Twins of Evil (1971)

Written by Jason Hillenburg, posted by blog admin

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This is one of Peter Cushing’s best moments on film. Much like Lee Van Cleef, Vincent Price, and other notables, Cushing built his formidable reputation playing a specific type. Cushing’s films invariably cast him in the role of kindly protagonist with two key roles diverging from that template. The first is his recurring role as Baton Frankenstein in Hammer Studio’s film series and the second, another film, has him playing a murderous religious zealot in the late Hammer film Twins of Evil. The second film in Hammer’s Karnstein vampire trilogy retains all of the studio’s long-standing strengths – dramatic film score, evocative photography, and a literate script. However, Hammer, by this time scrambling for a substantive hit to revive their flagging fortunes, dialed up the erotic content in their films to net a larger audience. Twins of Evil features the first film appearance of the first twins to appear nude in Playboy magazine Mary and Madeleine Collinson. The buxom duo are depicted in a predictably flattering light and not called on to do much in the way of acting, but they proved to be a relatively effective selling point for the film going public.

Besides a solid performance from Damien Thomas as Count Karnstein, Cushing is the undisputable center. His glowering, joyless turn as Gustav Weil reeks of more menace than he ever proved capable of mustering during his tenure as the Baton. The performance is so riveting that it obscures Thomas’ own work, to a degree, and may leave some viewers questioning exactly who the antagonist is and if the Collinson’s characters are being protected from the right evil. We’re treated to a generous dose of Cushing’s work, as well, a wise choice in a film with no wasted motion and a focused storyline unwilling to risk any self-indulgence.

The writing for the film is equally sharp. Characters are fleshed out, but never belabored. Each plot development unfolds in a coherent and credible fashion for a film of this type and quickly establishes its own interior logic. Hammer, virtually until the bitter end, never lost their capacity for making first rate entertainments distinguished by top shelf acting, production, and writing. There are some misses, naturally, in the studio’s history and many of them marred the studio’s later history, but Hammer’s failure is ultimately more attributable to changing fashions. The quasi-gothic trappings of Hammer’s fictional world, their Technicolor blood, vampires, and beautiful corseted maidens seemed rather quaint the wake of free love, the Manson Family murders, and the Vietnam War itself. Stylized English cinema can’t possibly keep pace with such real life horrors. Twins of Evil deserves frequent revisiting, however, for anyone who loves good acting in genre pictures and remains a devotee of their sort of film.