David Warbeck, gustav weil, Hammer Horror, John Hough, Karnstein, Madeleine Collinson, Mary Collinson, Mircalla, peter cushing
This movie will always have a strong place in my heart, and quite possibly in my loins if you’ll forgive me for being so crude.
It would have been late night on BBC 2 or Channel 4 when I first began to discover Hammer Horror films in my adolescent years and my earliest memories were of Mary and Madeleine Collinson decked in the yellow dresses or their negligee that would reveal so much to this impressionable mind.
The Collinson’s would go on to become the first twin playmates to stir the sense of male youth and this was the perfect recipe for young horror fans that Hammer Film productions were hoping to lure into their cinematic fold. It clearly worked on this writer and I became enraptured and was intrigued by the whole virtuosity vs temptress component that these twins of evil were to portray.
It helped that this film would also feature Peter Cushing, who for those who know me well understand that I had developed some kind of man-crush on the dignified English Gent, Cushing alongside Christopher Lee would become synonymous with Hammer films and even though Lee would be absent in this feature, Cushing more than holds his own as the Matthew Hopkins inspired witchfinder, Gustav Weil. This tyrant of a figure, Weil is hellbent on steering everyone to his purtiancial ways and ridding the world of sinners and those who practice in the dark arts. Struck by his passionate beliefs, Weil with his Brotherhood will drive out the women fallen to sin and burn them at the stake. His main prize though is towards Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a man who is drawn to the dark arts and enticed by one of his ancestors, Mircalla (Katya Wyeth).
Twins of Evil also rounds out the Karnstein Trilogy (The Vampire Lovers, Lust of a Vampire) that Hammer had focused on through Mircalla and finding inspiration from the Camilla story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
What I particularly liked about this feature beneath the thinly-veiled sexual exploitation, is a story that paints its characters in grey rather than black and white. As puritanical as Weil is in his mission, he is conflicted by his own dedication to his cause and that of the notion that his nieces could have fallen prey to evil temptation. It is his blinded view of the world that leads him to his own ruin.
The twins would be the symbolic pendulum between what is deemed good and evil, each representing the yin and yang in this equation. Count Karnstein is deeply entrenched in sin but also shows signs of uncertainty when tempted by Mircalla before ultimately being consumed by darkness. And the local school teacher, Anton (David Warbeck) would also display signs of weakness, who despite his pure values is tempted by Frieda’s wilder streak before realising that it is Maria’s innocence that needs protecting.
There is a nice conclusion to the piece too which sets up mistaken identity, before pitting the two actual twins of evil in The Count and Weil against one another. Twins of Evil, directed by John Hough would mark an important step in Michael Carreras trying to reinvent Hammer Horror for a new generation and arguably succeeds in this instance. It would set up the tone for the 70s and the last great hurrah for the British film company that brought Dracula and Frankenstein onto the screens again in the 50s.
There are certainly some misses more than hits during this time, but I at least enjoy succumbing to the visuals and narrative that is embedded throughout this feature and it is one that I find that I am drawn to time and time again.
- Saul Muerte