite the fact that, while partisans often used rifles, machine guns and bombs, in general didn’t suck the life-force out of German soldiers, leaving desiccated husks. I mean, if they could have, they would have, but they didn’t. This savagery gives Radu more power and more substance.
Finding mysterious writing on the inner walls of the keep, the Germans bring in an expert, Dr. Theodore Cuza (Ian McKellan) and his attractive daughter Eva. Here is where the movie gets a little interesting. Radu saves Eva from rape at the hands of two of the soldiers, killing them, but sparing her. Her grateful father agrees to help Radu escape the Keep where he has been imprisoned. In return Radu cures Dr. Cuza of terrible infirmity. Enter Glaeken Trismegestus (Scott Glen).
Glaeken apparently exists for two reasons: to keep Radu from escaping his prison, as well as have a hot bed bounce with Eva. (For those of you who keep track of such things, they are both nude, but there are no nipple shots. Not even Scott Glenn’s. Finally the two mystic entities meet, fight, and Radu is sent back into his nether-prison, but sadly, Glaeken is drawn in there too. Presumably, they spend eternity fighting and fighting.The movie is dimly lit, confusing at times, but stylistically kind of neat. The biggest draw is the eerie soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, that really does a lot of the work of letting us know whether a scene is suspenseful, frightening, or heart-warming. Which is good, because the dialogue, acting and film-work is often murky and indistinct. Even F. Paul Wilson, who wrote the book of the same title that the movie was based on, was not impressed. Writers, right?
Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort of person. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). He's been living in RI for the past 6 years, with his wife and daughter. Ryk has performed his work at Boston's ICA, NYC's New School, Portsmouth, NH's Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals. He turned down Allen Ginsburg once.