Great sets, strong performances, beautiful twins, witches, and vampires make this period piece film from Hammer an enjoyable watch.
Two recently orphaned twins come to live with their Uncle, a Witch hunter in a cursed village. Let’s dig into 1971’s “Twins of Evil”, directed by John Hough!
As I See It
The title is a bit of a misnomer, as one of the beautiful twins ends up being evil and the other a patsy. Set in the 1600s, the costumes are consistent, and Cushing’s dialogue begins heavily Shakespearean before petering off a bit for the rest of the film.
It holds the rare distinction of being both a Witch and a Vampire film, though before I researched the relations to the Karnstein Trilogy I was unaware we were heading for fangs and reflectionless mirrors. The tone is set with a heavy hammer as we open with a witch burning, and we’re introduced to Gustav Wiel (Peter Cushing), the village witch hunter, and his over-zealous mob who burn young women alive as if it’s their turn on. The council believes a Woman to be a Witch just because she hasn’t taken a husband. It’s hard to imagine crucifying someone for such fallacious claims.
We’re treated to some great sets, and at first, I can’t tell if the cemetery is real or not until the next cut when it becomes obviously a sound stage. A two-headed ram statue makes for a striking silhouette in the castle as well.
We find that Wiel’s twin nieces have come to live with him and his wife after the death of their parents, and they clash immediately as Frieda and Mary (The Collinson twins) are young and rebellious.
Though it’s clear that Wiel and his posse act with impunity and without evidence, in the end, he’s correct that evil permeates their village – in the form of the Vampiric Count Karnstein – but it’s not the spells he must worry about.
I must add that the score (Harry Robinson) is brilliant, but unfortunately not suited for this film or genre. It’s got a bit of a War film vibe, even elements of Alan Silvestri’s score for John McTiernan’s Predator.
The twin’s chemistry is impressive, which should probably go without saying because they are after all identical twins. But it’s not easy to translate that energy to acting. Even more mind-boggling is that it took me forty minutes to pick up on the fact that their thick Maltese accents forced their voices to be dubbed. A lot of films from this era were dubbed, so it didn’t even phase me if the audio was out of sync, but the voice-overs and the performances matched perfectly.
An undead Freida unsuccessfully immolates her diffident sister and Mary ends up with the handsome composer who came out of nowhere in the second act. No justice is served to Weil for his iniquitous slayings of the young woman who were guilty of nothing more than existing.
As far as the Hammer Horror Meter goes, this is one of the best I’ve seen to date.
Peter Cushing, of course. If you’re unaware of his accolades, you’ve got some easy research to do: Star Wars (Grand Moff Tarkin), Tales from the Crypt (1972), Sherlock Holmes (68’ series). A horror titan.
Of Gratuitous Nature
They’re always so keen to fondle breasts in Hammer films.
The Collinson twins (Madeleine and Mary) who play the titular evil duo were the first identical twins to be dubbed Playmate of the Month by Playboy Magazine in October of 1970. Though Hammer is known for its lustful story lines and sexualized portrayals, and a playmate has a certain intimation, the twins have a wholesome, girl next door element to them.
Ripe for a Remake
The technology exists to recreate the cinematic patina of the Hammer look but I’m not sure this would be the film I would use those tricks on. It’s good but not unique enough.
Twins of Evil is the third installment of Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy. The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for A Vampire (1971) and then this film all featured the Karnstein Castle and family of blood suckers and were written by Tudor Gates.
Where to Watch
Synapse films released a Blu-ray or you can stream on Amazon Prime or Shudder.