Twins of Evil
(a.k.a. Twins of Dracula)
American Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hough
Screenplay byTudor Gates
Based oncharacters
by Sheridan Le Fanu
Produced byMichael Style
Harry Fine
StarringPeter Cushing
Dennis Price
Madeleine Collinson
Mary Collinson
Isobel Black
Kathleen Byron
Damien Thomas
David Warbeck
CinematographyDick Bush
Edited bySpencer Reeve
Music byHarry Robertson
Distributed byRank Film Distributors (U.K.)
Universal Pictures (U.S.)
Release date
  • 3 October 1971 (1971-10-03)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Twins of Evil (also known as Twins of Dracula) is a 1971 British horror film directed by John Hough and starring Peter Cushing, with Damien Thomas and the real-life identical twins and former Playboy Playmates Mary and Madeleine Collinson.[2]

It is the third (and final) film in the Karnstein Trilogy, based on the 1872 novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. The film has the least resemblance to the novella and adds a witchfinding theme to the vampire story. Much of the interest of the film revolves around the contrasting evil and good natures of two beautiful sisters, Frieda and Maria. Unlike the previous two entries in the series, this film contains only a brief lesbian element.

The film was released in the U.S. as a double feature with Hands of the Ripper.


Set during the 17th century in Styria, identical twin sisters Maria and Frieda Gelhorn move from Venice to Karnstein in Central Europe to live with their uncle Gustav Weil after becoming recently orphaned. Weil is a stern Puritan and leader of the fanatical witch-hunting 'Brotherhood'. Both twins resent their uncle's sternness and one of them, Frieda, looks for a way to escape. Resenting her uncle, she becomes fascinated by the local Count Karnstein, who has the reputation of being "a wicked man".

Count Karnstein, who enjoys the Emperor's favour and thus remains untouched by the Brotherhood, is indeed wicked and interested in Satanism and black magic. Trying to emulate his evil ancestors, he murders a girl as a human sacrifice, calling forth the vampiress Countess Mircalla Karnstein from her grave. Mircalla turns the Count into a vampire.

Drive-in advertisement from 1972 for Twins of Evil and co-feature, Hands of the Ripper.

Frieda, following an invitation from the Count, steals away to the castle at night, while Maria covers for her absence. In the castle, the Count transforms Frieda into a vampire, offering her a beautiful young chained victim. Returning home, Frieda threatens Maria to keep covering for her nightly excursions, but she also secretly fears she might bite Maria, who would not survive due to her innocent nature.

Meanwhile, Maria becomes interested in the handsome young teacher, Anton, who is initially infatuated with the more mysterious Frieda. Anton has studied what he calls "superstition", but becomes convinced of the existence of vampires when his sister falls victim to one. One night, when Frieda attacks a member of the Brotherhood, she is captured by her uncle and put in jail. While the Brotherhood debates the vampire woman's fate, the Count and his servants kidnap Maria and exchange her for Frieda in the jail cell. Anton goes to see Maria, not knowing that she is actually Frieda. She tries to seduce him, but he sees her lack of reflection in a mirror and repels her with a cross. Anton rushes to rescue Maria from a burning. Maria kisses a cross, revealing her innocence.

Weil now listens to Anton's advice on hunting vampires, and the two men lead the Brotherhood and the villagers to Castle Karnstein to destroy the Count. The Count and Frieda attempt to flee, but they are surprised by Weil who captures Frieda and decapitates her. The Count captures Maria, but Weil appears with an axe. Weil challenges the Count and is killed. Anton seizes his chance and pierces the Count's heart with a spear. Maria and Anton reunite while Karnstein crumbles to corruption.



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Hammer was originally going to make a film called Vampire Virgins; however, producer Harry Fine saw a Playboy spread involving the Collinson twins and decided to make a film focusing on them.[3]

Ingrid Pitt was again offered the part of Countess Mircalla Karnstein, but refused.

The same sets were used for Vampire Circus.

Harvey Hall and Kirsten Lindholm appear in all three films of the trilogy, although in different roles in each one. Peter Cushing also played one of the leads in the first, The Vampire Lovers (a part was written for Cushing in the second film, but he dropped out of the production due to the illness of his wife. The role was taken over by Ralph Bates). Luan Peters, who plays a small role in this film, also appeared in the second film, Lust for a Vampire, as did Judy Matheson.

The original film included a short scene, later cut, in which the evil twin approaches her uncle. The scene is out of place as their uncle is busy burning the other sister; somehow he teleports back home and the evil twin gives him a show. Cut out for American audiences and possibly[original research?] to maintain continuity, the original scene was aired on public television in the 1980s.

Music for the film was composed by the British composer Harry Robinson.

Critical reception

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Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film two and a half stars, calling it "engaging" and "inspired" in its use of the Collinson twins.[4]

A.H. Weiler wrote in The New York Times that the Collinson twins made the film interesting, but "The rest of the costumed crew ... hardly give Twins of Evil a good name."[5]

In Cinefantastique Robert L. Jerome observed: "The film is done with Hammer's obvious care for details and a sobriety which creates the proper mood of unexpected evil in attractive, tranquil surroundings."[6]

In other media

A novelisation of the film was written by Shaun Hutson and published by Arrow Publishing in association with Hammer and the Random House Group in 2011, ISBN 978-0-09-955619-0. The book contains an introduction by the film's director, John Hough.

The film was adapted into an 18-page comic strip for the January–February 1977 issue of the magazine House of Hammer (vol. 1) #7, published by General Book Distribution. It was drawn by Blas Gallego from a script by Chris Lowder. The cover of the issue featured a painting by Brian Lewis based on imagery from the film.

Australian indie rock band Turnstyle used a sample of Karnstein summoning Satan in their 1999 song "Winter Rodeo".

See also


  1. ^ Hearn, Marcus; Barnes, Alan (25 September 2007). The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films [The Hammer Story] (Limited ed.). Titan Books. p. 153. ISBN 978-1845761851. OCLC 493684031.
  2. ^ "Twins of Evil". British Film Institute Collections Search. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ The Flesh and the Fury: Xposing Twins of Evil (2012)
  4. ^ Leonard Maltin, ed., Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. A Signet Book, 2001, p. 1453.
  5. ^ A. H. Weiler, "Hands of the Ripper (1971)," The New York Times, 14 July 1972.
  6. ^ Jerome, Robert L. (1973). "Short Notices - Twins of Evil". Cinefantastique. 02 (#3): 36.