Apr 13, 2012

Castle Keep



I must admit that the prospective of a Gothic World War II flick does sound most appetizing for the eyes and ears, but the successful execution of such an ambitious work is quite dubitable as demonstrated by unevenness of Michael Mann's The Keep (1983), especially if it is directed by someone as seemingly ill-equipped as Sydney Pollack, director of Tootsie (1982); a work featuring Dustin Hoffman in drag. Of course, during the beginning of his filmmaking career, Pollack directed the notably manly Western masterpiece Jeremiah Johnson (1972); a film about an Injun-exterminating mountain-man who is unwaveringly determined in his personal campaign to conquer land, man, and beast. Before ever gaining praise for directing Jeremiah Johnson, Pollack assembled the eccentric esoteric Gothic war dramedy Castle Keep (1969); a film based on a William Eastlake novel of the same name about a squad of American soldiers who squat in a phantasmagoric Belgian castle under the more or less superficial pretense that they will guard it, and its aristocratic Count owner and his beautiful Countess wife from advancing German forces. The setting of the film is during the Battle of Bulge, yet the owner of the castle (and the castle itself) seems many centuries old, which is unequivocally an anachronistic tool symbolizing the old political and physical infrastructure of Europe. Aside from combining conventions from the WWII flick with elements of a traditional Gothic castle tale, Castle Keep is, most importantly, a cinematic death certificate for Europe, albeit a ferociously facetious and flagrant one. Admittedly, I have been hoping to find a film that addresses this critical global power-shifting, but little acknowledged, post-Spenglerian phenomenon for some time now, so I was entirely taken aback when I randomly found this theme in a mostly disregarded war flick directed by Sydney Pollack of all people. Unsurprisingly, Pollack, being a proud Israelite, was ostensibly unsympathetic towards the land and peoples of Europe, most especially those terrible testosterone-fueled Teutons whose accents and affinity for kultur are mocked in a malicious manner that rivals South Park and Family Guy throughout Castle Keep, but that did not stop the filmmaker from portraying American GIs as hopelessly impenetrable philistines who, like islanders that were shipwrecked many generations ago, missed out on imperative cultural and intellectual advancements that were long ago established in Europe.



Upon arriving at the castle they will keep thoroughly occupied like a meth-fueled rapist with a hogtied virginal victim, the soldiers are quite vocal about their absolute disillusionment with the war. One soldier states that they have all already died twice, while another admits he has no idea as to what they are actually fighting for. These opening sentiments set that tone for the rest of Castle Keep, an acutely nihilistic and strikingly idiosyncratic quasi-existentialist work with misanthropic undertones. I would not be surprised if Sidney Pollack had a smug smile and fat joint in hand throughout the production of Castle Keep, as the film has the feel of a culturally refined vaudeville act disguised as European arthouse film. If one were to watch the film without audio it would seem like a totally different film, not too dissimilar from Harry Kümel's dreamlike Gothic castle masterpiece Malpertuis (1971). Thankfully, Castle Keep has plenty of black humor and gorgeous pseudo-Baroque imagery to adequately counter its all-encompassing philosophical and intellectual unpleasantness. Indeed, Castle Keep features an aristocratic buffet of laboriously prepared rotten food for thought, but such morbid ingredients are quite welcome from a film industry that thrives on gross disingenuousness. In the ridiculous realm of Castle Keep, American soldiers indulge in the fruits of the European aristocracy without any actual understanding of these rare cultural treats. Anything these soldiers can’t eat or fuck, they break, including priceless art, architecture, and landscapes. Undoubtedly, Castle Keep and its many absurdist scenarios act as a singularly demiurgic and enthralling analogy for American involvement in the Second World War. Despite contributing to the dissolution of Europe as a the world's most powerful political and cultural entity, and the dismantling of all remaining European empires, to this day, most Americans and American veterans are at a loss when trying to come up with a complex explanation (aside from, "The Japs bombed us!") as to why their nation was involved in an overseas fratricidal quasi-Civil War, nor the political and cultural magnitude of the war’s outcome. By the end of Castle Keep, the castle and its many cultural treasures lay in ruins, as do many of the American GIs, and for what? So one half of European can be occupied by culture-distorting international capitalists and the other half by culture-destroying international communists; two alien powers contra to the continent’s ancient cultural and socio-political traditions. These sort of issues are discussed nonchalantly by the soldiers throughout Castle Keep. In one particularly important, if random (like most of the film), scene, a soldier states, “Europe is dying” and, in turn, another soldier matter-of-factly replies with, “No, she is dead. That’s why we’re here. Don’t you read the newspapers?” Indeed, Europa is dying but the American GIs of Castle Keep are too busy raping her daughters and killing her sons to take much notice, let alone, care.




Despite the quasi-apocalyptic nature of the content featured throughout Castle Keep, these morbid and melancholy movie moments are coated in a certain addictive bittersweet comedic cynicism that distances the viewer from the true grim reality of the content. In the film, countless people are killed in a variety of body-dismembering ways, a civilization’s art is burned like trash to forever disappear from the world, and a continent is all but irrevocably annihilated, yet these surly circumstances are portrayed in a fashion that is ultimately comedic, thus proving that any subject, no matter how deplorable or taboo, can be made hilarious given the right creative mind. Of course, Castle Keep does have is moments of pure and silly comic relief. For example, a bonhomie hillbilly GI literally falls in love with a semi-supernatural Volkswagen Beetle in a scene that reflects the peculiar America redneck obsession with imported wheels. Although two soldiers attempt to kill the enemy car via shooting and drowning, they are no match for the Aryan automobile’s superior Germanic engineering. Even though featuring a wealth of physical slapstick comedy, the majority of humor featured in Castle Keep is contained within its sharp and witty dialogue. The film especially reminded me of William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration (1980), except it is more coherent and slightly less serious than its sometimes overly spasmodic predecessor. Like The Ninth Configuration, Castle Keep is a military-related work that will most likely leave most genuine military men left dumbfounded with its keen philosophical insights and reflections, atypical tragicomedy style, and all-around ambiguity. That being said, I would love to hear what a couple of real-life American WWII veterans would have to say about Castle Keep, as they are a secondary (with the Europeans being the first) butt of the joke, whether they acknowledge it or not.



It might comes as a revelation to some people, but few people probably know that popular Hollywood director Mike Nichols, director of The Graduate (1967) and Closer (2004), is the maternal Grandson of Gustav Landauer, the Shakespearian scholar and communist-anarchist (if that oxymoron of a political persuasion makes any sense) who became the 'Commissioner of Enlightenment and Public Instruction' for the short-lived and traitorously created Soviet Republic of Bavaria that was created during the so called "German" Revolution of 1918-1919. When indigenous Germans finally recovered the city of Munich and Bavaria state, the communist leadership, which was made up of mostly alien Judaic traitors, was subsequently arrested and executed, including Landauer, who was stoned to death on May 2, 1919. I bring up Mike Nichols grandfather to illustrate the sort of mentality and politics that have dominated Hollywood throughout its existence. The people who run Hollywood are not merely moderate ‘left-wingers’ and kindhearted humanists who want to repair the heart of the world, but individuals who are fundamentally hostile to traditional European culture and morality, as exemplified in everything from their crude Hebriac neo-vaudevillian comedies to their quasi-Trotskyite period pieces.  Although Jewish commentators and academics often boast about their ethnic group's contribution to science and cultures, they pale in comparison to the achievements of Europeans, hence their collective resentment towards European and Occidental kultur.  As the great German-American iconoclast H.L. Mencken once stated, "The Jewish theory that the GOYIM envy the superior ability of the Jews is not borne out by the facts. Most GOYIM, in fact, deny that the Jew is superior, and point in evidence to his failure to take the first prizes: he has to be content with the seconds. No Jewish composer has ever come within miles of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms; no Jew has ever challenged the top-flight painters of the world, and no Jewish scientist has equaled Newton, Darwin, Pasteur or Mendel....The GOY does not, in fact, believe that the Jew is better than the non-Jew; the most he will admit is that the Jew is smarter at achieving worldly success. But this he ascribes to sharp practices, not to superior ability." Sydney Pollack, being of same generation and a similar cultural background (both of their families emigrated from Europe to the United States) as Mike Nichols, most likely shared a kindred personal hostility towards Europe as his compatriots, as vividly expressed in much depth in Castle Keep, a work that is saturated with quintessential Jewish humor. While portraying Europeans as impotent (the Count is literally infertile) degenerates with no future, the film depicts Americans (aside from a mostly misunderstood and despairing white art historian and a uncommonly witty yet supremely arrogant Negro author) as profound ignoramuses who don’t even have the mental capacity to understand that their role in the Second World War will lead to the destruction of their ancient ancestral homelands, and, inevitably, white America's loss of cultural and political domination of the United States.  After all, I doubt most white Americans from the 1940s would have agreed to fight in the war if they knew it would eventually lead to a future mulatto president and a perpetual deluge of immigrants from the third world. The Count of the castle in Castle Keep even calls the American soldiers traitors near the conclusion of the film, a statement these soldiers clearly fail to understand as communicated by their blank stares.


 Castle Keep ends with a literal Holocaust and the castle inflames, which indubitably acts as an allegorical delineation of Europe as a whole after the conclusion of World War II.  Everyone in America knows that, apparently, six million died during World War II, but very few can cite how many Europeans were senselessly slaughtered and what cities and landmarks were inexorably incinerated. While I find Pollack’s political persuasion to be dubious, I must commend him for his refreshing honesty and his brilliant direction. Castle Keep is such an outlandish and solitary work that it is seemingly lacking in flaws. The typical lemming filmgoer will probably criticize the film for its lack of character development and somewhat incoherent plot, but these complaints are basically irrelevant as it is plain to see that Castle Keep is a work where actors (even if they are big names like Burt Lancaster, Jean-Pierre Aumont, and Peter Falk) are used as props for delivering clever dialogue and the storyline is a mere palette for expressing an assortment of ideas and potent imagery. Neither pro-war nor anti-war, Castle Keep is an open-ended work that demands individual interpretation, hence the marginal popularity of the film in the United States. Naturally, Americans audiences detest films that make a mockery of their intellectual ineptitude and lack of cultural refinement, thus Castle Keep will undoubtedly be destined to the same fate as the European films it aesthetically mimics: in the celluloid dustbin of history.


-Ty E

10 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Patrick O'Neal, Astrid Heeren, and James Patterson all appeared in that classic (and ludicrously under-rated) Christmas cult-item "Silent Night, Bloody Night" 3 years later in 1972 but i suppose i`ll have to wait UNTIL Christmas for you to reveiw that one.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Astrid Heeren (as the bird was at the time "Castle Keep" was made, not as the bird is now obviously). That bird was quite stunning back in the late 60`s.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Now, what about a reveiw of Sydney Pollacks other cult-classic from the same year: "They Shoot Horses Don't They". YOWZA, YOWZA, YOWZA, ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Both "The Ninth Configuration" and "The Keep" are literally screaming out to be reveiwed on this site.

Anonymous said...

Reading this reveiw was an almost transcendental experience, it made me wish you`d apply the same levels of genius to another ludicrously overlooked and under-rated war movie masterpiece from exactly same period,...thats right... you guessed it...Mike Nichols 1970 masterwork (and i really do mean "MASTERWORK"): "CATCH 22".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I first watched "Castle Keep" on TV in the late 70`s all i seemed to remember about it was how jealous i felt of Burt Lancaster because he got to shove his knob up Astrid Heerens bum (both on and off the set i`ll bet), the lucky bastard ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Your description of the people who run Hollywood was interesting. Heres my version, the people who run Hollywood are: liars, hypocrites, cowards, decievers, faggots, and fag-enablers. Your version was more intellectually impressive (obviously) but i still think my version was more accurate.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Have you seen the poster for "The 3 Stooges" ?, they`re posed like 3 pansy queer bastards, i told you Hollywood was run by faggots and fag-enablers, the bloody dirty woofter poofter fairy filth.

Anonymous said...

It looks as though "Lockout" has gone down the toilet in North America already but i bet it achieves a cult following for years after "The Hunger Games" has long since been forgotton.

Kipp A. Kohen said...

"Your description of the people who run Hollywood was interesting. Heres my version, the people who run Hollywood are: liars, hypocrites, cowards, decievers, faggots, and fag-enablers. Your version was more intellectually impressive (obviously) but i still think my version was more accurate."

Hey, Jerkin' Homo-ster, that group of people TY E described ARE a bunch of "liars, hypocrites, cowards, decievers, faggots, and fag-enablers". Get it? TY just simplified it for ya!