Twins of Evil

Twins of Evil is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Twins of Evil (1971)

“Frieda and Maria, orphaned identical twins are sent to live in a small village with Puritan relatives. But once there Frieda is turned into a vampire by the bite from Count Karnstein. In HD.”

Once again borrowing from AIP Poe lessons, the British Hammer poster is titled Twins of Dracula to tie it in to to their Christopher Lee Dracula pictures. Hammer would go a step further in their The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) by adding bookend scenes involving Dracula.

Twins of Evil is the final film in Hammer’s trilogy of Karnstein pictures based (sort of) on Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. The Vampire Lovers (1970) starred Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla/Marcilla/Mircalla Karnstein and featured Peter Cushing as General von Spielsdorf. It is pretty good and at least tries a little to work with some of the book. Carmilla seems a far more sympathetic vampire than Dracula.

This was followed by Lust for a Vampire with Yutte Stensgaard filling in as Carmilla/Mircalla Karnstein. Ingrid Pitt turned down the role after reading the script. Ralph Bates took Peter Cushing’s role when he had to bow out. Jimmy Sangster replaced director Terence Fisher at the last minute. Mike Raven’s voice ended up being dubbed by Valentine Dyall. This was practically a cursed production. The only thing noteworthy about Lust is the most bizarre use of a bad song in cinema history – the scene is positively surreal.

Twins of Evil is only tangential to Carmilla and is set in the Puritan era, which seems prior to the first two films. Katya Wyeth appears briefly as the Countess Mircalla to tie the films together (Ingrid Pitt again declined). Damien Thomas is the evil Count Karnstein but, depending on how you view Twins of Evil, the star is either Peter Cushing as Gustav Weil or the Collinson twins as Frieda and Maria Gellhorn.

Twins of Evil represents a wonderful melding of Hammer’s traditional vampire stories with the then fairly recent Witchfinder General. Count Karnstein may be the true villain but it is clear that the witchhunter Gustav Weil matches him in evil.

Although Christopher Lee is better known now, Peter Cushing was always Hammer’s biggest star. In spite of being in some terrible films (and plenty of good ones), Cushing never gives a bad performance. Here he has a juicy role as the overzealous Gustav Weil, a stern Puritan with a penchant for burning witches.

Mary and Madeleine Collinson were chosen as Playboy’s Playmate(s) of the month in October 1970, the first identical twin Playmates. The producers of Twins of Evil saw this and built a film around them, dropping The Vampire Virgins premise for the third Karnstein film. Mary and Madeleine were eighteen when Twins was filmed and they have an innocent, ethereal look about them. They are alternately dressed in adorable, fancy matching outfits and suggestive negligees. The twins are quite charming on screen. Their accents must have been thick though, as Ingrid Pitt was in Countess Dracula, their voices are dubbed.

Damien Thomas’ Count Karnstein does well to hold his own against Cushing’s Gustav Weil. Horror character actor Dennis Price (Horror of Frankenstein, Theater of Blood) has a brief juicy role as Dietrich.

The biggest surprise I found was how good Kathleen Byron was as Katy Weil, Gustav’s wife. She had a very long career from her debut in 1938, through the Michael Powell films of the 40s and 50s (Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus), and on into 2001. She played Lady Waddington in The Elephant Man (1980), Mrs. Goddard in Emma (1996), and the elder Mrs. Ryan in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

If you like Twins of Evil, I cannot recommend Synapse’s Blu-Ray. Not only does it present the best picture (though Amazon’s version is quite good), but there is also an 84-minute documentary on the making of Twins of Evil and a featurette on the few surviving Hammer props.

People Watch: Roy Stewart, who appears briefly here as bodyguard Joachim, played tiny parts in a number of Hammer productions: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, She, Carry on Up the Jungle, and Prehistoric Women. He later got to play Quarrel in Live and Let Die and Sentor in I, Claudius.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

When I did my post on Ray Harryhausen (8/23), only the first two of his Sinbad films were available on instant Netflix. Harryhausen’s final Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, is now available on Netflix instant play.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

WATCH: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) – Rated G

“To break a spell that’s been placed on Kassim (Damien Thomas) — the brother of his lady love (Jane Seymour) — Sinbad (Patrick Wayne) embarks on a journey to enlist the help of a wizard named Melanthius (Patrick Troughton). But Zenobia, the sorceress who cursed Kassim, and her nefarious son, Rafi, are hot on Sinbad’s trail. Sam Wanamaker directs this adventure-fantasy that co-stars Margaret Whiting, Taryn Power and Kurt Christian.”

Netflix has finally added Ray Harryhausen’s 3rd Sinbad film to their instant collection. The first two, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad are still available on instant play. I unhesitatingly recommend all of Harryhausen’s films. CGI is a wonderful invention akin to the printing press for special effects – allowing all comers to put what they envision on film. Ray Harryhausen’s work is more like an illuminated manuscript – an antiquated method of such exquisite care that it is far more art form than science. It took him a year and a half to do the animation for this film alone.

While Jason and the Argonauts has the best creatures – a hydra, the skeletons, and Talos the giant – Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger has many wonderful creatures. Several skeleton creatures, a baboon, a troglodyte, the eponymous tiger, and more are brought to vivid life through his stop-motion animation. It all leads up to a showstopper fight at the climax. If your connection is good enough, you can even watch this in high definition.

This time around John Wayne’s son Patrick fills Sinbad’s shoes and, as is often the case with Harryhausen’s heroes, he looks a little wooden in comparison to the creatures. He is ably supported by the lovely Taryn Power (Tyrone’s daughter) and the ever radiant Jane Seymour. Patrick Troughton becomes the second Doctor (Who) to appear in a Sinbad movie (Tom Baker played the villain in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad). Margaret Whiting gets the juicy villain role here and has a lot of fun with it.

Set design and costuming are very very colorful here. Sadly Roy Budd’s music score isn’t as good as the classic Bernard Herrman scores from other Harryhausen movies but it is serviceable. The director uses a number of exotic locales (Malta, Spain) to nice effect though some of the ice comes off as styrofoam-y. Overall this is a very fun fantasy with gorgeous work from Ray Harryhausen.

People Watch: Peter Mayhew has an uncredited role here as the Minoton – he is more famous for playing Chewbacca in the Star Wars series