Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TWINS OF EVIL (Blu-ray & DVD)

Synapse Films continues to set a very high bar indeed for their cult Blu-ray releases with this, the second entry in their "Hammer Horror Collection" (after their exemplary VAMPIRE CIRCUS discs), 1971's TWINS OF EVIL, directed by John Hough.

In the 19th Century European hamlet of Karnstein, a pious and ruthless witch hunter named Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing, STAR WARS, CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN) and his cronies terrorize the countryside, persecuting and burning to death any young women they suspect of harboring evil powers. When his orphaned nieces - twins named Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (Playboy centerfolds Mary and Madeline Collinson) - come to live with him, he is certain that the pretty pair are pure evil. Well, he's half right. Wild child Frieda is soon sneaking out and spending her nights up at the castle of decadent nobleman Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas, SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER), a direct descendant of the sinister, seductive vampiress Mircalla, and possibly a vampire himself...

Effectively directed by TV and B-movie veteran John Hough (LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY, THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS) from an intelligent and suspenseful screenplay by Tudor Gates (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, BARBARELLA), TWINS OF EVIL is a genuine classic of Gothic horror, and one of the last truly great films to come from the original Hammer Studios. Cushing, who had just lost his wife in real life, brings a truly disturbing verisimilitude to the cruel, obsessive Weil (pronounced "Vile") and is utterly convincing as a man whose blind faith drives him to unspeakable acts of terror in the name of  his God. Damien Thomas makes a devilishly handsome, suitably silky, aristocratic fiend, and a young David Warbeck (THE BEYOND) is an intelligent and courageous romantic lead.

As for the Collinson twins, their native Maltese accents required that they be dubbed throughout, but despite that, they give perfectly satisfactory performances. Although identical in appearance, the viewer is never confused as to which sister they're watching because Mary and Madeline play their characters in distinctly different ways. And of course, the former Playboy models are truly lovely to behold, often clad in near-sheer nighties and other revealing attire. Although there is some nudity and sexual content, there's not quite as much as the film's marketing implied, and it's generally handled pretty tastefully.

Synapse Films' new Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack is, frankly, exceptional. To begin with, the Blu-ray disc sports a brand new, 1080p HD, 1.66:1 widescreen transfer that is virtually immaculate. Colors are bright and well-saturated, contrast is excellent, as is fine detail. The DTS-HD MA Mono audio is clear and devoid of hiss or pops. (The enclosed DVD features the same transfer in standard definition, anamorphic widescreen, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound.)

The supplemental features are also terrific, beginning with a feature-length (84 minutes) retrospective documentary, THE FLESH & THE FURY: X-POSING THE TWINS OF EVIL. This comprehensive doc covers the state of Hammer Studios and English horror cinema in the early 70s, the influence of  J. Sheridan LeFanu's erotic vampire novel, Carmilla, on this and the other two films in Hammer's so-called "Karnstein Trilogy" (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE), and provides an in-depth look at the development, production, and reception to TWINS OF EVIL. Other extras include a short featurette on the "Props of Hammer," animated "motion" still gallery, isolated music/effects audio track, a deleted scene, TV spots and trailer.

TWINS OF EVIL is another triumph for Synapse, and, arguably, the finest presentation of a classic horror film yet on Blu-ray disc. For fans of luscious Hammer hotties and Old School horror film making, TWINS is, undeniably, a "must have" disc. 

Highly and unconditionally recommended.

BUYTwins Of Evil (Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack)