Hammer's daftly enjoyable vampire and witchfinder fusion, starring Peter Cushing and Dennis Price. Network UK R2 DVD.
liberal attitudes to violence and nudity onscreen had been obvious
throughout Hammer's work in the 1960s as women got more and more
seductive and the blood flowed more freely still. By the 1970s the
exploitation era was in full swing and Hammer desperately tried to
update their traditional gothic horror films to the new format. The
answer was the Karnstein trilogy. A lesser known work from writer
Sheridan Le Fanu, it tells of the seduction of young women by the
vampire Carmilla and is credited with helping to inspire Bram Stoker -
importantly for Hammer it provided plenty of excuses for lesbian
activities and nudity with a fair helping of blood and violence. The Vampire Lovers (1970) was a relatively faithful adaptation, and Lust for a Vampire (1971) an interesting semi-sequel, although by Twins of Evil
the original format was all but gone and only a brief reference to Le
Fanu's characters is made.
In a small village, a band of religious men known as The Brotherhood
are lead by Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing). They roam the countryside
accusing women of vampirism and witchcraft and burning any number of
them. Recently left orphaned, Weil's twin nieces arrive in the town and
immediately create a stir with their liberal attitudes. Meanwhile,
Count Karnstein is tiring of the earthly pleasures and entertainments
that his servant Dietrich (Dennis Price) can provide, and sacrifices a
girl to the devil - the summons up the spirit of his long dead ancestor
Carmilla and she turns him into a vampire. Similarly looking for the
dark side of entertainment, Frieda finds herself drawn towards
Karnstein and his towering castle...
Twins of Evil
is a rather mixed up film that, although enjoyable, seems to be
pieced together from a tremendous variety of influences. The Weil
character is obviously inspired by the witchfinder films that were
popular in the early 1970s thanks to Witchfinder General (1968) and Mark of the Devil (1970), while Count Karnstein's desire for immortal pleasures is similar to that of the gentlemen in Hammer's Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and the Karnstein links themselves are inspired by the Le
Fanu novel. Added to all this you have some rather funny elements of
self-parody (or is it just bad writing?) as the witch hunters travel
around randomly burning women at will and Count Karnstein yawns his way
through a black mass, and some gaping plot holes - if Karnstein is the
only vampire around, then who is biting the young men at the start of
the film? - and on top of all that, a rather awkward and absurdly quick
romance between the twins and their school teacher Anton, who plays the
typical disbelieving hero (see Dracula has Risen from the Grave
(1968)) in a terribly underwritten role, backed with some of the worst dialogue committed to
celluloid. Amazingly, despite these problems, the film remains daftly
enjoyable - far more so that the similarly mixed up Brides of Dracula (1960) - although despite the casting of the twin Playboy centrefolds, nudity is restricted to a disappointingly short scene.
Director John Hough was relatively new to the business when he filmed Twins of Evil
and he generally lacks any flair - dialogue scenes in particular are
shot in a distinctly television style with simple full face shots of
the speaking actor. Surprisingly, the film does boast a couple of
very nice set pieces - notably a castle courtyard towards the end of
the film, bathed in coloured light with plenty of ground fog that would
impress many of the top Italian horror directors. The soundtrack, from
Harry Robertson, who scored many of Hammer's later productions, has a
standard Hammer orchestral sound, although boasting a rather catchy
Hammer favourite Peter Cushing
takes the lead here in an evil twist on his famous Van Helsing
role - despite the often daft dialogue he keeps a straight face and
gives a typically earnest performance. Cult movie fans will recognise
the tragic Dennis Price who, previously bound for stardom, slummed his
final years in low budget Jess Franco and Hammer films, yet despite
this, still gives a good, if brief, performance. The Collinson twins
are obviously not cast for their acting, and are certainly not going to
win any awards, but perform suitably well in their roles. Damien
Thomas and David Warbeck (The Beyond (1981)) give suitably good performances as Count Karnstein and Anton respectively.
Despite its mixed up plot, and rather unimpressive direction, Twins of Evil
remains one of Hammer's more enjoyable efforts and comes recommended to
all cult movie fans looking for something light and entertaining.
Anyone famous in it?
Peter Cushing - Hammer's top name who also headed various Amicus and independent horror films. Dennis Price - A former top British star who appeared in Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).
Directed by anyone interesting?
John Hough - an occasional director, best known for The Legend of Hell House (1973)
A little blood and several violent deaths.
A short topless/nude scene, and lots of teasing...
Who is it for?
Generally enjoyably for all cult movie fans.
A good orchestral score, with a surprisingly catchly theme.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 widescreen (might have been shown 1.66:1 in Europe). Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The disc is strong visually, good colours, minimal grain almost no print damage. The print appears identical to that used in the earlier R2 Carlton DVD.
English mono audio - good throughout.
The disc includes:
Scene - the 'True Love' sequence. A short, and rather anachronistic
song that the girls in the school sing during their lesson later on in
the film. No contextual shots or additional material. (1m 14s) - new to
Original cinema trailer. (Not included on the previous UK DVD)
Stills gallery. Publicity shots and posters, included as a video file with no background music or scrolling.
A brief booklet of notes from Kim Newman and Steve Jones, some interesting information, but nothing particularly new.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
European releases. This is likely to be the best version, with strong
print and exclusive features. No US release at present, and no hints of
an upcoming release.
This print is believed to be fully uncut. English language print.
Daftly enjoyable and entertaining despite its mixed up script and banal direction. Recommended.
looking film print with some brief but interesting extra features. For
anyone who owns the existing UK DVD, this set is probably not worth an
upgrade, but for anyone who does not own it, this release is