Saturday, April 19, 2014

#1,342. Twins of Evil (1971) - Hammer Horror Movies

Directed By: John Hough

Starring: Peter Cushing, Dennis Price, Mary Collinson

Tag line: "A new terror-filled X film"

Trivia: Mary Collinson and Madeleine Collinson were from Malta and still had thick Maltese accents. As they had done with other foreign actors, Hammer simply had their dialog replaced by British performers

The final entry in Hammer’s “Karnstein Trilogy” 1971’s Twins of Evil serves as a prequel of sorts to The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Lust for a Vampire (1971). More to the point, Twins of Evil tells a fascinating tale, while at the same time featuring some of the loveliest women ever to appear in a Hammer production.

Following the death of their parents, twin sisters Maria and Freida (Mary and Madeleine Collinson) are sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle, Gustav (Peter Cushing) and Katy Weil (Kathleen Byron). The leader of a fanatically religious brotherhood, Gustav spends his evenings tracking down witches and burning them at the stake. Anton (David Warbeck), a musician whose sister Ingrid (Isobel Black) runs the local schoolhouse, opposes Gustav, accusing him of executing innocent young women without so much as a trial. But Gustav’s most dangerous foe is Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a member of the aristocracy and an unapologetic Satan worshipper. After performing an ancient ritual, Count Karnstein is transformed into a vampire, and immediately sets his sights on Gustav’s niece, Freida, who, unlike Maria, is every bit as sinister as the Count himself.

Like The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire, Twins of Evil is loosely based on Camilla, a 19th century vampire novel written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Yet, despite the fact it’s primarily a vampire tale, the opening scenes of Twins of Evil focus instead on Gustav Weil and his Brotherhood. As portrayed in these early sequences, Gustav is a monster, a zealot whose strict religious views have clouded his judgment. Oddly enough, when Count Karnstein, the story’s true villain, is first introduced, we actually side with him against Gustav, who had led the Brotherhood into the woods to burn Gerta (Luan Peters), the Count’s concubine and a suspected witch. Of course, once we get to know the Count, we realize he’s the personification of evil, a follower of Satan who tortures pretty young girls to satisfy his own perverse appetites. Soon after the Count joins the ranks of the vampiric undead (his transformation is one of the film’s best scenes), he convinces Freida to join him, and together, the two strike fear into the hearts of everyone in town. It’s at this point Twins of Evil does a complete 180, making Gustav and his Brotherhood the heroes, and putting us in the unusual position of rooting for a character we have come to detest. Damien Thomas is deliciously menacing as the Count, but it’s Cushing who delivers the movie’s most convincing performance, portraying a man who’s dedicated his life to fighting the Devil, only to discover a member of his own family is one of the Dark Prince’s most ardent disciples.

Yet as well-told as its story is, the most memorable aspect of Twins of Evil is its cast of beautiful women, beginning with the twins themselves. Mary and Madeleine Collinson (who, the year before, became the 1st set of identical twins to do a spread for Playboy magazine) play Maria and Freida, and are stunningly gorgeous, something they have in common with pretty much every young woman appearing in this film. Made at a time when Hammer was experimenting with more risqué material, Twins of Evil is an entertaining horror movie, but it’s also a very sexy one.

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