Twins of Evil was the third of the 'Karnstein trilogy' made by Hammer, following in the wake of The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Lust for a Vampire (1971) and was again produced by Harry Fine and Michael Style of Fantale Films. As with the two previous Karnstein films, Twins of Evil (1971) was scripted by Fantale's partner Tudor Gates, taking further inspiration from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's novella Carmilla, originally serialised in 1872. Le Fanu's tale of Carmilla Karnstein is regarded as a major influence on the vampire genre, particularly the depiction of the female and/or lesbian vampire, and predates Bram Stoker's Dracula by 25 years. 

Dublin born Harry Fine, a former actor and stage manager, originally worked in television, mainly on ITC's adventure series of the 1950s and 1960s, and moved into film production in 1964 with The Pleasure Girls (1965), dipping back into television to work on an episode of Hammer's anthology series Journey into the Unknown (1968). Michael Style was originally employed as a carpenter at Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and made his way up the ranks to become a drama producer. In England, he produced sports and variety shows for ATV. Both met through Nat Cohen at EMI and became involved in Hammer through Style's facilities company Intertel. Tudor Gates, a former theatre manager, had been working in Italy, writing a number of Mario Bava's films, including a contribution to Danger:Diabolik (1968) and completing the final draft screenplay of Vadim's Barbarella (1968). In 1969, Gates joined Fantale Films and in October of that year they pitched the idea of a film based on Fanu's Carmilla to James Carreras at Hammer.

Fine had hit upon the idea of adapting the novella after recalling a production of Carmilla at the Dublin Gate Theatre, which he used to manage, and felt 'Le Fanu, whether he or his readers had consciously knew it or not, had interwoven lesbian overtones into a straightforward vampire theme.'(1) This chimed with the changing fortunes of Hammer who were on the hunt for new material after a period of diminishing creative and financial returns from a slew of Dracula and Frankenstein sequels and the departure of the Hammer old guard such as Anthony Hinds and Anthony Nelson Keys.

Coincidentally, Hammer was about to enter the 1970s during an era where censorship was being relaxed after a conservative period in British cinema. Making films at their Bray Studios base, Hammer's scripts had to be submitted to the BBFC prior to filming and they were ordered to make necessary cuts to achieve even an X certificate. In July 1970, the BBFC modified the X certificate to raise its suitable age from 16 to 18 thus allowing a company like Hammer much more freedom to include violence and nudity in their horror films.
'There are some very sick things here.'
Gates himself thought Hammer's product was 'terribly outdated' and believed 'the thing to do was bring Hammer films up to the seventies.' (2) The Vampire Lovers, a fairly consistent adaptation of Carmilla produced with money from American International Pictures and directed by the reliable Roy Ward Baker, embraces many of the characteristics of the sexploitation film, featuring nudity and lesbianism, within the traditional Gothic milieu of the Hammer film. It also made an instant star out of Ingrid Pitt who puts in an exceptional performance as the title character. However, the BBFC's viewer Audrey Field was still 'very concerned with the combination of nudity (transparent nightdresses, public hair showing etc) with horror. There are some very sick things here.'(3)

Hammer boss Sir James Carreras was so enthralled by The Vampire Lovers he immediately commissioned a sequel To Love a Vampire, the second in the Karnstein trilogy, which was going to be directed by Hammer legend Terence Fisher and feature Peter Cushing. It was former Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster who had to replace Fisher, injured in a road accident, as director on what was eventually retitled as Lust for a Vampire. Cushing also had to bow out as his wife Helen was very ill and he was replaced at the last minute by Ralph Bates. This may go some way to explaining the film's disastrous tone and Fine recalled, 'I knew what emphasis Terry Fisher intended and I believe he and Peter Cushing between them would have made a more poignant drama of a doomed love, as opposed to the more explicitly melodramatic make-out movie offered by Lust for a Vampire.' (4) Sangster and Bates disowned the film when they saw the finished product, complete with its Harry Fine inspired song 'Strange Love' and Bates considered it 'to be one of the worst films ever made.' (5)

By now Hammer were desperate to find funding, as the original deals with Warner, Seven Arts and AIP had dried up when US studios realised the boom in British cinema of the 1960s was well and truly over, and picture deals could only be secured with the likes of British production houses such as EMI or Rank. The third of the Karnstein trilogy, originally titled Village of the Vampires or Vampire Virgins and now indirectly influenced by Le Fanu's story, was intended as part of their Rank portfolio of films.

Fantale were more or less left to their own devices by Hammer head office as Michael Carreras, who had taken over as managing director in 1971, struggled to push the company in the right direction. As David Pirie notes, after taking the position he screened the most recent Hammer films in a private screening room, including Lust for a Vampire and The Vampire Lovers, and was shocked by the 'amount of nudity and lesbian softcore sex' (6) in the films to such a degree that he set out to try and return a 'rudderless' Hammer to former Gothic glories.

Meanwhile, Fantale had come up with an idea to develop the Village of the Vampires/Vampire Virgins script with Peter Cushing as the lead. Style had spotted twins Mary and Madeleine Collinson in the centrefold of the October 1970 Playboy and suggested to writer Tudor Gates they should include twin vampires in the project. Apparently James Carreras and Rank's Frank Poole thought this was a stroke of genius and Village of the Vampires/Vampire Virgins was reconfigured as Twins of Evil in a deal with Fantale in January 1971.

Gates started writing the script with the notion that 'this was a picture about the Peter Cushing character and the twins... were a coincidental but necessary part of the formula'.(7) Originally, Cushing was to play the vengeful Count Karnstein in the Village of the Vampires/Vampire Virgins concept but in Gates's script he became Gustav Weil, the puritanical uncle to the two recently bereaved twins Frieda and Maria who become the target of Count Karnstein, a vampire created by the revived Carmilla, or Countess Mircalla as she's known here. As the documentary on this disc rightly points out, Twins of Evil is actually a prequel to The Vampire Lovers, set some time before the events of that film and focuses more on the Count Karnstein and Gustav Weil characters than it does on Le Fanu's Carmilla.

Cushing agreed to make the film despite still being in mourning after his wife's death in January 1971 and took on a punishing work schedule for the next two years as a way of coping with his grief. 28 year old director John Hough, who had spent many years as second unit director on The Champions, The Baron and had directed several episodes of The Avengers, was fresh from helming London Weekend Television's Wolfshead - The Legend of Robin Hood (1969), which they eventually rejected, before Cushing's agent John Redway suggested him to Hammer for Twins of Evil. Hammer picked up Wolfshead and unsuccessfully tried to sell it as a TV series before giving it a limited cinema release in 1973.
... a large German sausage to simulate Collinson's decapitation
Mary and Madeleine were not the automatic choice for the roles of Frieda and Maria and even Kate O'Mara had been initially approached but was rejected when Hammer couldn't cast a similar actress to play opposite her, despite her observation that she could play both parts. The Collinsons auditioned with about a dozen other sets of twins, were tested and then offered the parts. They were joined by Damien Thomas, as Count Karnstein, veteran character actor Dennis Price as his manservant Dietrich and several actors that director John Hough brought with him from his Robin Hood film, including the legendary Kathleen Byron (Black Narcissus and The Small Back Room) and one-time James Bond contender and future Italian exploitation action film hero David Warbeck.

Shot at Pinewood between March and April 1971, the film used some of the back lot sets created for Countess Dracula as well as extensive location shooting in Hammer's home from home, Black Park. Damien Thomas recalled a mishap with his fangs when he broke one of them while biting Madeleine Collinson on the neck and special effects veteran Bert Luxford employed Spam, a marrow and finally resorted to using a large German sausage to simulate Collinson's decapitation for the climax of the film.

The film opens with a strident tone, firmly established by Harry Robinson's memorable, driving score. Weil (Cushing at his most intense) and his Brotherhood ride through the forest in search of those that defy their strict but hypocritical religious zealotry. They descend upon an isolated cottage and drag an unsuspecting Hammer starlet to the sacrificial flames. After she denies that she is a witch, Weil snatches away the cross she bears and raises his arms heavenward to pray for her as the shot cuts to said unfortunate creature already atop the bonfire. Weil places a torch to the kindling, Robinson's music swelling and rising. The titles begin and slowly Robinson's charging theme takes over, resembling Morricone's 'Ecstacy of Gold' from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Certainly Robinson thought 'western' when he saw the rough cut and this motif works extremely well. He also creates some wonderfully atmospheric cues later for Karnstein's rituals. As David Huckvale notes, it is a score that 'can monumentalize what we see on screen, investing images with a grandeur they don't often possess by themselves.'(8)

This opening and then the little details that follow suggest that Hammer, Gates and his partners had taken notice of the pastoral horrors of Witchfinder General (1968) and Blood on Satan's Claw (1971). Certainly the image of the two boys playing on the tree branch as the coach bringing Frieda and Maria to town feels of the same ilk and the Black Park locations help to expand the look of the film. Frieda and Maria's arrival at the home of Aunt Kathy and Uncle Gustav is also pure fairy tale with the film's moral positions about desire, identity and faith established in broad strokes with the two buxom women looked upon lasciviously by the local men, their defying the tradition of wearing black after their parents' deaths and Gustav's horror at their 'birds of paradise' attire foreshadowing the beginning of his repressive treatment.

Gustav's authoritarianism and intense belief in the burning of those who dabble in witchcraft make him a symbol of misplaced religious faith, as negative as the decadent and debauched Count Karnstein whom the Brotherhood seek out. Yet, even in the scene where the Brotherhood are gathered in their chamber, Cushing gives us pause for thought. As his mob screams out their desire to burn their identified victim (an 'immoral' single woman), Weil is shown to contemplate these requests, suggesting that there is a moral confusion bubbling away beneath his steely surface. This crisis of faith becomes a central theme when Weil's own nieces are caught up in his witchfinding and, in a masterful performance, Cushing gradually imbues Weil with a measure of pathos.

Frieda and Maria also represent the yin and yang of this moral hypocrisy. Frieda is strong and ebullient, sexually confident and worldly, criticising Gustav as a two faced zealot who takes pleasure in punishing them whereas Maria is innocent and conciliatory, willing to adhere to the status quo. However, as Peter Hutchings observes: 'the fact that the rebellious, independent twin is presented as unequivocally evil while the obedient twin, the one who in effect knows her place, is virtue personified immediately lends a misogynist tone' (9) and this dovetails with Fantale's male heterosexual fantasy about lesbianism and attitudes to female power that permeates Twins of Evil and the other Karnstein films

The Collinsons are certainly very attractive women, get the opportunity to display their wares and demonstrate what Michael Style saw in that Playboy centrefold. With both of them having strong Maltese accents they were dubbed in post production but this is accomplished well and doesn't detract from their decorative function (a Hammer motif, of course) and serviceable performances. They effectively contribute to the moral dilemmas the story describes but they are not the central characters in the film. The relationship between Weil and Count Karnstein is the film's major concern.

Their first encounter, in the woods and after Weil has disturbed the Count debauching with yet another Hammer starlet, again delineates the moral borderline between what are in effect two anti-heroes. Karnstein is a bored aristocrat keen to experience excess, to the degree that he will dabble with the black arts and welcome his transformation into a vampire, and his corruption of innocence is de rigeur whereas Weil is mistakenly dragging the innocent to the bonfire because he believes he is right but is ultimately willing to be proved wrong. There's a comment here on corrupt masculinity and its fundamentalist repression of female sexuality and which, in the documentary, Ted Newsom regards as a 'sublimated sexuality [that] expressed itself as violence' that has its roots in the Inquisition.

Count Karnstein's excess might be very attractive but it is Weil who in the end finds redemption of a kind in the final battle with him and he fully understands how destructive his repression has been. A purer notion of love and sex is of course eventually played out between choir master Anton (David Warbeck) and Maria, with Anton placed as the voice of reason in the midst of 'this reign of terror by Gustav Weil and his religious friends' against 'anyone poor, living alone and not a devoted member of the church'. A later scene between Weil and Anton certainly underlines the film's exploration of rationalism and superstition, the often indistinguishable lines between zealotry and a scientific reinterpretation of myth and legend.
'Twins? That would be something different'
Damien Thomas is great casting for Karnstein and plays it to the hilt, taking on John Hough's advice to 'Shakespeare' it up a bit but just about managing to prevent his performance from tumbling into send up. His chemistry with Cushing and Dennis Price, as Dietrich, makes his earlier scenes rather delicious. The bored Karnstein, watching the 'entertainment' laid on by Dietrich, surely also echoes the sentiments of Michael Style seeing a certain centrefold: 'Twins? That would be something different'.

The resurrection of Mircalla is very operatic, soaked in atmosphere on beautifully lit, large scale sets designed by Roy Stannard. Hough's visual touch comes into its own here and he is ably supported by Dick Bush providing some sumptuous cinematography. Although Mircalla's simulation of masturbation by running her hand up and down a candle during her seduction of Karnstein remains as laughable a symbol as the day it was shot, Hough's style is a successful use of placing objects in the foreground of the frame, cutting directly to close ups of characters, shooting from unusual angles and framing shots to underline the psychological states of certain characters.

Before long, Frieda finds herself a guest of Karnstein where she must 'pay for her pleasures' by becoming a vampire, embrace a lifestyle where 'the good and the innocent die' and insolent peasants like Gerta (Luan Peters) are taught a lesson in the vampire school of hard knocks. The scene where Frieda bites Gerta on the breast is one of the very few instances where the film touches on the transgressive sexuality of Le Fanu's original tale, although even this was trimmed before the film's release and a suggestion of the original scene remains. As the documentary concludes, Hough steers Twins of Evil away from the overtness of The Vampire Lovers and concentrates more on character and story. Frieda seizes her new found freedom and begins her own reign of terror, polishing off Dietrich, Anton's sister and members of the Brotherhood until she's cornered in the forest and Weil utters that immortal line: 'The Devil... has sent me twins of evil!'

This is immediately contrasted with a much subtler scene where we see Weil struggling to come to terms with what has happened, believing the only solution is to also punish Maria for her sister's aberrant and transgressive behaviour. It offers Kathleen Byron, as Kathy, her best scene in the film when she attempts to reason with the tormented Weil and suggests that his own actions have set Frieda on the path of ungodliness, asking him, 'Have you ever thought you might have beaten the devil into her?' Cushing is rather superb as we see Weil's steeliness wither under this questioning and he wrestles with his conscience.

Naturally, things get complicated further when Karnstein swaps the innocent Maria with the imprisoned Frieda and Weil almost burns the wrong woman. The film rushes to its climax, pardon the pun, as Frieda attempts to seduce Anton and he discovers he's tangling with a vampire. This playing with and confusion of the twins' identities is, as the documentary reveals, something of a reflection of the Tom Jones styled 'stag movie' Halfway Inn that the Collinson twins had made prior to their experience with Hammer. Anton rallies the troops and in typical style, the Brotherhood and the villagers, bearing their ubiquitous torches and sharpened axes, storm castle Karnstein. If it's gore you're after then Hough packs plenty into the last ten minutes as mute servant Joachim informs the Count that the Brotherhood have come prepared and he and Frieda are not just in for a casual burning at the stake. Poor Joachim is left behind as cannon fodder but before getting a stake in the heart he manages to burn and cleave a few victims. This explosion of blood-letting is topped by the splendid scene where Gustav whips off Frieda's head. Bert Luxford's German sausage is highly effective. 

Twins of Evil is certainly a step in the right direction after the tawdriness of Lust for a Vampire and proves that there was a bit of old life left in the Gothic material that had seemed rather past its sell by date in the 1970s. Gina Wisker notes of the film that it is representative of 'the dual responses of desire and disgust that horror figures conjure up for their audiences, where voluptuous semi-clad women offer delights clearly defined as dangerous, monstrous and deadly, titillating the audience and finally reassuring them of their moral solidarity when all 'deviants' are punished at the film's end.'(10) However, many reviews class Frieda and Maria as twin lesbian vampires when the film clearly does not represent them as such. Frieda, as a vampire, is shown attacking Gerta but she is not discriminating about which sex become her victims and Maria is certainly of heterosexual persuasion, idolising the rationalist Anton. There is a reductive categorisation to the male and female figures in the film that has since become rather absurd when the film's young male and female stars can now be appreciated by viewers through their own individual lens. 

The various states of female undress and display are clearly aimed at the heterosexual male viewer but while the Collinson twins were clearly codified as such, both Thomas and Warbeck (who was openly gay) are attractive young male stars whose appeal includes a gay male audience. Hammer's output can be reappropriated on behalf of a queer audience and not necessarily through images of female or male objects of desire. The 'camp' of Hammer films of the period perhaps provides a participatory space, beyond heterosexual appeal of its female starlets, for a queer audience's 'identification with the vampire's secret, forbidden sexuality which doesn't demand participation in one's own victimisation as a requisite for cinematic pleasure.'(11) It's fitting that as a dark fairy tale, the story's themes of religious intolerance and persecution can also be seen as a reflection of these sensibilities.

(1) Little Shoppe of Horrors, Richard Klemensen interview with Harry Fine
(2) Little Shoppe of Horrors, Bruce Helenback interview with Tudor Gates
(3) Wayne Kinsey, Hammer Films - The Elstree Studios Years
(4) Little Shoppe of Horrors, Richard Klemensen interview with Harry Fine
(5) Little Shoppe of Horrors, Serena Cairns interview with Ralph Bates
(6) David Pirie, The New Heritage of Horror
(7) Wayne Kinsey, Hammer Films - The Elstree Studios Years
(8) David Huckvale, Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant Garde
(9) Peter Hutchings, Hammer and Beyond
(10) Gina Wisker, Horror Films - An Introduction
(11) Andrea Weiss, Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film

About the transfer
Twins of Evil is presented in a pristine high-definition transfer, full of depth and overall it represents well the deep shadows and darker palettes of blue and brown in the picture. Only occasionally do we get the odd sparkle or a scene where deep shadows register as a dull grey. Colours don't have a great deal of vibrancy but certain reds and purples do look vivid and flesh tones appear very natural. There is some good detail here too and Hough's visual style looks rather splendid. The DTS mono soundtrack is clean and clear and Harry Robinson's score retains its bombast and depth. 

Special Features
The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil (84:40)
The word 'comprehensive' simply doesn't do this justice and hats should go off to Daniel Griffith and his Ballyhoo Motion Pictures for cramming everything but the kitchen sink into this documentary. It could perhaps have done with some trimming and less indulgence in its overall presentation (lots of mock scratches, lens flares and other graphic embellishments) but the extent of its coverage more than makes up for some of these deficiencies. It's not only a thorough history of Hammer's evolution during the late 1960s and early 1970s as they went in search of new ways of keeping their audiences happy - offering 'sexploitation' as a variation on their Gothic themes, working with new producers and writers as the old guard of Fisher, Hinds and Nelson Keys left the company, moving production from Bray to Elstree and Pinewood - but also an examination of Sheridan Le Fanu's original tale Carmilla, the history of the female vampire in cinema and the way the novel's same sex eroticism became 'heterosexualised' in Hammer's Karnstein trilogy.

It is packed with details about all three Hammer Karnstein films and plenty of reflections on the casting of Peter Cushing, director John Hough's work, the supporting cast, the special effects and set designs. Detailed and thorough analysis is provided by the likes of Joe Dante, Ted Newsom, Tim Lucas, Wayne Kinsey, Sir Christopher Fraying, Kim Newman, David J. Skal, Eric Hoffman, and some particularly interesting observations about Le Fanu's Carmilla from historian John-Paul Checkett, are interspersed with new interviews from John Hough and Damien Thomas.
The Props that Hammer Built: The Kinsey Collection (23:28 and exclusive to the Blu-ray disc)
Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey gives us a tour of his private collection and a fascinating experience it is. The featurette assigns lots to each Hammer film and Kinsey talks us through some of the original props, costumes and models he owns. He tells us about the origins of items and how they came into his possession, from the Les Bowie built castle model featured in Kiss of the Vampire which survived Bowie Films' sad demise in the 1970s, the clear out of old props, scripts and other paraphernalia at Pinewood, the creation of latex bats and fake eyeballs, to owning Peter Cushing's coat and Rupert Davies's cloak. Kinsey is highly informative about the items and the films in which they featured.
Motion Still Gallery (14:01 and exclusive to the Blu-ray)
A fantastic collection of images split into sub-galleries. So we get 'Production' featuring a generous selection of black and white and colour images from the film, 'Exploitation' which certainly sums up the copious images of Playboy centrefold twins Mary and Madeleine in various states of undress, if that's your sort of thing, and 'Promotion' that includes posters and several sets of gorgeous colour lobby cards. This comprehensive gallery is also set to sections of Harry Robinson's excellent score.  
Original US Theatrical Trailer (2:31 and exclusive to the Blu-ray)
Combo Twins of Evil/Hands of the Ripper trailer (2:39 and exclusive to the Blu-ray)
TV Spots (exclusive to the Blu-ray)
Deleted Scene (1:09 and exclusive to the Blu-ray)
Yes, like its Karnstein trilogy counterpart Lust for a Vampire, Twins originally featured a 'musical' number and here it is. David Warbeck's rendition of 'True Love' in the film was excised and even though it doesn't quite reach the insane heights of 'Strange Love', which is still one of the more startling moments in Lust for a Vampire, Hammer clearly felt they didn't want to make that mistake again. 
Isolated Music & Effects Track (exclusive to the Blu-ray)
Harry Robinson's score in its glory.

Twins of Evil
A Hammer Film Production for the Rank Organisation 1971
Synapse Blu-Ray and DVD Combo / Released 10 July 2012 / BD - Region A 1080p AVC MPEG 4 / DVD Region 1 / 87 minutes / English / Mono DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio / Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1

Bookmark and Share

Viewing Figures

The Legal Bit

All written material is copyright © 2007-2023 Cathode Ray Tube and Frank Collins. Cathode Ray Tube is a not for profit publication primarily for review, research and comment. In the use of images and materials no infringement of the copyright held by their respective owners is intended. If you wish to quote material from this site please seek the author's permission.

Creative Commons License
Cathode Ray Tube by Frank Collins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.