The Hammer Resurgence Continues! Synapse Films has unleashed Count Karnstein on stunning Blu-ray with DVD chaser. While horror fans of a certain age are more likely to be familiar with films like the Horror of Dracula or Curse of Frankenstein, Hammer truly gave us the blood, gut and boob show starting later in their illustrious Universal monster phase featuring vamps, a variety of strange monsters, Franks and even a few lunatic madmen. Later day Hammer, prior to the slow down and fall off in the late 70’s and early 80’s, was producing films guaranteed to shock and arouse a certain audience, keeping them firmly in seat and hopefully with a hand or two in the most inappropriate of locations (with a date or stag to be sure). The Karnstein trilogy which began with The Vampire Lovers (which will be released shortly by Scream Factory) and then moved on the Lust for a Vampire before making its way to Twins of Evil, is considered some of the most graphic and sexy of any of the Hammer installments of any generations and paved the way for Euro varietals of vampire and werewolf pictures.
Synopsis from Synapse Films:
Two beautiful orphaned identical twins, Maria and Frieda Gellhorn move to the village o Karnstein to live with their uncle Gustav Weil, a fanatical puritan and leader of the local witch hunting “Brotherhood”. The village Count practices Satanism, uses black magic and transforms into a vampire. Unhappy with her new life, Frieda seeks escape and tragically falls under the spell of the Count. Now overcome with an insatiable hunger for human blood, Frieda has to hide her secret from her sister, and escape her uncle’s killing grasp!
This is a Dracula movie for folks who are just plain tired of Dracula or, as hard as it might seem, tired of Christopher Lee under the cape. Part vamp flick, part witch/demon hunter film, Peter Cushing resumes his role in the “Van Helsing” queue only credited without the Bram Stoker nomenclature as Gustav Weil. Damien Thomas dawns the fangs as Count Karnstein, a seductive, Euro playboy of the medieval variety that is above the law and in love with the occult. Let’s not forget the volumptutious Mary and Madeleine Collinson who would go on to star in Playboy magazine (a peak performance to be sure). One might wonder whether the Collinson twins as the Gellhorn twins are the titular evil ones or perhaps something underneath the brassier. That last comment in turn begs the question, “Am I playing the adolescent again?”. My puberty runneth over. The whole thing is a mish mash of plots you’ve seen from the first days of Universal vamp lore but actually deploys a few more modern vampire aesthetics. Hammer loved the reinvention of the classic monsters (whether for copyright reasons or to keep the moneymaking machine fresh and well oiled). Playing off the occult aspect of the transformation into vamp is relatively new in 1971 although you might find a bit of devil worship in more than a few Hammer productions of the same period, but you’ll love the execution of the Count’s evil plan. I dare say this is one of the few times you’ll find yourself rooting against Cushing.
I had the pleasure of catching Twins of Evil recently on Netflix via their On-Demand service which affords the quality one might imagine comes with streaming a film from the 70’s. Between compression and print quality not to mention an absence of the unique collection of special features you might as well be throwing your money down the coax. Upon receipt and review of the Synapse Blu-ray I can tell you that there is none more gorgeous a print out there save for a stray archival 35mm print out there in storage. The audio truly pops even though it isn’t 5.1 surround I’m not entirely sure it matters or would be appropriate to engineer Twins of Evil in that fashion. Best to preserve some of the original feel in the audio, the video quality will astound. Play it louder. Scare your date.
In addition to the superior video quality provided by the Blu-ray the combo disc includes The Flesh and The Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil, a feature length documentary exploring Hammer’s infamous “Karnstein” trilogy, from the origin of Carmilla, to the making the Twins of Evil. I like to call special features like that one, “How to Make a Hammer Fan” because of the absolute care taken to create an experience for the younger horror fan and build a story around a studio’s legacy. Now if we can get the Amicus guys in line, we can have a truly complete vision of late 60’s and early 70’s horror scene in
I’m off topic. There’s also a featurette, “The Prop that Hammer Built: The
Kinsey Collection” which is exclusive to the Blu., a motion still gallery,
deleted scene (very special for such an old release) and an isolated music
& effects track (all of which are Blu exclusive). If you’re wondering why
you’d need an isolated music/effects track I can think of two reasons. A. The
music for Twins of Evil is beyond amazing. It’s eerie and holds up on its own.
Many of you know that I’m a bit of a soundtrack/score junkie and this is one of
my absolute favorites. Most of the Hammer scores are worth a listen and
definitely worth studying. B. If you need music for a Halloween party or two
play outside your house to give it that extra audio assault… this is a gift
from Synapse to you.
The overall drawing power of Hammer as of late cannot be understated and deserves to be in the forefront of horror fans that are looking for the dark fantasy of horror rather than the modern day trend of brutal reality. The studio itself is up, running, making movies all be it under new management, but their selections have dipped back into some classic affair while trying to dedicate their efforts to some of the things that made Hammer great during their hey day. Even Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson named a tour after the Twins of Evil and used one of the iconic poster images to sell their Twins of Evil tour (and then they got into a war of words and the whole thing fell apart).
You can check out all of Synapse Films right HERE. Don’t just stop at Twins of Evil, but make sure you pick this gem up. Remember, Synapse also put out Hammer House of Horror earlier this year which I strongly recommend. Perfect stocking stuffer. Excellent for the collector.
Hammer + 1080p = Horror You Can’t Afford to Miss!
Makes eyes happy.