I recently received TWINS OF EVIL as a gift in the form of a DVD not yet available in this country. I must admit that I was not particularly enthusiastic, for I typically find "Hammer Horror" more than a little too obvious in style--but this particular title surprised me with its understated atmosphere, and was all the more effective for it.
Loosely based on characters created by author Sheridan Le Fanu, TWINS OF EVIL concern twin sisters Maria and Freida (Mary and Madeline Collison) who have been recently orphaned and are sent to live with their guardian and uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing.) Gustav is a most unpleasant man, the leader of a religious "brotherhood" whose ideas of salvation and repentance involves routing out every attractive woman in the district and burning them alive at the steak. Ironically, Gustav's hapless victims are innocent, and he finds himself unable to attack the real evil of the locality: the devil-worshiping Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who enjoys the protection of the Emperor.
Needless to say, it is not long before the sisters catch the attention of the Count, who has now been transformed by the black arts into a vampire--and one of the sisters soon falls under his sway. But truth be told, Gustav is such a distasteful creature himself that it becomes difficult to know which of the two men is worst.
Like most Hammer Horrors, TWINS abounds with well endowed women in plunging necklines and enough colorful gore to float a small boat. But in this instance, the splashes of blood are all the more effective for the muted background against which they are seen. The usually baroque settings of most Hammer films is not in evidence here, little is romanticized, and the atmosphere is quite tense.
The Collison twins (whose last film this was) give reasonable performances and are so attractive that you do not mind the fact they have very obviously been dubbed by English-speaking actors. Damien Thomas makes for an impressively suave vampire, and David Warbeck is appealing as the hero of the piece. But the real drive of the film comes from Peter Cushing, who gives a surprisingly powerful performance as the maniacal Gustav; if given the choice between facing him or trying to ward off Thomas' vampire, well, most of us would probably feel we had a better chance against Count Karnstein! It is an unexpected effect, and it is quite powerful.
This is not to say that TWINS OF EVIL is without flaws, and now and then some pretty big ones. The script is no winner, and the details of the story are a bit loose, to say the least. The sisters are supposed to be from Vienna, but they somehow wind up in what seems to be a very unappealing area of Germany where the men all dress like American Puritans! There are also one or two scenes that border on the unintentionally comic. But most viewers will be able to suspend disbelief for the film's duration. Recommended for fans of both Hammer and gothic horror.