Clearly, Academy Award winning actor Burt Lancaster must have gotten along well with director Sidney Pollack because they made two films together: THE SCALPHUNTERS (1968) and CASTLE KEEP (1969) and Pollack contributed in the one in between, THE SWIMMER, that Lancaster appeared in for director Frank Perry. A one-eyed U.S. Army commander, Major Abraham Falconer (Burt Lancaster of ELMER GANTRY), leads a squad of eight soldiers, consisting of three officers, two sergeants and three enlisted men soldiers into the Ardennes Forrest in 1944. They billet themselves in a 10th century castle in Belgium on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge. Director Sidney Pollack and scenarists Daniel Taradash of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) and David Rayfiel of VALDEZ IS COMING (1971) adapted the novel by David Eastlake. CASTLE KEEP is a surrealistic World War II action epic about Falconer and his men defending a historic castle against an onslaught of German troops and armor. During the first half of this 106-minute movie, castle owner Count of Maldorais (Jean-Pierre Aumont of THE SIREN OF ATLANTIS) welcomes Major Falconer, Captain Beckman (Patrick O‚??Neal of EL CONDOR), Lieutenant Amberjack (Tony Bill of ICE STATION ZEBRA), Sergeant Rossi (Peter Falk of ANZIO), Sergeant DaVaca (Michael Conrad of SOL MADRID), Corporal Clearboy (Scott Wilson of IN COLD BLOOD), Private Allistair Piersall Benjamin (Al Freeman, Jr. of THE LOST MAN), and Elk (James Patterson of LILITH) to the castle and hope that they will defend it from the enemy. Principally, Maldorais wants them to save his works of art and hopes that the virile Major will get his pretty wife, Therese (Astrid Heeren of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT), pregnant because the count is impotent and needs a male heir. If stupendous photography guaranteed that a movie would be artistically great, the cinematography of NIGHT OF THE GENERALS lenser Henri Deca√ę would make this the rule rather than the exception. CASTLE KEEP is a treat for the eyes and the pictorial compositions are imaginative. After the Americans settle in‚??Falconer warms up the master bedroom with Therese, the soldiers head into town to the Red Queen brothel, while Rossi befriends the widow of a baker and starts baking bread. Falconer shows up in town and shows the prostitutes how to design Molotov cocktails and throw them at German tanks. The second half concerns the castle defense and a brief but explosive battle with tanks blasting away at the architecture as well as the Americans concealed behind it. Despite its pretentious, ironic attitude toward the subject matter, CASTLE KEEP qualifies as a traditional war movie. The Germans constitute an enemy in name only, and Pollack never gives us a reason to dislike them. The Americans are a cross-section of the United States and they are basically good guys who like to loaf when they get a caught. Major Falconer is a straight-up guy who does not lord it over his men. Nevertheless, despite its handsome production values, splendid photography, this World War II movie rarely generates any suspense because it the Americans are not portrayed in a sympathetic light and everything seems arbitrary. Lancaster is ideal as the tight-lipped commander. The funniest scene involves Corporal Clearboy and the Volkswagen beetle that he finds on the premises. You can tell CASTLE KEEP is an anti-war movie because it refuses to glorify warfare. The problem with this World War II saga is that it does not have enough sarcasm to qualify as a satire and it lacks exuberance in its combat sequences to be a warmongering classic. Interestingly, CASTLE KEEP fails to measure up to its own definition of good art. During one of his lectures to the troops about art, Beckman points out that great art must disturb and awaken its audience. Sadly, CASTLE KEEP neither disturbs us enough nor awakens us.