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.

It’s Hammer Time plus Liam Neeson Among the Wolves

I’ve had mixed feelings about the new Hammer films. I have seen three of their four new offerings. The Resident was not very good, Wake Wood had an intriguing premise but was flawed, but Let Me In was a magnificent remake of Let the Right One In. I missed The Woman in Black but look forward to catching it down the line.

Hammer Films now has a YouTube channel. They plan to rotate some of their older films. Currently you can view these films in their entirety: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1974), The Quatermass Xperiment (1955), The Man in Black (1950), Dick Barton Special Agent (1948), and The Last Page aka Man Bait (1952). The Quatermass Xperiment is wonderful, Captain Kronos is fun (and you can see where they hoped it would be a series) but I have not watched the other three.

* Whoops! Apparently The Quatermass Xperiment and Captain Kronos are blocked in the United States.

The Hammer Films channel also has trailers and featurettes but is still a work in progress. I really like the restoration work they are doing before releasing their back catalog on Blu-Ray. Unfortunate not in the United States as yet and they are far too expensive for me to start importing. I’d have to find a region-free Blu-Ray player as these are region-locked and then they would cost me 10-17 pounds apiece plus shipping.

Compare that price to The Ultimate Hammer Collection on DVD. The collection costs 26 pounds but for that you get 21 movies including my favorite (and long out of print in the U.S.) Quatermass and the Pit. I bought a region-free DVD player and this set and it was still cheaper than buying the out of print Quatermass.

I sure hope the Blu-Rays will come over here at some point. Until then I will have to content myself with Synapse’s Twins of Evil Blu-Ray and perhaps I’ll even spring for Vampire Circus.

If you are patiently awaiting Taken 2 in theaters then try Liam Neeson’s latest manly manfest The Grey – now streaming on Netflix.

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. But thanks to wolves that view their presence as a threat, they aren’t alone.”