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IndieDVD presents
The Devil's Keep (1995)

"This is called a transposition cipher. Basically what you've got here is a message consisting of, let's see... 72 letters. When a message is written in transposition like this, it's usually inscribed inside a rectangle of prearranged dimensions on graph paper. The first thing you have to do is figure out the dimensions of the rectangle, and then from there it's really dumb luck to figure out which direction to read it from."
- Carrie (Gathering Marbet)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 09, 2002

Stars: Danny Perkin, Gathering Marbet
Other Stars: Faber Dehane, Leanne Ames, Coyote Shane
Director: Don Gronquist

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:50m:28s
Release Date: September 03, 2002
UPC: 802695001795
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+C+B B-

DVD Review

After the end of World War II, it was largely rumored that the Nazis were desperate to keep large caches of war machine gold hidden from all but a select few key officers. Treasure hunters and war buffs have spent countless years analyzing and speculating the locations of any of the piles of stashed gold, with little or no success. The Devil's Keep, the title of which refers to a fictitious hoard of Nazi gold, is the creation of writer/director Don Gronquist and was shot over a six week period in and around Portland, Oregon in 1992. Gronquist's film tells an enjoyable B-movie tale of conspiracies, puzzles and of course, really nasty Nazis.

Jeff (Danny Perkin) is a teenaged boxer, living with his mother in a slightly grubby (re:poor) tenement. When an elderly tenant Jeff often brought meals to dies suddenly, the boy finds himself inheriting an old wooden box full of cryptic maps and codes. It seems that the kindly old man was actually a high-ranking Nazi officer, and before Jeff can even figure out what all the fuss is about, he is being pursued by Guenter (Faber Dehane) and Lang (Leanne Ames), a pair of sadistic SS officers eager to retrieve the contents of the box, which reveal the location of piles and piles of gold bars. One of the campy treats in The Devil's Keep is the albino Nazi Lang, a stone-faced old woman who is very handy with a knife, and not afraid to use it. Enlisting brainy rich girl Carrie (the beautifully named Gathering Marbet) to help him, Jeff has to keep them in motion to keep two steps ahead of the Nazi thugs.

Gronquist shot this one on a rather low budget, and his use of stock footage (for the London and Austria sequences) blends pretty seamlessly with his Portland footage, giving the film a larger, more international feel. To Gronquist's credit, The Devil's Keep hides its cost-cutting measures fairly well, and there weren't really any moments where I thought things looked particularly low rent, other than the latex-heavy old man makeup on one of the characters (an issue that Gronquist addresses on the commentary track).

The whole Nazi gold conspiracy storyline is engaging (in a made-for-cable kind of way), but it's not without a snag or two along the way. The thriller cliché-wagon rolls out in full force for this one, with such staples as the permanently grimacing Nazis, the bad-guy-dangling-from-a-moving-car, the shadowy, subterranean basement that erupts mood-enhancing bursts of steam, an incredibly easy museum break in, the villain who can take about 50 bullets and keep walking, and of course, the old standby of the montage indicating a passage of time—in this case it's during the big code-breaking scene. Gronquist even throws in a couple of McGyver-ish escapes for good measure, just in case.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: It's a shame that the print used in this 1.33:1 fullframe transfer is so speckled with flecks dirt and an occasional layer of fine grain, because the overall colorfield looks pretty respectable. Fleshtones have a very natural hue to them, and I really like how Lang's albino skin retained a wonderfully cold pallor no matter what kind of lighting the scene had.

The transfer is likely more a reflection of the mediocre condition of the source material, and it's doubtful that any excessive restoration was done to this low-budget indie production. Too bad.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: There is only one audio option available on this disc, and it is in 2.0 stereo. It's not a particularly bottom heavy mix, but it is, nonetheless, a perfectly adequate track. Voices sound clean and clear, but lack any major directional imaging. I did catch some minor rear channel bleed through a couple of times, especially during the airport scenes.

Nothing flashy, but it works well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Funeral Party, Unhinged
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Don Gronquist
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interactive Map To Real Hidden Nazi Gold
Extras Review: Director/writer Don Gronquist's full-length commentary on The Devil's Keep may not be the first track I've heard with a lot of silent gaps, but it is certainly one of the only ones I've heard that had silent gaps recorded with the mikes still on. This results in quite of bit of rustling and breathing sounds, which is even more pronounced because when listening to the commentary all audio from the feature film itself is silenced. Gronquist, it seems, doesn't have a whole lot to say about The Devil's Keep, and he apparently had prepared written comments that he reads at appropriate moments. Not a whole lot of ad-libbing here. When he does talk, he comments on things like the filming locations in and around Portland, and he points out scenes that feature stock footage. He does express dissatisfaction with the old man makeup (which does look kind of latexy), but his comments are layered in corporate doubletalk, so I couldn't really tell who he was miffed at.

A short, but equally fascinating featurette on Nazi Conspiracies (05m:57s) should have really been much longer, and based on the info presented here would certainly merit a more exhaustive investigation. This short piece briefly outlines the formation of German mega-corporation I.G. Farben, and how they helped bring Adolph Hitler to power. The U.S. involvement of Standard Oil and Union Banking, and their alleged connections to the Nazi war effort might come across as startling, but when the connection between Prescott Bush (yes, THAT Bush) is raised, it is even more alarming. This is a conspiracy buff's wet dream; too bad it's only 6 minutes long.

Next up is the Interactive Map to Real Hidden Nazi Gold, which is a series of maps and text screens that give some history on more alleged caches of hidden booty stashed after the war. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the Deutschland to do me some diggin'.

Lastly, Indie DVD has included a two page insert which further provides fodder for three separate Nazi-related conspiracies, all of which appear in the film in one form or another.

Also included are 22 chapter stops and a pair of IndieDVD trailers for The Funeral Party and Unhinged.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Nazis, gold and puzzles are the order of day here, and The Devil's Keep is a decent, TV-friendly thriller (it is 1.33:1 fullframe) with no more plot holes or silly contrivances than any of a multitude of films that have gone before it. The story loses a little steam by the time the end rolls around, and in hindsight it may seem that the film is 10 or 15 minutes too long. Gronquist mixes in some historical facts, including one that is revealed on the back cover that would have been better left as a surprise.


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