RIP Madeleine Collinson
By Ben Bussey
It pains me to inform that another iconic scream queen has left us. Madeleine Collinson, Malta-born twin sister of her Twins of Evil co-star Mary, has reportedly died aged 62. The announcement comes via Our Disappearing Planet, an eco-charity site of which the Collinson twins were supporters, with the simple message “we are sorry to have to let you know that our friend and suporter Madeline Collinson has passed away. Our love and deepest sympathy goes to her twin sister Mary.” (Our thanks to Strange Things Are Happening for bringing this to our attention.)
As I have discussed at length in the past (in our old Lucky 13 series, our top ten sexiest female vampires, and most recently our Peter Cushing centenary tribute), Twins of Evil has long been my personal favourite Hammer movie, and the pitch perfect casting of the Collinson twins is obviously a huge part of what makes the film work. There can be no doubt that Madeleine got the juicier role as the devilish Frieda, mirror opposite of the pure and virginal Maria. Frieda, after all, is the one who defies their puritanical uncle Gustav (Cushing), gets lured in by the decadence of Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), and – of course – dons vampire teeth and nibbles the necks of various hapless souls, before meeting an unforgettable end at Cushing’s sword.
Naturally, any discussion of Madeline and Mary Collinson’s work in Twins of Evil will dwell heavily on their sex appeal. This, after all, was the key reason they were cast: the 1971 film was to be the concluding chapter of what we now call Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy, a series noted for its emphasis on sex. The previous year had seen Madeleine and Mary become the first twin Playboy centrefold models, and their limited acting CV consisted pretty much exclusively of smut, as evidenced by the titles alone: Some Like It Sexy, Permissive, Groupie Girl, She’ll Follow You Anywhere, The Love Machine. Still, whilst she may be remembered more for her cleavage than her acting ability, Twins of Evil does demonstrate what Madeleine in particular was capable of as a performer, striking a fine balance of allure and menace. Who can forget the moment when she’s eavesdropping on Gustav as he rants about Count Karnstein’s diabolical orgies, the way her eyes light up at the words “men and women stripped naked!”
Alas, whilst it was the highlight of their career, Twins of Evil sadly also proved the swansong of the Collinson twins as actresses; inevitably, a career that was so clearly based around its novelty element could only last so long. Even so, given how close Twins of Evil is to my heart, I’ve been very pleased to see how its reputation has grown over the years, and I hope the dearly departed Ms Collinson was aware of just how much the film meant to so many of us.
Our deepest condolences go to all the loved ones Madeleine Collinson leaves behind, her sister Mary in particular.