Still from 1971's "Twins of Evil."

carnality.

 

But because this is a film made by Hammer Film Productions, the British production company renowned for its baroque, colorfully designed horror movies (especially its Dracula films), the presence of 20-year-olds Hugh Hefner deemed to have the greatest bodies of October 1970 is more an added fixture. Thankfully, we’re not in the midst of a frowzy B-movie not much more than its gimmick.

 

With its voluptuous identical twins or without, Twins of Evil makes for one of the more accessible and shamelessly fun movies Hammer ever threw on the assembly line. It’s playful without being too self-indulgently campy, optically exhilarating without being precarious about it. Best yet, it features a great, villainous Peter Cushing performance, the actor evidently relishing the opportunity to embody such operatically misogynist evil.

 

Set sometime during the 19th century, with fears of witchcraft and Satanic worship plaguing religious nuts, Twins of Evil stars the Collinsons as Maria and Freida Gellhorn, barely legal brunettes sent to Central Europe to live with their aunt (Kathleen Byron) and uncle (Cushing) after their parents die tragically. Their eyes wide and their supple mouths forever threatening to break out into a sensuous smile, they neither look nor act the way girls suddenly parentless might. But they make for an entertaining contradiction all the same. Maria is the good sister, a square who'd shiver if you said God's name in vain, and Freida is the bad sister, a schemer who actively looks for trouble like a Jack Hill heroine.

 

Freida drives the film's storyline courtesy of her being an adrenaline addict. While Maria’s content staying confined to their shared bedroom most nights, obeying the orders of her guardians like a homeschooled twerp, Freida cannot be pent up. So she decides early on that she’s going to become the object of the neighboring Count Karnstein’s (Damien Thomas) affections. Such is an insipid idea, though — little does the girl know that Karnstein, notably more porny than dashing, is a practicer of black magic, and has recently seen his vampiric dreams through. And the girls’ uncle, too, leads a group notorious for hunting down those they consider “witches,” stake-burning their favorite pastime. Freida might become a target if the winds are strong enough and she throws her caution toward them at the wrong time.

 

This, of course, sets the movie up for lots of misunderstandings regarding which twin is which and lots of dramatic entrances and monologues from the movie’s memorable antagonists, Cushing and Thomas. Sprinkle in some psychedelic imagery, juxtaposing the Gothic landscape nicely, and you have melodic kitsch so enjoyable we'd swear we were watching refined horror gloss and not accidentally great cinema. But perhaps the greatness isn’t accidental. Maybe it was always there, only the names of the Collinson sisters atop all advertisements tricked us into thinking we’d be in for trash.

 

The buxom siblings would end up retiring from their short-lived show business careers shortly after the release of Twins of Evil, but the movie encapsulates what made them instantaneous sex symbols in the first place. Heaving bosoms in loose, frilly nightgowns are seen more than anything by way of genuine acting talent. But they suit the material well, and the skilled ensemble surrounding them more than makes up for their not being much more than eye candy. Hammer made better, and was capable of making tawdrier. But rarely could it make a feature this insouciantly amusing.  B+

DIRECTED BY

John Hough

 

STARRING

Peter Cushing

Mary Collinson

Madeleine Collinson

Kathleen Byron

David Warbeck

Damien Thomas

Katya Wyeth

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

1971

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 27 Mins.

Twins of Evil August 17, 2017        

n the basis that it be a movie made solely to show off the faces and figures (but mostly figures) of twin Playmates Mary and Madeleine Collinson, we might have to consider their only starring vehicle, 1971’s Twins of Evil, a failure. We only get a couple skin flashes here and there and the film’s much more into its horror than it is its Jesús Franco-esque

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