Sunday, August 23, 2015

One Christopher Lee Project We DON'T Look Back On in Fondness: "The Keeper" (1976)

Christopher Lee, who proved he would take any acting part in the 1970's, fails again in this really dumb Canadian suspenser.

Lee is the title character, who runs an insane asylum. He likes to hypnotize his patients, and he is making sure their families all meet tragic ends so he will be the guardian of their money. Enter our hero (and I use the term loosely), private investigator Dick Driver. He is hired by an anonymous client and puts his female partner undercover at the mental home. Driver has many run-ins with the local "funny" (I use the term loosely) police inspector. A local shoeshine boy is Driver's eyes and ears, feeding him information, and overbuffing his loafers. It seems the police also have someone undercover in the asylum. The anonymous client, a Mr. Biggs, also has a twin brother in the asylum. With all these planted people in the asylum, it is surprising that Lee has anyone left to hypnotize out of their money. The police always seem to have a cop on the grounds, but they never see anything that would warrant an arrest. Lee uses a small locked room for his experiments on his patients, complete with disco lights, a two way mirror, and an electroshock chair, much like Hugh Hefner's boudoir.

The film takes place sometime in the 1940's or 1950's, but you only know that when old cars suddenly appear. I have, however, seen better special effects in the 1940's and 1950's, as here all we have to indicate hypnosis are psychedelic images and silly twirling animation. Tell Schreiber, as Dick, is awful. His idea of acting is to point at whoever he is talking to. Lee looks completely lost here, the film makers give him a cane to lean on, yet there is no explanation for his character's handicap. His final look into the camera is supposed to be scary, it comes off as pleading and helpless. This is amateur film making at its worst. I have seen better pacing and production values on "America's Funniest Home Videos" entries. Drake's direction is awful. His cowritten screenplay has no idea how to proceed forward in time, giving us long boring dialogue scenes that do nothing but pad the film.

This is terrible stuff, as if the film's cast and crew did not care. This translates into a stiff, boring, cheap film that features a respected actor slumming in a role that was probably written on a napkin. Very sad. This ain't a Keeper. "The Keeper" is unrated but probably equivalent to an MPAA rating of (PG), and contains some physical violence and some gun violence. (*) out of five stars.

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