Synapse Films (Blu-ray)
Twins of Evil was the third and final film in Hammer’s ‘Karnstein trilogy,’ which was based, very loosely, on the 1872 novella Carmilla, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. The source material, written 25 years prior to Stoker’s Dracula, is about a young woman who falls under the thrall of a female vampire. The exploitation film potential of such a set-up is endless.
Former Playboy models Mary and Madeleine Collinson star as the titular twins, Maria and Frieda. They are sent from the cultural mecca of Venice to the intellectual backwaters of Karnstein shortly after the death of their parents.
Their uncle, Weil, played by Hammer-staple Peter Cushing, leads a band of witch-hunters called the Brotherhood that spend their nights chasing down pretty girls to burn at the stake. Despite this, we are told repeatedly that Weil is a ‘good man,’ because the torture and murder of an innocent is okay so long as you meant well. Cushing is a great actor, but even he can’t do anything to redeem this character; even after he’s had his revelation, it hard to get past the fact that he has murdered people for no reason what-so-ever.
The only man who speaks out against Weil is Anton, a music teacher and basically the hero of the film. He speaks often of how horrible Weil and his gang is, and fully recognizes the innocence of the victims; and yet, when he finally gets a chance to confront him, all he chastises Weil for is his methods, saying that burning won’t kill a vampire, you have to cut off its head.
The two twins take separate paths; Maria falling for Anton, and Freida for Count Karnstein, the vampire in the castle on the hill, and the results are pretty much what you’d expect.
The theme of cowardice comes up a lot in the film; both from Anton, who is unable to stand up to Weil; and from the Brotherhood, who will not strike against Karnstein, despite knowing that he is the source of evil in the town. This theme makes for some solid character development; but it doesn’t tie together quite as well as it should at the end because WEIL IS STILL A MURDERER. Seriously, people.
Despite the inclusion of Playboy models, this is the tamest of the films in the Karnstein trilogy, both in sex and violence. In fact, I can’t recall any real on-screen killing at all (vampire deaths aside).
Overall, Twins of Evil is Hammer doing what Hammer does best, a beautifully filmed Gothic horror story with tight plotting and well-established characters.
The Blu Ray from Synapse films is quite good. Video quality is solid, but not revelatory. Some scenes, especially in the beginning look a little hazy, and the rest just lacks that extra bit of sharpness I hope for in an HD transfer. There are quite a few extras, most notably an 84 minute documentary about the Karnstein trilogy, which is very impressive.