Castle Keep (1969)

Article 5433 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-23-2017
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Featuring Burt Lancaster, Patrick O’Neal, Jean-Pierre Aumont
Country: USA
What it is: War movie

During WWII, a group of eight misfit soldiers are stationed in a French castle that is the home of paintings and antiquities. When it turns out to be directly in the route of a German invasion force, the major decides to make a stand at the castle.

Some of the sources from which I cull my hunt list of fantastically-themed films do not explain the reasoning behind the inclusion of certain of them, and occasionally I find myself in the position of trying to figure out why a film that doesn’t seem to qualify (such as this one) was included. I can think of three possible reasons. First, there’s a sequence where a painting comes to life, though it is clearly in the imagine of a soldier. The second is when an attempt to destroy a Volkswagen Beetle goes awry, one of the characters speculates that it may be supernatural. The third is a little more difficult to pin down; there’s something of a surreal, “out of time” feel to the soldiers of the modern day finding themselves in an ancient castle with a moat, and the Peter Falk character speculates as to whether they’re in the right war. For the record, I consider all of these a bit questionable, and the movie is marginal at best in terms of its fantastic content.

As far as the movie itself is concerned, Burt Lancaster felt it was a commentary on the Vietnam war, and is in some ways an anti-war film. It’s certainly difficult to miss the point when we see orchards destroyed, architecture blown up, works of art burned and statues exploded, and the irony of the situation is that they all might have survived if a stand had not been made at this location. The movie’s first half is eccentric and a little bizarre as we meet the various characters and learn about their quirks. The movie becomes much more predictable during the second half where it becomes a full war movie. All in all, it’s interesting, but only sporadically effective.


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