Directed by John Hough
Distributed by Synapse Films
”The Devil…has sent me…TWINS OF EVIL!”
Few actors could deliver such a line with not only a straight face, but also the sincerity needed to make that possibly hammy bit of writing utterly believable. But then, that’s Peter Cushing for you. The actor, well known to genre fans for his illustrious and prolific career in gothic yarns and trembly terrors, lends his considerable talent and gravitas to the 1971 Hammer classic Twins of Evil, now available in a newly-remastered and extras-laden Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from the fine folks at Synapse.
Twins finds Cushing playing the fanatical Gustav Weil, the head of a witch-hunting brotherhood whose self-appointed task seems to be finding every pretty young woman in sight and burning them at the stake. Weil’s life is soon interrupted by the arrival of his newly-orphaned nieces, twins Frieda and Maria (the beautiful Madeleine and Mary Collinson). Frieda, the more impulsive and wild of the two sisters, tires quickly of her uncle’s puritanical ways, and soon sets her sights on Count Karnstein (Jimmy Fallon look-alike Damien Thomas), a local nobleman who may or may not be a Satan-worshipping vampire (okay, spoilers, he is a Satan-worshipping vampire). Before long, Frieda finds herself a member of the undead, Maria falls under suspicion for her sister’s crimes, and Weil is forced to join up with local teacher Anton (David Warbeck, long before his days as an Italian horror hero) in order to stop Karnstein’s reign of terror and, hopefully, save his nieces’ lives.
From top to bottom, this is a fantastic film that perfectly exemplifies why Hammer used to be a giant in horror cinema. Beautiful locations and photography, fun story, superb cast. Cushing is wonderful as always, Thomas chews the scenery with glee as Count Karnstein, and the Collinson sisters prove that they’re more than simply eye candy with their solid performances (noticeable voice dubbing aside). Toss in the stylish direction by John Hough (The Legend of Hell House), and you have yourself a classic.
Oh, and speaking of Count Karnstein – if that surname seems familiar to you, it’s because it also belongs to the villainess from two previous Hammer films (The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire). In fact, Mircalla Karnstein does make a brief appearance in this film, which is seen as something of a prequel to those earlier movies. Fortunately, you don’t need to have seen either Lovers or Lust to enjoy Twins.
Much like their previous Hammer release Vampire Circus, Synapse does a bang-up job with Twins. The 1080p hi-def transfer is pretty fantastic. While not perfect (this likely due to the source print), this is undoubtedly the best the film will ever look. Likewise, the DTS-HD Mono 2.0 soundtrack is very good, if not dynamic.
But ohhh, where Synapse excels is the bonus features. First up is The Flesh and the Fury, an exhaustive, beautifully produced feature-length doc that delves deeply into Hammer’s “Karnstein” trilogy. From covering the changes in Hammer’s approach to filmmaking (which led to racier pictures like Twins), to taking a look at J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (the literary inspiration for the trilogy), to eventually covering the production and releases of the three films, Flesh leaves no bloody stone unturned. It makes for fantastic viewing.
Then we get The Props That Hammer Built, a nice look at Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey’s collection of Hammer movie props. While this may or may not interest most average viewers, it will undoubtedly leave hardcore Hammer fans green with envy. Fun featurette, this.
Also included is a neat Motion Still Gallery, which is essentially a slide show of behind-the-scenes and promotional photos set to the film’s score. And speaking of the score, Synapse has also included an isolated music and effects track, which is worth a listen for die-hards.
Rounding out the features is a selection of TV spots, the American trailer, and a deleted scene (a sequence which included the song “True Love”, wisely left out of the finished film).
If Synapse keeps it up, they’re going to become the single greatest distributor of old school Hammer flicks we’ve seen here in the U.S. Here’s hoping their upcoming slate of Hammer horrors (Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper, and the television series Hammer House of Horror will have the same love and attention to detail shown to them as with Twins and Vampire Circus. If so, it’d be nice if they could eventually take a shot at a good deal more of Hammer’s catalogue.
So, if you’re a Hammer fan, you already know that you need this Blu-ray (need). However, even if you’re simply a fan of sexy gothic chillers (or, hell, great horror movies period), then you owe it to yourself to check out this release. Hope you enjoy!
4 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5