Twins of Evil (1971) 

Hammer's daftly enjoyable vampire and witchfinder fusion, starring Peter Cushing and Dennis Price. Network UK R2 DVD.

The Film

Increasingly 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 theme.

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.

In Brief

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)
Any gore? A little blood and several violent deaths.
Any sex? A short topless/nude scene, and lots of teasing...
Who is it for?
Generally enjoyably for all cult movie fans.
Good soundtrack? A good orchestral score, with a surprisingly catchly theme.


Visuals 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.
Audio English mono audio - good throughout.
Subtitles none
Extras The disc includes:
  • Deleted 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 this DVD.
  • 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 Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Various 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.
Cuts? This print is believed to be fully uncut. English language print.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 5th October 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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