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.

Shakespeare week – Theater of Blood

This is Shakespeare week. Apparently when you fail to give an actor of the Bard his due, you may be in for some trouble. Theater of Blood is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Theater of Blood (1973) – NR

“Vincent Price channels his peerless talent for playing refined madmen into the character of Edward Lionheart, a proud London actor who goes dramatically bonkers when he fails to receive a coveted award. While riverside tramps foil his attempt to drown himself in the River Thames, the world believes he has met a watery end. The thespian uses this cover to exact grisly — and fitting — revenge on the critics who ignored his genius.”

“O pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth, that I am meek and gentle with these butchers.”

The concept of having a Shakespearean actor take poetic revenge on his critics is certainly a fun one and this one is milked for all it is worth beginning on the Ides of March. The murders are quite inventive and each is taken from a different Shakespeare play. They were gory for the time but seem quaint today.

Much as Richard III was yesterday, Theater of Blood is essentially a one-man show. If you do not enjoy the theatricality (or hamminess if you prefer) of a Vincent Price performance then you probably will not enjoy this. This is not his best performance (see Witchfinder General – also available on instant Netflix) but ranks up there with Dr. Phibes as one of his most enjoyable.

Diana Rigg acquits herself well in her second billed role as Edwina Lionheart, daughter of Edward. This is probably her best role after her fabulous stint as Emma Peel in The Avengers but no one steals a scene from Vincent.

Actress Coral Browne, who plays Miss Chloe Moon here, first met Vincent Price on this movie. They were married the following year and, unlike traditional Hollywood marriages, stayed married until her passing in 1991.

The rest of the cast reads like a list of Hammer supporting players – Madeline Smith (Vampire Lovers), Diana Dors (Hammer House of Horror), Ian Hendry (Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter), Michael Hordern (Demons of the Mind), Dennis Price (Twins of Evil) and even the voice of Charles Gray (The Devil Rides Out).

This film is a huge amount of fun and could be watched just for the early 70s fashion. The Shakespeare references are plentiful and much of his dialogue is included as well. Theater of Blood is a showcase for Vincent Price and he shines so watch it already. Besides which, where else are you going to see a swordfight on gym equipment?

People Watch: When Vincent Price retired from his stint of hosting Mystery for Masterpiece Theater, his co-star in this film, Diana Rigg, took over hosting duties.