Do you remember the 1971 B horror film Twins of Evil? If so, you’ll likely remember the lead roles played by sisters Mary and Madeleine – known as the Collinson twins.
These twins came from the Crown Colony of Malta and became two of the biggest stars in the B-movie craze of the 1960s and 1970s. They were also the first twins to appear on the centerfold of Playboy Magazine.
But shortly after they became huge stars with their film Twins of Evil, they disappeared from the limelight. Few people know about what happened to them afterward. If you’re a fan of B-movies and the glamour culture and free love of the 60s and 70s, then it is fascinating to see the Collinson Twins.
They were Playboy’s first twin playmates…then suddenly, the Collinson Twins Disappeared. Let’s find out what happened.
FROM MALTA TO THE UK
Mary and Madeleine Collinson were born on July 22, 1952, in Sliema – in what was then the Crown Colony of Malta – part of the British Empire.
They spent their early lives growing up in Malta. They first traveled to the mainland of the United Kingdom in 1969. It is during this year that they spot by Harrison Marks, a notable photographer, and filmmaker.
He had begun his career as a stage performer but soon became one of England’s most notorious glamour photographers and filmmakers. He hired the twins to appear in his short film Halfway Inn. This film shoots around the time the twins arrive in England and completes in the summer of 1970.
One of the stills from this short film uses in a magazine, Continental Film Review. This still showed the twins together, and this is what sparked the fascination with the Collinson twins.
In 1969, they also appeared in an exploitation film called Some Like It Sexy. The following year, they both had another small role in the hit youth film I Am A Groupie.
This follows by another small role in the X-rated film Permissive. Both twins play groupies in this film, and it is clear that their profiles notice throughout the UK.
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Aside from their film career, the Collinson twins are famous for being the first twins to appear in the Playboy Magazine centerfold.
They appeared in the October 1970 edition. Seeing identical twins in the centerfold of the popular magazine caused quite a stir that year! But this controversy helped the twins reach a wider audience across the Western world.
Who would have thought that two twins from Malta would reach such international fame? Their jet-black hair, dark eyes, and voluptuous figures are what led this issue of Playboy to sell rather quickly! It was their ravishing beauty that caused the Collinson twins to remain popular to this day.
They also had a few other magazine appearances following their photoshoot for Playboy. They appeared in Cinema X magazine in 1972 and Titbits magazine in 1973. It was clear that their beauty was in-demand by magazines and film producers.
It is also their beauty, which leads them to casts their first lead roles in a feature film. This would become the film that they’d most be remembered for!
TWINS OF EVIL
The 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of horror films in the United Kingdom. During these decades, Britain also saw a surge in B-grade movies, exploitation films, and X-rated films. The twins both appeared in the drama film The Love Machine. But their biggest film hit was yet to come.
In 1971, the film Twins of Evil was released. This film was directed by John Hough and was written by Tudor Gates. The characters and story were slightly inspired by the novella Carmilla and Sheridan Le Fanu.
This film was the third in the Karnstein Trilogy of vampire films produced by Hammer Films. The film revolves around twin sisters Mary (played by Mary Collinson) and Freida (played by Madeleine Collinson).
Madeleine Collinson, in particular, was a huge fan of horror films. As such, this was a dream role for her. Freida played the evil twin sister while Mary played the twin sister who represented virtue and goodness.
The film was a success and remains a cult favorite among horror fans to this day. This was the film that made the Collinson twins into major celebrities. To this day, when one thinks of the Collinson twins – one thinks of Twins of Evil.
They would later act together in the sex comedy film Passion Potion – which would mark the end of their film career. It was also after this film that the twins stepped away from the limelight.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COLLINSON TWINS?
The Collinson twins appeared together on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1970. This TV appearance made them famous on the other side of the Atlantic.
As expected, the Collinson twins began receiving film offers to appear in Hollywood productions. They received offers from both Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures. However, it seemed that their Hollywood career wasn’t meant to be.
Mary wasn’t keen on becoming a Hollywood star, and she longed to return to Europe. Madeleine followed her sister and the two of them emigrated to Italy, living in Milan for several years.
Both sisters were no longer interested in being in the limelight and decided to pursue careers outside of show business. Mary began a modeling agency in Milan. She also met an Italian man and started a family with him – giving birth to two daughters.
Madeleine eventually moved back to Malta. She worked for the British Council while there. She also spent a few years living in Bournemouth in the UK. Eventually, married a British Royal Air Force officer and had three children with him.
Madeleine Collinson died in Msida, Malta, on August 14, 2021. She was 62-years-old, and her sister Mary was by her side when she drew her last breath. Mary Collinson died in November 2021 at the age of 69.
With both sisters no longer with us, a resurgence of interest in their careers has arisen. While their modeling and acting careers were extremely short-lived, they still managed to make an impact in show business.
While we might be used to seeing twins on Playboy centerfolds and in B-movies today, this was rather unusual for the 1960s and the 1970s. The Collinson twins were trailblazers and have a unique role in film history.
THE COLLINSON TWINS’ LEGACY
The October 1970 cover of Playboy Magazine shows the Collinson twins wearing short black dresses emblazoned with the famous Playboy bunny logo. They have matching short hairstyles that were en vogue during that time.
The photograph is on a lavender background – which perfectly contrasts with the dark dresses that the twins are wearing. It’s not hard to imagine that many men walked past newsstands and then doubled back when they saw the twins smiling back at them from the cover of Playboy.
The photoshoot consisted of many shots of the twins together. One of them showed the twins lying on top of each other – nude from the waist up. This might be commonplace for Playboy and other glamour or X-rated magazines today, but it was still rather risque for the time.
It’s quite telling that these beautiful twins came from the Crown Colony of Malta. Malta was a conservative country with a strict Christian culture. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop the twins from showcasing their beauty when they arrived in the UK.
They arrived at the end of the 1960s. The UK and much of the West was undergoing a cultural shift. This was a transition away from the conservative culture that defined much of the 1950s. Part of this cultural shift was, of course, the Sexual Revolution.
Filmmakers, photographers, writers, and other artists of the era wanted to explore sexuality through their works. Nudity and “free love” were very much in-demand. Photographers such as Harrison Marks capitalized on this and helped bring the twins to stardom when they appeared in his short films and photoshoots.
The twins seemed eager to model for magazines and advertisements. They were even more excited to appear in the popular exploitation films, which were popular during the 60s and 70s.
While their career was short-lived, their contribution to the counterculture of the 60s and 70s cannot be overlooked.
The cover of the October 1970 edition of Playboy Magazine remains one of the most popular covers in the magazine’s history. The film Twins of Evil is the perfect introduction to the unique genre of films made in the 60s and 70s. This B-grade horror film mixed with elements of a sexually charged exploitation film perfectly encapsulated the cultural upheaval of these two decades. Such unique films simply don’t exist on the same level today.
If you’re a fan of exploitation films from this era, then you’ve got to watch Twins of Evil. This film showed the boldness of filmmakers of that era – who weren’t afraid to rebel and shock audiences, much in contrast with today’s politically correct and rather bland fare from mainstream Anglo or American cinema.
The Collinson Twins left behind a legacy that helped shape the counterculture of the 60s and 70s. They were a crucial part of B-movies and glamour magazines. They could have become even bigger stars but were happy to retire to quieter lives back in Europe.
Nevertheless, their legacy is unlikely to be forgotten. While the twins are no longer with us, Twins of Evil will remain a cult classic. You might even find an old copy of the October 1970 Playboy on a dusty bookshelf somewhere.
Did you know about the Collinson Twins?
Do you think Twins of Evil is rightfully considered one of the classic horror films? Or do you think it’s a bit overrated?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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