Twins Of Evil (1971 Britain)

A typically stylish period vampire tale from Hammer, one of the J. Sheridan LeFanu trilogy. The difference here is a nifty gimmick that makes great use out of Madeleine and Mary Collinson, real life twins who make for a voluptuous pair indeed. Hammer Horror were at their best when they just tweaked classic stories. Throw the classic elements up in the air and let them fall where they may. And that is what is done here, in a very camp and over-the-top manner. Director John Hough has also given the film a very heavy handed score, which although gets a little silly, increases the camp value of the film and is therefore beneficial.

The two play Frieda and Maria Gellhorn, orphaned girls sent to live with their uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a relentless, unyielding Puritan. He is a member of a group dubbed The Brotherhood, and they are determined to eliminate any person the group suspects of being in league with Satan. The one they really have to worry about is the depraved Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a man who gleefully gives himself over to evil, and who is soon turned into a vampire. Meanwhile, Frieda, the much more wilful and rebellious of the twins, decides to seek out the Count and is made a vampire herself. She and the Count are then ready to take advantage of the fact that most people can’t tell the twins apart. The people on the screen, anyway. (Sorry for giving away a few major spoilers but that’s the way a wafer crumbles)

We – the audience – have no problem keeping things straight, thanks to the performances of the beautiful Collinson girls. Cushing is quite impressively intense as the domineering Gustav, and also ultimately sympathetic when he needs to be. This is a man who only wanted to do good, but got carried away. The film does make a strong point about the danger of ignorance and the mob mentality. Cushing plays him virtually as a psychopath with no redeeming features. Weil perceives everything that exists beyond the scope of his limited, but religiously fanatical, perspective as inherently evil. It is quite possible that his frustration adds fuel to his personal emotional fire and leads you to suspect that a degree of sexual deviance is at play when Weil and his cronies humiliate and burn innocent young women.

A strong supporting cast fleshes out the other roles to great effect: David Warbeck as the romantic male lead, Kathleen Byron as Aunt Katy, Roy Stewart as mute henchman Joachim, stunning Luan Peters as common girl Gerta, Dennis Price as the Count’s associate Dietrich, and Katya Wyeth as the evil Countess Mircalla. The film is a sterling example of the more sensational approach of latter day Hammer, with the accent on strong violence and sex appeal; the bright red blood flows freely and some of the young ladies show off some ample bosoms. Director John Hough was substantially younger than the majority of Hammer directors for the time, then just in his early 30s, and his direction is efficient and energetic. The pacing is consistent, the atmosphere strong, and the Collinson pair irresistible. The film opens with a bang, and has an exciting finale as well. There’s even the delicious irony of a Peter Cushing character needing an education on vampires! Overall, this is a lot of fun. 🙂


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