After watching director Sydney Pollack awesome film The Yakuza I searched for projects of his I may of missed and Castle Keep from 1969 is what I found. A World War Two movie with a big twist, that twist is, (no spoilers) it’s completely batty and totally off it’s shopping trolley. It also stars the legend Burt Lancaster playing the warmongering one eyed Major Abraham Falconer.
Major Falconer and his left over ragtag platoon of eight battle worn soldiers arrive at a foot of a beautiful medieval castle, looking pulled straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. The castle is owned by The Count of Maldorais (Jean-Pierre Aumont) and his insanely gorgeous wife Therese (Astrid Heeren). Together they are surrounded by centuries of historic treasures and heirlooms passed down through the years.
Tagline – A one-eyed major and his oddball heroes fight a twentieth-century war in a tenth-century castle!
Now the Major sees this castle as the perfect stronghold to take on the approaching German army and wishes to make a stand. Whereas the Major has plans for war and battle, the rest of the group have very differing ideas. Captain Beckman (Patrick O’Neal) happens to be an art historian, wishing to save all the art from certain destruction and tries to plead with his superior to see sense. Both these two men find themselves distracted by the flirty alluring delights of the lady of the keep, Therese.
Now the rest of the gang are either all completely mad or delirious from past battles as they all have a series of bizarre quirks. None more so than Corporal Clearboy (Scott Wilson) who has an illicit affair with, wait for it….., a Volkswagen Beetle! Leading to some funny slap-stick gags. Then there’s Sergeant Rossi aka Columbo (Peter Falk) who finds a baker’s wife and settles down with a bakery in the war torn neighboring town.
The rest of the guys, Amberjack (Tony Bill), Sgt DeVaca (Michael Conrad), Elk (James Patterson) and Private Allistair Benjamin (Al Freeman Jr) take in the delights of the local whore house. The most amazing knocking shop there could ever be, called the “Reine Rouge” and set up like a psychedelic Victorian funfair with each beauty placed waiting for business in her little booth. Run by the mystical red queen madam, all these girls are happy to see these boys.
Outside in the town streets wandering around like lost souls is Lt. Billy Byron Bix (Bruce Dern) and his singing merry men of conscientious objectors. Singing away to anyone who will listen to them.
Sgt. Rossie – “You mean, you conscientiously object to fornicating?”
Add to the madness an actual big battle, some flute playing, surreal paintings, jokes and japes, a white horse and some impregnation cuckolding! All whilst being narrated and documented by young soldier Private Allistair Benjamin.
Based on a book written by William Eastlake who was wounded during The Battle Of The Bulge and whatever meds and drugs they gave him they must of been damn strong! As this film is extremity unique and completely off the hook. Bizarre and surreal in buckets but is there a poetic fable under all the surrealism? What did you think? I kind of got the impression they could of been in some sort of limbo land, purgatory or it could just be the madness of war. It’s a quirky war time story which is made better for having good sport Burt accepting the role.