Twins of Evil
At some point I suppose, we’re really going to have to talk about cleavage. Because, let’s be honest, one of the secrets of Hammer’s success was a plentiful supply of heaving bosoms. After all, the seductive power of a plunging neckline can’t be overstated in a country that was covering up table legs for being too erotic not too many years before. Mind you, it can’t have been very easy for the actresses in these movies, doing their best to act inches above what the filmmakers had made abundantly clear they really wanted the audience to be looking at. However, despite all this, one of the curious things about Hammer is that no-one in the movies seems to even see the cleavage.
One of the best examples of this comes in Twins of Evil, the final part of Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy, in which Peter Cushing stars as a homicidally holy puritan witchfinder who becomes guardian of his two grown up nieces, one good and one evil, played by Playboy centrefold twins. Now, we should just take a moment to admire the elegant simplicity of this movie pitch; I’m willing to bet you this one sentence got them all the money they needed. Anyway, back to the bosoms (as I’m sure they also said in that pitch meeting). So Cushing comes home from a good witch burning to find his newly arrived nieces wearing entirely inappropriate outfits for two women who he believes should still be in mourning for their parents. Oh, that’ll be the plunging necklines that’s doing old Pete’s nut in, then will it? Nope! It’s the feathers in their hats that’s got his goat! And sure enough, they dress more soberly for the rest of the movie. If by ‘more soberly’ you mean ‘without feathers’, because not a scene goes by without their entirely unremarked upon cleavage being on full display in this fiercely puritanical village. It’s almost surreal the way no-one notices.
Now, you might be wondering why I’m talking so much about bosoms. Well, the truth is, it seems to be the main reason they made Twins of Evil. There’s not as much nudity as the first two Karnstein movies, but there’s cleavage all over the shop. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of other things going on. Cushing, for one, is terrific as the witchfinder. He looks about as scary as I’ve ever seen him, dressed in this magnificent all black Puritan get-up, a real skeletal fiend with a quite literal burning belief. He even somehow manages to mix just a small amount of sorrow into his triumph when he’s burning people at the stake. It only lasts a few seconds, but it’s a master of his craft you’re watching, and it’s only a pity that this great new character has to be stuck in a movie written by the worst screenwriter in the history of Hammer. Tudor blasted Gates.
Because even though I had fond memories of Twins of Evil, I found myself lost again in the maze of nonsense that passes for plotting in Gates’ unimagination. People do things for no reason, time moves in unexplained leaps, and characters abruptly change who they are and what they believe from one moment to the next. It’s really very distracting. There’s a scene, right, where the hero informs Cushing that vampires can’t be burned, they can only be killed by a stake through the heart or having their head chopped off (the link between witches and vampires is not exactly, you know, explained). Anyway, the next scene, the very next scene, Cushing drags in the dead body of the hero’s sister complete with fang marks on neck, and shouts ‘maybe you’ll believe in vampires now!’ To the man who, the day before, told him how to kill vampires.
Still, there is a nice enough movie in amongst the terrible writing, and Cushing and the director really do their best. Damien Thomas’ angular demon face works pretty well as a Lee substitute. The twins are not bad either, doing an interesting thing playing good as fear, and bad as courage (even if those qualities are rewarded in exactly the way you’d expect when you hand script-writing duties to an inept buffoon). There’s also the nice enclosed little world of the village that does feel under siege from an unstoppable evil, and the way the witchfinders turn from murderous mob to a righteous cavalry works pretty well in the end.
But at this point in their history Hammer were doubling down, quite literally in this case, on cleavage. It’s just you end up wishing they’d paid a bit more attention to Cushing in that incredible Witchfinder outfit, and the promising idea of witches and vampires working hand in hand to suck the life out of a village in the name of hedonistic delight. There’s more to life than just bosoms after all. Speaking of which…