The Keeper a 1976 mystery film directed by T.Y. Drake, is garnered around a psychiatric asylum, Underwood. Its patients tend to be wealthy heirs and heiresses. The man in charge of Underwood is a greying cripple known as the Keeper (Christopher Lee). Lee is a famed and renowned actor known for playing popular bad guys such as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Count Dooku in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Just as in those big box office hits, Lee played his part as a “bad guy” so well that goose flesh is a common reaction to the sound of his voice.
However, despite being graced by the presence of “bad guy royalty,” the movie seemed to fall flat in all other aspects. In all honesty, the majority of the film comprised of repetitive scenes of flashing colourful lights, and the spinning white and black pattern normally associated with hypnotism. It was a visual effect used to help the audience understand that the characters on screen were being hypnotized, but it really hypnotized the audience into a state of perpetual boredom.
The method of hypnotherapy doesn’t quite fulfill those expectations of what we all have seen on TV to look like. The patients of Underwood Asylum were brought into a small white room with an electric door that had no handle with nothing inside but a chair. Instead, it came off as more of a weird torture mechanism, which includes the patients being placed onto a seat that is electrified. These scenes do formulate sympathy and an unsettling feelings, for the characters having their genitals zapped now and again as the camera films close ups of their squirming and pained facial expressions, while being asked a series of probing questions by Lee.
To continue this low budget film’s descent into a burning pit of ‘nope’, the film's plot and characters were badly set up and introduced right from the beginning. I admit I was confused for a third of the actual film, not knowing what exactly was happening. Normally, mysteries have audience members wanting to find out what happens next, with them sitting on the edge of their seats gleefully watching as it unfolds on the screen before them. However, the Keeper, was more effective in helping me perfect my list making skills, of all the things I would much rather have been doing than watching that movie.
The Keeper and the Underwood Asylum are being investigated by private investigator Richard Driver (Tell Schreiber), and the town’s police force because of a number of mysterious deaths surrounding the relatives of the patients who attended Underwood. When the reasoning behind all those mysterious deaths and the Keeper’s overall scheme is revealed, disappointment was inevitable. It turns out that the whole reason as to why he was hypnotizing these insanely rich people and causing the deaths of their relatives was so he could be “the richest and most powerful man in the world.”
History tends to repeat itself; the Keeper, like all mad geniuses, nearly met his own demise by the hands of the very device he created. The film ends (thankfully), on a small cliffhanger, with the audience wondering what exactly happens to the inspector as well as the keeper himself. The final scene is a weird close up of Christopher Lee’s face, with his black soulless eyes staring into yours through your screen.
This movie was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia on a budget of $135,000 and over the course of only 23 days. The film was never actually theatrically released but made its television premiere on December 19, 1985.