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Twins of Evil



At the quaint European village of Karnstein arrive identical twin sisters Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (real-life sibs and 1970 Playboy centerfolds Mary and Madeleine Collinson). Newly orphaned, the beautiful young women come from Venice to live with their Aunt Katy (Kathleen Byron, The Elephant Man) and Uncle Gustav (the legendary Peter Cushing).

Upon seeing them and their décolletage, Gustav angrily bursts, “What kind of plumage is this?” He belongs to The Brotherhood, the town’s puritanical club of witch hunters who burn “children of the devil” with as absolute glee. One recent roastee was — gasp! — an unmarried hottie who lived — double-gasp! — by herself in the outskirts.

It’s a dangerous time in town, and not just because of The Brotherhood’s cleansing ways. Up in the foreboding Castle Karnstein, its owner, Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas, Never Let Me Go), is bored with his staff’s usual round-up of peasants for his “entertainment” — the satanic sacrifice kind. He knows what he really wants: “Twins. That would be something different.”

Lucky for him, Frieda increasingly tires of virginity: “Who wants to be good, if good is singing hymns and praying all day long?” With Karnstein selling his soul to become a vampire, the stars align for a good time — both for him and for you.  

Cushing is scary-good as the holier-than-everybody Gustav. But, reflective of its times, Twins of Evil is more funky than frightening. It’s sad that the culture war at the core of Karnstein still resonates as fresh today, but the film is too much fun to let that get me down. I suspect the act of breast-biting has a great deal to do with Twins’ continuing cult popularity — merely one enjoyable element in a movie overflowing with them, from a dangerous vibe of decadence to Hammer’s aces-as-usual Gothic ambience.

And, um, the scenery doesn’t hurt, either.

Of some surprise is that Synapse’s Blu-ray/DVD combo pack comes with another feature film, disguised as an extra. Running just three minutes less than Twins of Evil, it’s the all-new documentary The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil, expertly assembled by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures (see their work on Synapse’s 2011 Blu-ray of Hammer’s Vampire Circus). While ostensibly a making-of retrospective, it’s really much more than that, examining — among other things — Hammer’s overall declining fortunes at the time, and Twins’ connections to 1970’s The Vampire Lovers and 1971’s Lust for a Vampire.

All three movies were spawned from the same 17th-century source material: J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic novella of 1872, Carmilla, about a lesbian vampire. I didn’t even think about the connection while watching Twins (and I even wrote an adaptation of Carmilla for 2007’s Gothic Classics graphic novel), but it makes total sense, and this is the total package. —Rod Lott

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