TWINS OF EVIL (1971) Reviews and overview

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Twins of Evil is a 1971 British supernatural horror film directed by John Hough (American GothicThe Legend of Hell House, Incubus) from a screenplay written by Tudor Gates (The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, Fright). Produced by Harry Fine and Michael Style as Fantale for Hammer Films.

The movie stars Peter CushingDennis Price, Isobel Black, Kathleen Byron, Damien Thomas (Journey to the Unknown TV series), David Warbeck (Panic; The BeyondThe Black Cat; Craze) and real-life twins Mary Collinson and Madeleine Collinson.

twins of evil

It is the third film of The Karnstein Trilogy, based on the vampire tale Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. The film has the least resemblance to the novel and adds a witch-finding theme to the vampire story. Much of the plot revolves around the contrasting evil and good natures of two beautiful sisters, Frieda and Maria Gellhorn.


Maria and Frieda, recently orphaned identical twin teenage girls, move from Venice to Karnstein in Central Europe to live with their uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing).

Weil is a stern puritan and leader of the fanatical witch-hunting ‘Brotherhood’. Both twins resent their uncle’s sternness and one of them, Frieda, looks for a way to escape. She becomes fascinated by the local Count Karnstein, who has the reputation of being “a wicked man”.

Count Karnstein, who enjoys the Emperor’s favour and thus remains untouched by the Brotherhood, is indeed wicked and interested in Satanism and black magic. Trying to emulate his evil ancestors, he murders a girl as a human sacrifice, calling forth Countess Mircalla Karnstein from her grave. Mircalla turns the Count into a vampire…

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Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

Twins of Evil is worth watching just for Peter Cushing’s performance alone. He is intense. But it’s also a great movie and unlike Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde which promised to deliver shock after shock and then failed, the last twenty minutes of Twins of Evil did surprise me – especially Frieda’s demise.” Beasts in Human Skin

“The picture is straightforward in its sense of duty, hitting all the required beats of tension, though it’s somewhat refreshing to find the Count’s hunger for blood not born from Stoker-esque events, but from his interest in evil, calling on his ancestors (and the most on-the-nose phallic imagery I’ve seen in a movie) to aid him in his quest to transform into a monster, gleefully terrorizing the land as he beds all the local women.”

“There’s a very dark introduction to this film, as a busty wench is pursued through a dark forest by a bunch of men dressed in black, before being tied to a stake and burned alive (in the dark). And things don’t get much lighter for the next 90 minutes, either. Twins of Evil is like a slap in the face for everyone who thinks that by the 70s, Hammer had disappeared up its own arse and started producing garish, entertaining but stupid films.” British Horror Films

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“More gaunt than usual, Cushing portrays the leader of a group of men called “The Brotherhood” that seek out and kill women accused of being witches. While not necessarily intended, there are contemporary reverberations here, with a group of men using religious piety as their motivation to put to death women who may be independent and sexually active without marriage.” Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee

“Bolstered by two excellent performances by Cushing and Damien Thomas ably assisted by an astounding score, Twins of Evil (1971) is one of Hammer’s best of their 1970’s slate of productions. Those years were not comparable to their films of the late ’50s and ’60s, although a few definitely came close. John Hough’s epic tale of puritans and vampires is assuredly one of them.” Cool @ss Cinema

Twins of Evil is a mélange, a bouillabaisse, a veritable potpourri of then-current filmic trends (witchcraft) and the recently passé (vampires) – and it works surprisingly well. Well enough, any way; neither side really has a chance to explore their mythologies, with the witch hunt business taking a backseat once the vampires rise. By the same token, the vampire lore is given truncated thrift, with sunlight being fine and dandy and transformations happening instantaneously on first bite.” Daily Dead

Twins positively speeds towards its inevitable storming of the castle but not before a few sublime moments such as Cushing’s realisation that his niece is a vampire or the Count’s mute black manservant miming what’s coming for his master as the mob nears the front door […] Twins of Evil stands out as one of Hammer’s most satisfying vampire efforts of the 70s.” Digital Retribution

Twins of Evil truly is a masterpiece of gothic and erotic horror and holds up bloody well to this day. In my opinion, this film, along with Robert Young’s equally unique Vampire Circus (also available from Synapse Films), are two of Hammer’s most superb achievements of the early 1970s, giving credence to the company’s overall product quality during that decade, despite constant criticism by fans and writers alike.” DVD Drive-In

” …constant tension between fairy-tale trappings and a grimly cynical plot, together with Hough’s flair for super-charged action scenes, makes it easy to overlook a few silly bits and a handful of plot loopholes.” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema

“There is actually a good subtext to this film about fanaticism of any hue, as Cushing’s Gustav is a blinkered fanatic who is cruel in his own home, and harbours barely suppressed desires for his nieces. His wife (the sadly underused Kathleen Byron) is a drudge, and he lives pathetically joyous life that pushes fun-loving Freida into the hands of the Count.” Andy Boot, Fragments of Fear

“Bar a couple of rather crude and out-of-place exposures, Twins of Evil substitutes the exploitation of flesh for the exploitation of violence, albeit with good reason. A tightly plotted tragedy, with characters painted in shades of grey (as opposed to, say, John Elder’s black and white) and heavily influenced by pictures such as Witchfinder General, it has an intensity and sense of purpose rare in horror.” Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes, The Hammer Story

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“Fueled by a great performance by Cushing as the zealous witchfinder, Twins of Evil is an effective examination of the conflict between repression and hedonism. Director John Hough, who made his mark in several episodes of The Avengers, keeps things moving at a brisk pace and stages the scenes of horror with considerable panache.” The Horror Film, Cinebooks

“Latter-day Hammer film that abandons atmosphere for overt horrors: the Pinewood Studios backlot is too little changed from Vampire Circus and only Cushing’s performance as the fanatical witch-hunter lifts it out of a rut.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook, 1982 [N.B. The same sets were actually re-used for Vampire Circus, not the other way round]

madeleine collinson luan peters twins of evil

“So it’s not quite solid, but there’s no denying that Twins of Evil has many more advantages than either of its predecessors in the Karnstein trilogy, The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire, both also scripted by Tudor Gates, and it is truer to the spirit of what Terence Fisher brought to Hammer’s golden age than any film made after his enforced retirement.” Pause. Rewind. Obsess.

“The plotting is rather uneven, Cushing’s lines become repetitious and there are three almost identical burnings before the film is halfway through. As in The Vampire Lovers, the vampires aren’t bothered by daylight, and after a while it begins to seem ridiculous that the entire Brotherhood spend their nights thundering about the countryside riding almost every young girl they can find.” The Peter Cushing Companion

Twins of Evil balanced the modern Hammer demands of gore and nudity with the great acting, well-rounded plot and solid cast that made the earlier horror outings so enjoyable. And of course, it’s got Peter Cushing burning witches and slaying vampires – what more do you want?” Popcorn Pictures

The Flesh and the Fury: X-posing Twins of Evil (84 mins.) – New, feature-length documentary exploring Hammer’s infamous ‘Karnstein’ trilogy from the origin of Carmilla, to the making of Twins of Evil Featuring exclusive interviews with director John Hough, star Damien Thomas, cult film director Joe Dante, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, and more!
he Props That Hammer Built – Featurette (Blu-ray Exclusive)
Motion Still Gallery (Blu-ray Exclusive)
Deleted Scene (Blu-ray Exclusive)
Original Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots (Blu-ray Exclusive)
Isolated Music & Effects Track (Blu-ray Exclusive)

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“There’s a nice gothic atmosphere throughout the film thanks to the camerawork of cinematographer Dick Bush and the score which comes courtesy of Harry Robinson is very effective and dramatic, adding plenty of weight to certain key moments in the film. The use of color is great in the movie, as is the use of shadow, with our titular twins consistently cast in the most alluring light possible and looking fantastic no matter the situation.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

Twins of Evil benefits considerably from seasoned performances by a veteran cast that includes genre icon Peter Cushing, Dennis Price, and Kathleen Byron. And, last but certainly not least, there’s a compelling storyline (penned by Barbarella scribe Tudor Gates) that’s also rich in sociopolitical subtext, sketching (amid bouts of bare bosoms and bared fangs) the predicament of an Austrian peasantry crushed between the intolerance of religious fanaticism and the depredations of a debauched aristocracy.” Slant

“Harkening back to Olivia de Havilland in The Dark Mirror and beyond, there has to be a good twin and an evil twin, and director John Hough employs plenty of mirror imagery, even extending to the Count being the reflection of Weil. The horror elements may be routine, but Twins of Evil has interesting themes that belie its surface novelties.” The Spinning Image


“The script dealt with a potentially interesting confrontation between vampires and puritans, but the ambiguities are never explored and the potential clash of sensibilities remains unexpressed. Pater Cushing’s part as the puritan witchhunter is wholly insubstantial and again the emphasis is limitingly on sex…” David Pirie, A New Heritage of Horror

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“John Hough’s direction stirs interesting characters into a cracking tale and Roy Stannard’s magnificent sets are outstanding. Harry Robinson’s rousing title theme march pounds out at timely moments throughout the story […] Twins of Evil is a thrilling movie, and one of several diamonds in Hammer’s jewel-encrusted crown.” Tim Greaves, Ten Years of Terror

“Though both dubbed, the Collinson’s do what’s needed of them, and if the film has a weakness, it’s Thomas, who’s a tad too bland to be a good nemesis, though one suspects even Christopher Lee might wilt in the incandescent heat of Cushing’s performance. It does feel more like a throwback to the kind of film the company was making a decade ago.” Trash City

“John Hough’s direction isn’t particularly flashy, and so it is really up to the performers to make Twins of Evil something worth watching, and they deliver in spades. Peter Cushing’s wife, Helen, passed away shortly before he began shooting the film, and he puts an unusual amount of pain into his role as the vicious self-appointed witchfinder of the Karnstein village.” Twitch

“Fast-paced and creatively directed, Twins of Evil is a prime example of Hammer horror at its best.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956 – 1976

“Director John Hough was relatively new to the business when he filmed Twins of Evil and he generally lacks any flair – dialogue scenes in particular are shot in a distinctly television style with simple full face shots of the speaking actor. Surprisingly, the film does boast a couple of very nice set pieces – notably a castle courtyard towards the end of the film, bathed in coloured light with plenty of ground fog that would impress many of the top Italian horror directors.” Dread Central

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