When I was first writing this site in earnest, this was one of the films I watched and never took the time to write about. It’s not because I don’t love it. Au contraire, it’s probably my favorite late-model Hammer film next to Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, another film I’ve failed to discuss on this site. It’s everything a movie should be. It has horror, amazing performances, plenty of sex and lots of Satan. All hail the Karnstein family!
The third and final film of the Karnstein Trilogy — The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire are the other two, although the aforementioned Kronos is also tied in — this movie is all about twin sisters, Frieda and Maria Gellhorn. One is good. One is evil. Both are played by Playboy‘s October 1970 Playmates of the month, legitimate identical twins Mary and Madeleine Collinson. Born in Malta, the twins appeared in five other films: Some Like It Sexy, Permissive, Groupie Girl, She’ll Follow You Anywhere and The Love Machine, which was based on the book by Jacqueline Susann, who also wrote Valley of the Dolls.
After their careers in entertainment, Madeleine married a British Royal Air Force officer and raised three children before dying in 2014. Mary has two daughters and now lives in Milan with an “Italian gentleman,” whom she has been with for more than two decades.
Think gorgeous twins are a one in a million miracle? Not in the Gellhorn family, as their former model mother gave birth to another set of twins years after the girls were born.
The girls have been recently orphaned and come to live with their puritanical witch-hunting uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing, destroying everything in his path). Maria (played by Mary) is content to be a normal teenager. Her sister Frieda (played by Madeleine) becomes fascinated by wicked Satanist Count Karnstein (Damian Thomas, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger), who probably makes her refer to him as daddy and says things like, “Good girl.”
Oh yeah — he also calls Countess Mircalla Karnstein (Katya Wyeth, Hands of the Ripper) back from the grave and she rewards him by making him a vampire. Ingrid Pitt was supposed to play this role but didn’t do the cameo.
Maria falls for the handsome and virtuous teacher Anton (David Warbeck, The Beyond), who knows all about killing vampires. At the same time, Frieda is feasting on naked virgin women chained to walls, because every 1970’s vampire movie has lesbian moments.
Frieda is captured by the Brotherhood, the group of witchfinders that Gustav leads, but the vampires switch out Maria and she nearly gets killed. This leads to a battle throughout the castle complete with vampire heads being hacked clean off. It’s wonderful.
Australian-born actor Alex Scott — he’s also in Next of Kin, The Asphyx and The Abominable Dr. Phibes — shows up, as does Dennis Price (who was in plenty of Jess Franco movies), Judy Matheson (Lust for a Vampire), Kirsten Lindholm (The Vampire Lovers) and singer-actress Luan Peters/Karol Keyes, who hit the 70’s vampire trifecta by being in Lust for a Vampire, Vampira and this film.
Twins of Evil was adapted into an 18-page comic strip for the January–February 1977 issue of the magazine House of Hammer. You can check it out on the Internet Archive for free.
Director John Hough would go on to direct The Legend of Hell House, Escape to Witch Mountain, Return from Witch Mountain, The Watcher in the Woods, The Incubus, Lady and the Highwayman, Biggles: Adventures in Time, American Gothic and more.
Shot on the same sets as Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil is everything I love about movies. And if you’re into metal, the band Hooded Menace used a sample from this film in their song “In the Dead We Dwell.”