It was almost two full years ago that cult home video geeks learned that Synapse Films had acquired the US distribution rights to a trio of Hammer Films classics. The first, Vampire Circus, released back in December of 2010, while the other two, Hands of the Ripper and Twins of Evil seemed to fade away into obscurity, leaving the fans to wonder what the heck happened. Well, it turns out that Synapse was busy making sure that Twins of Evil was absolutely perfect before it hit store shelves, and their patience paid off. Twins of Evil is a contender for cult Blu-ray release of the year, with a sterling image and outstanding supplemental material. I'll pad this review with more opinions, but let it just be known that you need this disc in your collection.
Twins of Evil is the story of the Gellhorn sisters, Maria and Frieda (played by Playmates the Collinson twins), recently orphaned and sent off to live with their uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing in a performance that outshines the film by a country mile) in a remote mountain region ruled by Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas). It turns out that Thomas is in league with the Devil, and through his nefarious and evil occult desires and practices has managed to become a vampire. When the thrill-seeking Frieda comes into contact with Karnstein, all sorts of heinous acts turn the village into a cesspool of evil, which can only be conquered by Gustav's religious brotherhood and their previously absurd tactics. Director John Hough gives us plenty of boobs and blood in this fantastically over the top tale of gothic terror!
The thing about Twins of Evil is that it came into being around the time that Hammer was trying some new tactics in the wake of their gothic horror having become rather staid in the increasingly gruesome world of '70s horror. They had begun to bring in new directors and writers in the hopes of revitalizing the studio, whose dependence on Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Mummy had left them recycling ideas to the point of parody.
Twins of Evil is a retelling of the classic vampire tale of Carmilla, which has roots going back well over one hundred years. The story has been told in some form or another on film since the dawn of the medium, with varying degrees of success, though you'd be hard pressed to find a sexier adaptation than this. Carmilla is often seen as the seed from which all lesbian vampire spring, however, surprisingly for all of its exploitation glory, Twins of Evil doesn't really pull that card, though they do manage to shock in other ways.
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. Meanwhile, his vampire nemesis, Count Karnstein, played by Damien Thomas, is played as an arch villain with big speeches, big gestures, and generally over the top characterizations. These two more than make up for the lack of actual talent displayed by the Collinson twins, who, in their defense, served their purpose as sex objects quite effectively.
My love for this film probably developed from the vicious battle between Karnstein and Gustav, who are literally and figuratively at each other's throats throughout the film. The girls are nice eye candy, but it's the men who make this film worth watching. Twins of Evil is a fun, fun, fun film that does exactly what it needs to do to entertain for the 90 or so minutes it's on screen. This is a definite recommendation, Twins of Evil is fantastic!
Synapse Films has yet to release a dud on Blu-ray, and Twins of Evil is among their best work yet. The A/V on this disc is outstanding, with an crystal clear image that gives the viewer the distinct feel of a '70s film print while still taking advantage of modern technology's ability to clean up bits and pieces to which the years have not been kind. There is very sparse damage on this print, and the colors and clarity of the image are superb. Exceptional work! The audio track is also pretty fantastic, with a very clear dialogue track and wonderful warm background score, everything is as it should. As an extra, Synapse have included a second audio track for just the score and effects, if you're into that kind of thing.
Earlier in the review I mentioned that this disc is short-listed for my top ten of the year, and it's not just the quality of the film and A/V that gives it that distinction. The extras on this disc are incredible, but one in particular, is among the best I've seen on any disc so far this year. The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing the Twins of Evil is a feature length documentary on the making of the film that runs only two minutes shorter than the film itself. This documentary explores every facet of the creation of the film from the history of the Hammer Studio, to the lesbian vampire craze, to the film's origins in the story of Carmilla and beyond. It is exceptional and beyond comprehensive. Truly amazing work that is worth the price of the disc alone. In addition to this we also get a shorter piece looking at Hammer Films props from this film and others as well as deleted scenes, a stills gallery, and trailers. A fantastic package, and one that I'm sure to revisit soon.
For all of the whining that cult film fans have done about the delay of this title for the last couple of years, Synapse has proved that it was all worthwhile with this stellar package. This is a must buy release!
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