Twins of Evil (1971)

Twins of Evil (1971)

Which is the Virgin? Which is the Vampire?

In 19th century middle-Europe, orphaned twins Maria and Frieda go to live with their deeply religious uncle who heads The Brotherhood, a group of witch-hunters who burn any females they are convinced are vampires and have conflict with Count Karnstein, whom many suspect practises black magic. Although the twins are identical, Frieda finds herself drawn to the mysterious Count and visits him in his mountain castle. Bored of satanic rituals, Karnstein has become a vampire and proceeds to turn Frieda into one too.

 

One of Hammer’s later films, Twins of Evil goes back to their roots of creating effective, serious horror films instead of the campy, silly outings they’d turned into. Hammer’s later films were solid but not very memorable, mostly rehashing old ideas and dragging out tired franchises as much as they could. With Twins of Evil, the studio creates one of its finer films filled with sadism, violence and a generally more sadistic and bleak outlook than it had created for a long time. Hammer trademarks are all here: the quality score, the Gothic atmosphere, the authentic sets and the odd peppering of character actors to beef up the lesser roles.

One of the more noticeable differences with Twins of Evil over its earlier Hammer brethren is the nasty and sadistic tone that underlines it. This isn’t just your typical vampire film as it mixes usual vampire lore with more extreme parts from the witch-hunting exploits of the likes of Witchfinder General. Hammer saw how much they could get away with and decide to push their own boundaries a little further which makes a welcome change. The film opens almost too well as The Brotherhood find a young woman suspected of vampirism and brutally burn her at the stake. It’s a hopeful sign of things to come but the film rarely re-captures the intensity and imagery of this opening until the finale. It does lag a little in the middle but there are enough burnings and bitings to satisfy and the plot is involving enough not to bore you outright. The film then picks back up at the end as they find out that one of the twins is in fact a vampire and, although the plot device is a little too obvious (why have twins if you’re not going to have them switch?) it’s actually a pretty intense few moments as you’re not sure whether the innocent twin is going to get it. The film then ends strongly at the castle of Count Karnstein with plenty of gore effects and deaths, including a particularly nasty and very effective decapitation.

Mary and Madeline Collinson, the twins of the title, are both up to the jobs needed of them. By that I mean they look very nice in low-cut lingerie, one of them acts evil and dark and the other pure and innocent. That’s about all they need to do and they do that. If you think they’re here to act, you’re mistaken. Why else would you cast two Playboy centrefolds? Actually to say they’ve been cast for their natural attributes, the film does little to show us what all of the fuss is about!

It’s Cushing that steals the show as Gustav Weil, the cold and multi-dimension character who strongly believes that he is doing what God would want him to do but ultimately he’s just as hypocritical and corrupt as the man he despises. It’s one of his better roles in his later career and one that definitely anchors the film despite a script which totters all over the place at times. Damien Thomas just looks slimy and evil so he’s a good choice to play the Count, turning him into an arrogant and sadistic man who relishes the power he has. But he’s a strictly one-dimensional ‘boo me’ type character and he isn’t Dracula! The two men are supposed to play polar opposites but the script cleverly has both men crossing over into the other’s territory, with Weil posing more of a threat to the village at times than the vampire. To have such a character tow the line between hero and villain is not an easy feat.

 

Twins of Evil balanced the modern Hammer demands of gore and nudity with the great acting, well-rounded plot and solid cast that made the earlier horror outings so enjoyable. And of course, it’s got Peter Cushing burning witches and slaying vampires – what more do you want?

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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