It’s Hammer-time again, folks!
As we await the coming gems of Dracula and Curse of Frankenstein to arrive in their restored and fully resurrected versions on Blu-ray – and quite impatiently, in some cases – we can always spend some gloriously nostalgic time with those luscious Twins of Evil, who have been freshly unveiled on region A Blu-ray by Synapse.
Twins of Evil … or When Van Helsing Turned Bad.
The third and final instalment in Hammer’s Karnstein series, based upon Sheridan Le Fanu’s sensual Carmilla – the gothic novel that kickstarted the trend for literary vampirism and, subsequently, an entire cinematic genre – Twins of Evil isn’t too highly regarded by anyone other than those devoted to the studio that dripped blood. But this isn’t being...[Read the complete movie review]
Twins of Evil is presented 1.66:1 and comes via an AVC encode.
I think this is a great picture, and one that provides a lot of clarity, sharpness and detail. There are plenty of intense close-ups that really thrust themselves against the screen. Peter Cushing’s blighted, perished face frequently looms in very close and you’ll see every wrinkle, line and whisker with stark definition. Everybody in the cast has opportunities like this, with similar levels of detail, but somehow it is Cushing’s face that is always the most arresting. The transfer also pays a lot of attention to the eyes, with the twins’ warm orbs and those of David Warbeck really encouraging you to scrutinise them. You can really see all the little colours that go into their composition, and the red ring around Cushing’s, which are understandably tired and lovelorn. The little bite-marks on the necks of the victims are also very cleanly delineated with the gleaming nubs of hardened Kensington Gore quite apparent, and we can clearly see the rough material texture of the costumes, and even some loose threads and hairs that project from them, like the long grey strand that pokes out horizontally from Cushing’s shoulder during one confrontation, meaning that this transfer is keen, acute and consistent, and a sure-fire upgrade from any version that has been released before.
Rear-ground detail is also very good. The stock shot of a real castle on a mountain is of a different texture to the rest of the film, of course, but the sets have plenty of strong resolution, and the location photography offers lots of clarity and depth to the statuesque pines of Blackwood.
There is a good level of contrast, and solid, stable blacks for the most part. Shadow-play is smooth and deep and does not engulf any detail within it. Midnight blues are lovely, and greys look sublime, with some fine silvery moonbeams cutting across the picture at times. There are some frames very early on that have faded and discoloured edges, giving the image a fluttering yellowy cast at the right extremity. This naturally affects the black levels during these certain shots. Depth and three-dimensionality is very good, with the familiar forests, sets, woodland tracks all benefiting from Dick Bush’s evocative photography. It may be vivid when the Count bares his fangs and lunges, but just look at the shot when Gustav raises a pistol at him near the start, the depth of field produced is terrific.
As you would expect for a lurid Hammer Film, there is great colour reproduction afforded this transfer. Bright reds, which obviously enhance that livid crimson for the gore, gorgeous amber and orange for the multitude of flames, rich and earthy tones for the squalor and the landscape, warm tones for the interiors and brisk and naturalistic hues for the outside ensure that the image is always marvellously saturated and visually seductive. Skin-tones, too, are very good, with realistic variety on show for each character from the swarthy aspect of the Count to the grey, cadaverous visage of Gustav.
There is no banding or smearing to be seen in the image, and no aliasing or edge enhancement takes place. DNR is not an issue either, with a film-like texture achieved and both detail and grain-structure reassuringly maintained. Barring those few frames when the peripheral image becomes discoloured and worn, this is a very rewarding transfer that is sure to impress.
Picture score : 8
Synapse present Twins of Evil with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that more than does the business.
As you would hope, Harry Robertson’s score has some weight behind it. The strident main theme, nicked by DC’s animated Justice League, as well as that crusading motif for Gustav’s galloping goons is given plenty of room to pound out with throaty bass presence. But then the music works well all round, although I will say that higher ends are understandably curtailed, given the age and limitations of the original source, and can sound a touch tinny and restrained when the strings begin to soar and the full orchestra combines for the attack. But there is definitely some enjoyable force and depth lent to the atypical Hammer musical bombast.
Effects are nicely employed, with wagons trundling about, horses tearing through the woods and lightning splitting the sky. The crackling of the fires is moderately convincing, and there are some clean-sounding bolts getting thrown back on doors, and the impact of footsteps on floors has more realism than it does in the older, more classical productions, in which their click-clatter was hugely enhanced. Impacts such as the swipe ‘n’ severing of that vicious decapitation and the whistling flight of a spear are nicely prioritised and have a solidity that is satisfying. The clarity of the piano that David Warbeck is pretending to play is also very clean and sharp.
I did detect a couple of instances when the volume seems to dip, though not by much and not very often, so I wouldn’t be at all concerned about that. Besides, this may well be more to do with the original source than anything at fault with the transfer. There is also a curiously in-yer-face (or ears!) moment when Gustav Weil is putting his leather gloves on that sounds quite astonishingly brisk and crackly – almost as though the effect has been amplified or that Weil is actually sitting right beside you.
There is no problem with hiss or any sort of distortion and, overall, this is a very good, clear and strong-sounding track.
Sound score : 7
Synapse deliver some cracking material with this release. We get both a BD and a DVD in the set, and the extras will more than satisfy even the most demanding Hammer-ite.
For a start we get the wonderful feature-length retrospective about the making of the film, its impact and, quite nicely, the literary cornerstones that influenced it, in The Flesh and The Fury: Xposing Twins of Evil. With some creatively produced special (and quite sexy) footage depicting the notorious rise of Le Fanu’s Carmilla, lots of expressive clips from the movie, itself, and some great visits to Pinewood and to Blackwood next door in the company of a returning John Hough, this is a hugely comprehensive and very frank dissection of how Hammer unveiled their sexiest series of vampire-flicks. We are in the entertaining company of such genre specialists as Ted Newsom, Sir Christopher Frayling, Kim Newman, Tim Lucas, Wayne Kinsey and even Joe Dante. And we get to meet Damien Thomas down the pub, too! This is an awesome documentary and the type of thing that you wish all films could have in their arsenal.
This doc is the only special feature to be carried over onto the DVD besides the theatrical trailer.
The Props That Hammer Builtis more great stuff that allows uber-collector, fan and historian Wayne Kinsey to show off the Hammer material that he has amassed so far. We see threadbare bats and a fantastic miniature castle and whatnot, and the level of enthusiasm and nostalgia bolsters the occasionally ramshackle condition of some of the props. Plus, if you are devout fan like me, you will positively drool over some of these artefacts.
There is an enjoyable Motion Still Gallery of photos and imagery from the film’s production and its publicity that fills about a quarter of an hour. The film’s score plays over the top to add to the exotic mood of the feature. The focus, quite naturally, is on the ladies, and we see plenty of seductive and glamorous shots that are well worth your time to peruse. There is more of the twins on display here than we see in the film.
There is a hideous Deleted Scene that was thankfully excised from the finished cut for rather obvious reasons. In it, two of the girls in Anton’s class (well, I say girls, but one of them is certainly not as fresh a daisy as her classmates) begin to serenade us with a hymn in a simply frightful, but charitably brief sequence.
In a great touch, we even get an isolated Music and FX Track in DTS-HD MA too, so you can really savour that rollicking Western-flavoured score from Harry Robertson.
The package is rounded out with a Theatrical Trailer and some TV Spots.
Extras score : 8
Much more enjoyable than most critics would have you believe, Twins of Evil is heady and invigorating stuff that moves at a rollicking clip and delivers sexy sisters, a twisted and salacious count, a thunderous score and a meaty beheading ... and a tremendously cold-hearted and ruthless performance from the always great Peter Cushing.
This is excellent stuff, folks. I was impressed with Synapse’s release of Vampire Circus – still one of the studio’s unsung gems – and their treatment of Twins of Evil is even better. The transfer is excellent and boasts impressive detail and colour, and the audio mix is faithful and strong. The extra features are a terrific bunch, but the prize has to go to the feature-length retrospective making-of that really goes the distance and delivers much more than you ever thought possible. If only all movies could be bestowed with such lavish treatment.
With classic Hammer Films really getting into their high-def stride at the moment with a slew of important releases on Blu-ray, it is wonderful to see one the studio’s later, and largely less-regarded offerings getting such a fantastic package as this. A lot of love and respect has gone into this and, hopefully, John Hough’s once notorious vampire-vixen opus will gain some new fans and a lot of overdue appreciation.
The Twins of Evil are both bountiful and beautiful … and so is Synapse’s release.
Even with some of the studio’s big-hitters on the way, fans shouldn’t hesitate in picking this up.
Overall score : 8
1,769 word review written by Chris McEneany.
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