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Castle Keep: an awful 1960s WW II movie

I've written at length how DVD compilations can be a very cost-effective way to pick up great films at bargain prices.  However, sometimes the compilation has a fair amount of padding.

Or junk.  Like in this case.

The fact of the matter is that when you see some of these disks and they boast of having obscure films with big names you recognize, it is highly likely that those films stink.  Yes, it is possible that a film featuring Burt Lancaster and Peter Falk would be a hidden gem, but it's more likely that there is a reason it was buried for a half-century.

Over the years I'm learning that Bruce Dern is pretty much box office poison.  I can't think of a single film with Bruce Dern in it that I enjoyed.  He's just obnoxious.  He is in Castle Keep.

The premise of the movie isn't that terrible - a squad of troops finds itself holding a forlorn outpost during the Battle of the Bulge.  That's about the only thing in Castle Keep that works.

The squad in question is commanded by Burt Lancaster, who sports an eyepatch for some reason.  He's leading an odd collection of officers and enlisted men to do something.  It's not clear why they're wandering around the Ardennes in the late fall of 1944, and when they stumble upon a pristine tourist-grade castle, it's supposed to be some sort of metaphor (I think) for escaping the grimy horrors of war.

The film is from 1969, so it also has to be racy.  Thus Lancaster immediately seduces and has sex with the castle owner's young, nubile wife.  Note that there is no seduction, no character development, they're just in the sack because reasons.  Believe it or not, things get even dumber.

You can't really pick apart the plot because what there is makes no sense.  I think Lancaster is supposed to be a visionary who understands that the Germans will attack and the castle holds a key crossroads that must be defended at all costs.

The problem is that the castle isn't on a crossroads.  In fact, I can't find any reason at all for it to be defended.  When the Germans strike, the roads through the village near the castle are packed with fleeing US troops, but I can't find any reason why the castle - isolated, tranquil, sedate - has any military significance.  Indeed, at one point Lancaster tries to get fleeing troops to rally towards the castle - proving it is out of line of march.  It doesn't work out.

The preponderant impressions I have of this cinematic disaster is that it is a mish-mash of WW II revisionism (i.e. "they weren't all heroes") along with some weird anti-war themes.  Falk's character, for example, is the senior NCO, but upon reaching town he deserts to return to his civilian occupation of being a baker, conveniently finding a willing baker's wife and son willing to adopt him.

There's also a subplot involving the local house of ill repute, which - given the remote location - should not have a bunch of super-models and sophisticated light displays.  The list goes on.

Some of the revisionism of the 60s and 70s produced great films - I'm thinking of The Dirty Dozen and Kelly's Heroes.  I think most failed and were forgotten.

Like Castle Keep should have been.


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