Titan Books has just released a brand new book that outlines the life of one of film’s greatest cult icons, Peter Cushing. If you’re a hound for classic horror cinema, you know Cushing from his roles as Baron Frankenstein and Doctor Van Helsing in the films from the Hammer house of horror. Cushing’s other star roles consisted of Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, and Grand Moff Tarkin. Author David Miller has written a guide to Cushing’s career and you can check out a brief excerpt and a bunch of images below. READ MORE
Like Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil came along at a time when Hammer was on the fast track to ruin. The market was oversaturated thanks to direct competitors, like Amicus and Tigon, among others, and the studio’s strategy of churning out nothing but cheap looking franchise films. In 1970, Hammer decided to change up their approach to vampires with The Vampire Lovers, the first entry in the Karnstein trilogy. The gentleman vampire and his converted minions had been done over and over again, so with Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla serving as an inspiration, the name of the game became sexy lesbian vampires.
Twins of Evil is the farthest removed from the source material out of the three films, and is also great because of that – the other films are fun, but mixing it up was a smart move. While one of its biggest draws is the sexual presence of Mary and Madeleine Collinson, sisters that were the first identical twin Playmates, there are very few references to woman-on-woman action and little nudity, effectively removing the biggest reasons for its predecessors’ cult status. Screenwriter Tudor Gates also takes a page out of the Witchfinder General handbook by having Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing) blur the line between good and evil. As leader of Karnstein’s ‘Brotherhood,’ he lives as piously as possible, hunting down suspected witches and burning them at the stake. He looks down at those who enjoy earthly (carnal) pleasures, which is why he is constantly at odds with Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a man interested in black magic, Satanism, and sleeping with pretty much every strumpet that passes by. This is also why he’s taken aback by his recently orphaned nieces from Venice, who come to live with him and aren’t exactly Puritans.
Twins of Evil has vampires in it, but it’s more of a folk horror film that focuses on the grey area that lies between what is distinctively black and white. The Collinson twins are surprisingly good as the dual natured sisters, establishing what is good and evil in the context of the film early on, but Cushing is who really sells the conflict of cult vs. occult. The question of whether his methods for purifying the earth of evil are morally justified or hypocritical is the cornerstone of the film. Coupled with some fun gore and hilarious innuendo (a candlestick being stroked is worth a few laughs), Twins of Evil is one of Hammer’s best.
God bless Synapse, their 1080p transfer for Twins of Evil is almost Criterion worthy. The colors are preserved wonderfully, particularly the blue hues of the forest at nightfall. Aside from some very minor speckles and scratches, the picture is flawless and vivid with no DNR or banding issues of any kind. With such a balanced transfer and grain that’s still intact, it’s hard to imagine that the film is forty years old. The DTS-HD 2.0 track captures the emptiness of Castle Karnstein and the open air of the woods, but is limited by being 2.0; in other words, it’s good but not great.
The Flesh and The Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil (83:24) – Like the documentary Synapse put on their Vampire Circus release, The Flesh and The Fury is a really good, in-depth documentary on Hammer vampire history. Joe Dante, Kim Newman, and Tim Lucas – among others – chat about the more outwardly erotic direction Hammer went in after the British censors raised the X certificate age to 18. The influence of Le Fanu’s Carmilla – which predates Dracula by a quarter of a century – helped shift their focus from sequelizing their movies from the 50’s to creating the Karnstein trilogy and giving their vampires a new angle. The feature-length documentary, which is only three minutes shy of its subject’s running time, details the development of the film, including its original direction, the discovery of its two leading ladies, and spotlights on the other actors individually.
The Props That Hammer Built: The Kinsey Collection (23:28) – Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey shows off his impressive prop collection and gives some insight into their place in the studio’s history. He has a really impressive assortment of miniatures, concept art, and fake body parts (especially since most of the props were sadly thrown away before Hammer’s relevance was truly established), but the most unique thing he has is a bat puppet, which was created for an alternate ending to The Brides of Dracula.
Deleted Scene (1:09) – A sequence where Anton’s (David Warbeck) class of young girls sing along to his new composition. In the theatrical version, Gustav bursts into the house right as they’re getting started; the scene’s absence suits the flow of the film much better.
Old school horror aficionados should be aware that tomorrow, January 24th, Scorpion Releasing and Katarina’s Nightmare Theater will be releasing some rare treats.
First up is a the double disc of The Devil’s Men (featuring Donald Pleasance and Peter Cushing!) and Terror. The Joan Collins starter Revenge will also be available. The Devil’s Men/Terror disc ill be limited to 1700 copies. Just a heads up.
Per the press release, “In ‘The Devil’s Men’, tourists visiting a Greek archeological site are being abducted by a strange cult intent on providing their God – the Minotaur – with sacrifice. Father Raoche (Donald Pleasance) enlists the help of a former pupil and NY private detective to find out what has happened to them! Starring horror icon Peter Cushing, this film was released here in the states as ‘Land Of The Minotaur’ in an edited PG version; now watch the cult classic UNCUT for the first time in the U.S.! The film is paired off with Norman J. Warren’s ‘Terror’! Filmmaker James Garrick holds a party to screen his new movie about the violent deaths of his real-life ancestors. Three hundred years earlier, the diabolical witch, Mad Molly, placed a curse on his family after they burned her at the stake. The descendants and party-goers soon begin dying in brutally inventive fashion.
Joan Collins stars in this gripping suspense thriller ‘Revenge’. After his ten-year-old daughter is brutally attacked and murdered on her way back from school, her father (James Booth – ‘Zulu’, ‘Pray For Death’) becomes obsessed with exacting revenge upon her killer. He knows the suspect, who has just been released by the police due to lack of evidence. The father vows to force a confession out of him at all costs. But what if he has chosen the wrong man for his vengeance?!>”
Scorpion Releasing doesn’t sell directly to consumers so your best bet is hitting up Amazon.
Hit the jump for the box art! READ MORE
On DVD July 25th, 2006: Wealthy big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) has tracked and killed practically every type of animal in the world. But one creature still evades him, the biggest game of all – a werewolf. Tom invites five guests — Dr. Christopher Lundgren (Peter Cushing), Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon), Bennington (Charles Gray), Jan Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon) and Davina (Ciaran Madden)– to his island knowing they all are tied one way or another to unusual circumstances of death… and that one of them is a werewolf. Add to the mix Tom’s alluring wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) and surveillance expert, Pavel (Anton Diffring), Tom tracks the werewolf but is unable to kill it. One by one the creature kills the isolated guests.
In London in the 1970s, Scotland Yard police investigators think they have uncovered a case of vampirism. They call in an expert vampire researcher named Van Helsing (an ancestor of the great vampire-hunter himself, no less) to help them put a stop to these hideous crimes. It becomes apparent that the culprit is Count Dracula himself, disguised as a reclusive property developer, but secretly plotting to unleash a fatal virus upon the world.
An English anthropologist has discovered a frozen monster in the frozen wastes of Manchuria which he believes may be the Missing Link. He brings the creature back to Europe aboard a trans-Siberian express, but during the trip the monster thaws out and starts to butcher the passengers one by one.
In London in the 1970s, Scotland Yard police investigators think they have uncovered a case of vampirism. They call in an expert vampire researcher named Van Helsing (a descendant of the great vampire-hunter himself, no less) to help them put a stop to these hideous crimes. It becomes apparent that the culprit is Count Dracula himself, disguised as a reclusive property developer, but secretly plotting to unleash a fatal virus upon the world.
Already three trustees of the Van Traylen fund have died during the last months, looking like suicides. However after a mysterious accident of a bus with the last three trustees and 30 orphan kids in it, police colonel Bingham starts investigating. First question is, how came that the dead bus driver is burnt when there was no fire during the accident? Dr. Ashley uses hypnosis to find the truth about the mysterious happenings.
On DVD July 25th, 2006: Set in 1795 England, And Now the Screaming Starts! tells the tale of blissful newlyweds Catherine (Stephanie Beacham) and Charles Fengriffen (Ian Ogilvy) who move into his ancestral family mansion. On their wedding night, Catherine is raped by a malevolent spirit. She is further plagued by a series of haunting visions involving an eyeless woodsman and a murderous disembodied hand. Can a savage act of depravity and violence committed by one of Charles’ ancestors be to blame? Charles fears that his bride is going insane and calls for Doctor Whittle (Patrick Magee). Unable to help Catherine overcome her visions, Dr. Whittle calls for assistance from a fellow practitioner, Dr. Pope (Peter Cushing), who uses reason and logic to combat what he assumes is a mental disorder. In time, Dr. Pope finds himself fighting a losing battle against the forces of the supernatural carrying out a bloody family curse. Directed by Roy Ward Baker (Asylum, The Vault of Horror, The Monster Club) and produced by Amicus stalwarts Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky, And Now the Screaming Starts! has been mastered in High Definition from 35mm vault materials.
Screen legends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing star as rival turn-of-the-century anthropologists transporting a frozen ‘missing link’ aboard the Trans-Siberian Express. But when the prehistoric creature thaws and escapes, it unleashes a brain-scarfing spree that turns its victims into the eye-bleeding undead. Can the crafty colleagues stop this two million year old monster, hordes of zombie passengers and a psychotic Cossack officer (Telly Savalas) before terror goes off the rails?
In London 1872 – the final battle between Lawrence van Helsing and Count Dracula on top of a coach results in Dracula dying from a stake made from the remains of a wooden wheel. Lawrence dies from his wounds and, as he is buried, a servant of Dracula buries the remains of the stake by the grave and keeps a bottle of Dracula’s ashes and the ring. One hundred years later, the colourful 1972, Johnny, the great-grandson of the servant joins up with a “group” containing Jessica, the grand-daughter of the present vampire hunter, Abraham van Helsing and with their unknowing help resurrect Dracula in the 20th Century who is determined to destroy the house of Van Helsing, but who can believe that The king of the Vampires really exists and is alive – in 20th Century London?
A young woman recovering from a nervous breakdown moves with her husband to a boys’ school, but finds herself being terrorized by a mysterious one-armed man – and nobody believes her.
On DVD July 25th: When Dr. Martin (Robert Powell) arrives at the Dunsmoor Asylum for the incurably insane, he expects to be interviewed by asylum director Dr. Starr. Instead he is met by Dr. Rutherford (Patrick Magee), who explains that Dr. Starr had suffered a mental breakdown and now is one of the patients.
Dr. Rutherford decides that if Martin can deduce which one is really Dr. Starr, then he will be given the position.
Is it Bonnie (Barbara Parkins), whose affair with a married man turns murderous? Is it Bruno (Barry Morse), a hardluck tailor visited by a mysterious stranger (Peter Cushing) with a blueprint and very special fabric for an unusual suit? Is it Barbara (Charlotte Rampling), accused of murdering her brother and her nurse but insisting that her friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) was responsible; Or is it Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom) who claims the ability to transfer collecting?
The moon rises at a predestined angle and awakens the sleeping Dr. Phibes three years later. To his dismay, he finds his house has been demolished and his papyrus scrolls stolen, the scrolls he needs to find the Pharoah’s Tomb in Egypt, where the River of Life flows. After identifying the source of the papyrus theft, he packs and leaves for Egypt with his assistant Vulnavia, still intent upon awakening his dead wife Victoria. The parties responsible for the theft of Phibes’ scrolls suffer an attrition problem as Inspector Trout chases him across the world.
Two beautiful orphaned identical twins, Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (Playboy centerfold models Mary and Madeleine Collinson), move to the village of Karnstein to live with their uncle Gustav Weil (played by Hammer horror favorite, Peter Cushing), a fanatical puritan and leader of the local witch-hunting “Brotherhood.” The village Count (Damien Thomas, Never Let Me Go), an evil man who secretly 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!
Five people are trapped in a crypt and are shown their futures by the evil cryptkeeper. They are given the option of avoiding their fates – by avoiding living out the rest of their lives.
Christopher Lee stars in this Amicus production of “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” where the names have been changed to Dr. Marlowe and Mr. Blake. Lee as Dr. Marlowe experiments with intavenious drugs that are suppose to release inner inhibitions. So comes forth Mr. Blake(also Lee)who gets more mostrous with each transformation(Physicaly as well as personality). Peter Cushing plays his friend and colleague, Dr. Utterson.
In nineteenth century middle-Europe, orphaned teenage twins Maria and Frieda go to live with their uncle Gustav Weil, who heads the Brotherhood, a vigilante group trying to stamp out vampirism. But their methods are random and misplaced and the only result is a terrorised populace. The real threat lies with Count Karnstein, and although the twins seem outwardly to be identical, Frieda finds herself much more drawn than her sister to the Count’s castle dominating the skyline.
A group of friends search for a young English Oxford student who has disappeared whilst researching in Greece. They are shocked to find that, wherever he has been, certain unsolved murders have taken place. Not believing that their friend could be the perpetrator of such acts, they press on with their search, finding him under the spell of a beautiful Vampire, whose blood-sucking methods include the use of sado-masochism. Believing they have killed her, the group return home, unaware that their friend is now a Vampire.
The Countess is called away to tend a sick friend and imposes on the General to accept her daughter Marcilla as a houseguest. Some of the villagers begin dying, however, and the General’s daughter Laura soon gets weak and pale, but Marcilla is there to comfort her. The villagers begin whispering about vampires as Marcilla finds another family on which to impose herself. The pattern repeats as Emma gets ill, but the General cannot rest, and seeks the advice of Baron Hartog, who once dealt a decisive blow against a family of vampires. Well, almost.
A serial killer, who drains his victims for blood is on the loose in London, the Police follow him to a house owned by an eccentric scientist.
Sir Edward Markham is the victim of a voodoo curse which has caused his face to become horribly disfigured. He is kept captive in the attic of his house by his brother Julian. Sir Edward escapes, moves in with an unscrupulous doctor who hires grave robbers to steal bodies for his research, wears a red hood over his face, and kills a good number of townspeople before the surprise ending.
Baron Frankenstein is once again working with illegal medical experiments. Together with a young doctor, Karl and his fiancée Anna they kidnap the mentally sick Dr. Brandt, to perform the first brain transplantation ever.