The main set of The Keep (1983) was built in a disused abandoned former slate quarry at Glyn Rhonwy near Llanberis in North Wales. Some interiors of "The Keep" were filmed inside the natural stonework of the Llechwedd Slate Caverns near the historic mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in Gwynedd, Wales. Michael Mann once described the set by saying: "It's a black monumental structure that might have been built by a medieval Albert Speer."
Michael Mann once described this film as: "A fairy story for grown-ups. Fairy tales have the power of dreams, from the outside. I decided to stylize the art direction and photography extensively, but use realistic characterization and dialogue."
While it was released on VHS and LaserDisc, it has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray. It has been noted that Paramount was going to release it on DVD in 2004, but two reasons have stopped them from doing so. First, the studio wasn't able to obtain the rights of the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. Second, Michael Mann, who has disowned this movie, forced the studio not to release it. It is currently available on DVD, as of May 1, 2017.
This is the second and last collaboration of German electronic music group Tangerine Dream with Michael Mann. Mann said in a 1983 interview:"...we have a terrific relationship. I think their work on Thief (1981) was very successful. This music is very different. This is much more melodic, there are different influences. We're using Thomas Tallis, we're using a lot of choirs processed through a vocoder. I've got in my brain maybe seven or eight hours of their music."
The writer of the original novel, F. Paul Wilson, was so unimpressed by Michael Mann's adaptation of his work, that he wrote a short story called "Cuts", in which a writer puts a voodoo curse on a director, who has mangled his work.
Final feature film of legendary Visual Effects Supervisor Wally Veevers, who died in the middle of post-production. The film is dedicated to his memory. The closing credits dedication states: "The Keep production pays tribute to Wally Veevers".
First film directed by Michael Mann to be shot in 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. All of his other feature films have since been shot in this aspect ratio. Mann explained this choice in a 1983 interview: "It's important to me for two reasons. One, because this is an expressionistic movie that intends to sweep its audience away - be very big, to have them transport themselves into this dream-reality so that they're in those landscapes, there with the characters. You can't sweep people away in 1:1,85 and mono. Also, I'm just not interested in 'passive' filmmaking, in a film that's precious and small and where it's up to the audience to bring themselves to the movie. I want to bombard an audience - a very active, aggressive type of seduction. I want to manipulate an audience's feelings for the same reasons that composers write symphonies."
In the film's narrative, the "Keep" is to a massive uninhabited castle, citadel, or fortress located at the "Dinu Pass" in the Carpathian Alps in Transylvania, Romania. In the film, the interiors of the "Keep" are said to contain 108 T-shaped icons made of nickel. According to Author F. Paul Wilson, both elements of his story are fictitious: No building like "The Keep" ever existed, and no "Dinu Pass" can be found in Romania.
This movie includes elements of the "Golem" narrative, the Old Testament story of "The Binding of Isaac", the old German myth of the "Faustian pact with the Devil", and the old Romanian vampire myth, which is especially present in F. Paul Wilson's novel.
Michael Mann once said of World War II: "There is a moment in time when the unconscious is externalized. In the case of the twentieth century, this time was the fall of 1941. What Hitler promised in the beer gardens, had actually come true. The greater German Reich was at its apogee: it controlled all Europe, and the dark psychotic appeal underlying the slogans and rationalizations was making itself manifest."
The theatrical trailer shows some deleted and extended scenes; Longer conversation between Woermann and Alexandru in which Woermann says that the keep looks like it was build to keep something in, longer version of the scene where Molasar is talking with professor Cuza for the first time, also in this scene Cuza asks Molasar "What are you?" one more time, Glaeken talking with Eva asking her did she find what she was looking for and did she expect to find him, Glaeken touching Eva's face while she asks "What's happening to me?", Glaeken walking inside the keep with his eyes turning white, longer version of the ending where Glaeken is standing at the entrance of the keep looking over Molasar's fog/white smoke, different version of the scene (different visual effects) where Glaeken is walking towards the room where Molasar is waiting for him, in this alternate scene Glaeken's sword is covered with some glowing grey light.
Michael Mann retreated to television after the commercial and artistic disappointment of The Keep (1983), where he then created the hugely successful cop drama show Miami Vice (1984). It was stylistically influenced by Mann's feature debut Thief (1981).
According to Wikipedia, source novelist F. Paul Wilson has "publicly expressed his distaste for the film version" of his 1981 novel. Wilson wrote in his short story collection "The Barren (and Others)" that the movie is "visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible".
in a 1983 interview, Michael Mann referred to psychologist Dr. Bruno Bettelheim's "The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales" (first published in 1976) as an inspiration for his movie. Mann also said about his film, that "...it's very much a magical, dream-like, fairy-tale reality."
While doing research, Michael Mann even looked at locations in Romania, which was an isolated Communist country at that time: "I found Romania fascinating. My preconception about what Romania was going to be like was all wrong. I expected some kind of Kafkaesque gray city, but of course since the war never rolled through there, it's not. It looked like Paris, cafés opened until one o'clock in the morning, and people walking around. It's a very lively, vital kind of place, and with a lot of humor, a lot of really cynical humor." (March 1984)
According to Time Out, Michael Mann's movie "...was first buried in video distribution (in the U.K.) after it flopped in the U.S. (by that time, Mann was already involved in the highly successful television series Miami Vice (1984), (but the movie was then) resurrected for cinema screening (in Britain)."
Two weeks into post-production, Visual Effects Supervisor Wally Veevers died. No one had really been apprised of what he intended for the main effects for the movie, meaning that everyone was essentially fumbling around in the dark. This amounted to about two hundred sixty shots.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Captain Claus Woermann (Jürgen Prochnow) is reading the anti-war novel "Soldat Suhren" by German Author Georg von der Vring. The book is shown in close-up when Major Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne) is looking through the papers on Woerman's desk. "Soldat Suhren" was first published in 1927, became a popular bestseller, and is recognized as the first German novel about the war. It is ironic, humorous, and has an anti-war, pacifist message. Since Claus Woermann is characterized as an anti-fascist and humanist Wehrmacht soldier, the book must have appealed to him for these reasons.
There are only two location descriptions in this movie. The opening location description is "Dinu Pass - Carpathian Alps - Romania - 1941". Later, the narrative jumps to the character Glaeken, and the description for his location is "Piraeus, Greece". The city Piraeus really exists in Greece, but there is no 'Dinu Pass' to be found anywhere in Romania, because it's an invention of the author F. Paul Wilson. Director Michael Mann said in an interview from 1984, that he still travelled to Communist Romania to do location scouting and research, but Wales was later chosen to represent it.