Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Centrefold Venuses of the Month: 29. October, Mary and Madeleine Collinson

We are a bit late in getting this posted during October  but at least you get two centrefolds for the price of one this month, in the lissome forms of sisters Mary and Madeleine Collinson who graced the pages of Playboy for October 1970.

Although it wasn't the first time that Playboy had had two Playmates in a month (there had been Mara Corday and Pat Sheehan in December 1958) Mary and Madeleine were the first twins to appear as Playmates of the month (others, of course, have followed).  They were considered unusual enough to justify putting them on the cover (unlike Penthouse, for example, Playboy rarely put its centrefold girls on the cover).

 On location in Ipswich, May 1970

The twins are from Malta, an island that Triple P has a great affection for.  Born in Sliema on 22nd July 1952, they were the daughters of a former Royal Navy officer, John Collinson and his wife Adelaide, an ex-model. Their father was not around after they were born and they were brought up by their mother (who also had another set of twins), grandmother and aunts.

There were actors in the family and they started to perform from a very young age, doing dances and singing.  By the age of fourteen they started doing  a bit of modelling in Malta and even a few TV commercials there.

 The twins with their London modeling agent, May 1970

Somewhat surprisingly for twins, they were educated seperately: Madeleine at a convent school and Mary at a commercial college.  Madeleine became a secretary but Mary moved to London in early 1969 where her sister joined her three months later.

In Carnaby Street, May 1970.  Still just seventeen years old

Their Playboy pictorial, shot by Dwight Hooker, was photographed in three locations: Ipswich in the east of England, where they were doing a fashion shoot, London and Chicago.

 The twins enjoy a limousine tour of Chicago

The UK pictures were shot first and then they flew to Chicago, where they stayed in the Playboy Mansion, for the main centrefold shoot.

 The twins leave the Playboy Mansion

 Impressed by the skyscrapers in front of the John Hancock Center

 The view from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Centre

 Shopping in Old Town's Piper's Alley

 Getting ready for action

The 17 year old twins were spotted as potential Playmates by none other than Playboy's UK managing director, Victor Lownes, at a party shortly after they arrived in London. He had them move into his London house (as you would).  Lownes suggested to Hugh Hefner that they should fly to Chicago for a test shoot. 

In the end, it took around a year to get all the pictures done for their Playmate feature.  The centrefold, in particular proved particularly troublesome (posing two girls obviously being twice as difficult) with Dwight Hooker shooting somwehere between 700 and 800 sheets of 10x8 film; a record for a Playboy centrefold shoot.

The twins were just sixteen when they moved to London but started to get jobs very quickly including some work for famed British nudie king George Harrison Marks (the man who first used the word "glamour" to describe nude modelling), who cast them in one of his short films Halfway Inn (1970).

This was a black and white, thirteen minute silent film produced for home viewing on 8mm film.  Having produced, up until that point, shorter four of five minute films of a single girl doing a striptease this was one of his first longer boy/girl productions which would eventually lead to feature films (famously Come Play with Me (1977) starring Mary Millington) and even some hardcore films, by end of the seventies.

The film is a period piece featuring a man who arrives at Ye Half Way Inn only to be greeted by a comely maid (one of the Collinsons; which one we aren't sure!).

After some flirting over dinner he manages to strip her off (she doesn't exactly resist) and there follows an extended sequence where he, understandably, squeezes, licks and kisses her breasts a lot.

It should be remembered that the twins were only seventeen (at most) at the time and their scenes in this loop are quite strong for the period in the UK.

The next sequence has one of the girls in bed with the man and these scenes are even stronger as they flash their shaven pussies and get their busts licked again.  There is even some implied cunnilingus. The maid disappears and reappears for another session.

There is then another scene which is almost identical except that it takes place outside the inn under a willow tree.  Gradually the man is reduced to exhaustion by the apparently relentlessly lusty maid and flees.

It is only at the end of the film that we are shown that there are in fact two maids who have been taking it in turns with him.

This publicity photo showing all three in bed together doesn't reflect any scene in the film, therefore, but was used in a picture story based on the film that Harrison Marks published in his magazine Impact 70.  He was notorious for the fact that he neglected to tell his actors and actresses that their pictures were being used in his magazines in this way, particularly as he also failed to pay them for it.

From Impact 70 magazine

The Collinsons look sweet and lovely throughout but this was a pretty explicit start to their film careers, given their young age and the fact that they hailed from rather old fashioned and conservative Malta.

Here we see one or other of the sisters, photographed by Harrison Marks at the time of Halfway Inn, clearly demonstrating their impressive 22 inch waists.  They were recorded as 34-22-35 when they posed for Playboy.

The twins in Permissive (1969)

Following on from this silent short the Collinsons eventually made six films, always playing on their status as twins and almost always requiring them to take their clothes off.  Their first appearance was in Permissive (1969) a rather depressing film set around groupies following a pop group.  Actually, in this one they did keep their clothes on.

Groupie Girl

The following year, oddly, they appeared in another film about groupies this time called, Groupie Girl (1970).

Very seventies boots!  Petrol at  just over 30p a gallon compared with today's £5.15!

There was a whole sub-genre of groupie pictures around this time both in the UK and abroad.  This one followed the exploits of a girl, played by ex-stripper Esme Johns in her only film, who hooked up with a grungy band.  Obviously filmed in the winter (of 69/70) Britain looks grey and depressing in this none too jolly film.

The Collinsons appeared about halfway through, wearing crocheted dresses, in a party scene.  This time they did get their tops off in a threesome with one of the band members on a sofa.  Neither of the twins' names appeared in the film's closing credits despite them having a few brief lines of dialogue.

They joined the band and the heroine in the group's Transit van and headed for a hotel where they had another threesome with a different band member.  The twins get topless again.

Also filmed, but cut before release, was a three-way lesbian scene with Esme Johns.  A few stills remain and we found out about this scene from a pictorial article in Mayfair that year about the new British sex cinema. This was just taking off in 1970 after the British Board of Film Censors relaxed its rating systems and allowed nudity in "X" films. It was much exploited by Hammer Films for their series of early seventies horror films, of course.

 Madeleine (left) and Mary on set in Hollywood

In February 1971 the twins found themselves in Hollywood appearing in a much bigger film The Love Machine (1971) starring John Phillip Law, Dyan Cannon, Robert Ryan, Jackie Cooper and David Hemmings.  They were in a scene where Cannon, as Law's wife, catches them in the shower.

Also in 1971 they appeared in the Keith Barron/Kenneth Cope comedy She'll Follow you Anywhere about two chemists who unwittingly come up with an aftershave that makes them irresistable to women (and we thought that was Hai Karate!).

Even before the film had been submitted to them the British Board of Film Censors expressed concerns that there would be too much gratuitous nudity in the film.  In fact there was less than these posters suggest!

The twins' next film would be their defining one; roles which have seen them become horror cult favourites. In June 1970 Hammer films announced a third film in their Karnstein series (after The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Lust for Vampire (1970), the latter still being filmed at the time of the announcenment of the third film).

Originally it was due to be called Village of the Vampires it would feature two brothers being hired to rid Karnstein Castle of Vampires only to find Count Karnstein (to be played by Peter Cushing) turning their daughters into vampires.

Like the previous two Karnstein films this was to be a co-production with Fantale Films one of the partners of which, Michael Style, was a regular Playboy reader.  He had seen the twins' centrefold in the October 1970 issue and thought it would be great to have twins in the new Karstein film, especially if they could get Playboy to back it.

Once they had worked out how to get Peter Cushing into the film they abandoned Village of the Vampires 
and announced the new film, Twins of Evil in January 1971.

This image was used in the Playboy pictorial Sex Stars of 72

However, despite them being the genesis of the idea, the participation of the Collinsons was not automatic.  In fact, initially, Hammer had been considering Kate O'Mara (who had appeared in The Vampire Lovers) as one of the twins but had to give up on that idea as they couldn't find another actress who looked enough like her to be convincing.

The Collinsons spent much of Twins of Evil wearing these fetching nighties and patently wearing nothing underneath

In the end Hammer did contact Playboy and found the twins' agent in the UK but they had to fight for the part, eventually going up against 11 other sets of twins.  In the end it was down to the Colinsons and a pair of blondes but the Maltese girls won out and prepared to become horror princesses.

Madeleine goes vamp for the handheld camera on set

Principal photography for Twins of Evil took place at Pinewood Studios between March and April 1971.  Many of the sets from Hammer's previous vampire production, Countess Dracula (1970), were re-used enabling the film to be completed on a budget of just over £200,000.

The twins pull themselves together in their dressing room

During and following filming the twins spent a lot of time doing publicity shots for the film, very few of which involved wearing  many clothes.

One issue that doesn't seem to have been resolved relates to the question as to whether the girls voices were dubbed in the film.  If you listen to them in their other films they both have light Mediterranean accents.  Triple P has spent quite a lot of time on the delightful island of Malta and the accent, when speaking English, is not dissimilar to a not very strong Italian accent. 

They were given voice coaches but, in the end, the Hammer producers said they were dubbed (as was common for Hammer films when using continental actressess).  The twins claimed that they were not dubbed although admitting that the voices in the film didn't sound like them.

These Hammer publicity shots feature, in the centre, the actress who played Countess Mircalla Karnstein, German born Katya Wyeth who regularly appeared on TV during the sixties and seventies in "pretty girl" type roles.

The twins arrive in Karnstein by coach

In Twins of Evil Mary plays Maria Gelhorn and Madeleine (billed as Madelaine) plays Frieda Gelhorn who have travelled to Karnstein from Vienna after the death of their parents.

The twins meet their uncle and aunt

From now on they are to live with their aunt (Kathleen Byron) and uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing - utterly brilliant in this) who leads a group of local witch hunters who burn young women on seemingly very little evidence.

In one of several scenes of the twins in their delightfully flimsy and low-cut nightdresses, the more assertive sister Frieda bemoans their fate in having such a restrictive uncle. Madeleine naturally took this role as she was the more assertive of the sisters in real life, she subsequently said.

Meanwhile up in the castle Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), an occult thrill seeker, accidentally revives the notorious Marcilla Karnstein (Katya Wyeth) who promptly turns him into a vampire.

"Hey, I'm up here!"

The girls start at the local school where choirmaster Anton (David Warbeck) takes a fancy to Freida.  Count Karnstein, arrives in the village, to spar with Uncle Gustav and is also impressed with Freida's very obviously displayed charms.

More crucially bad girl Frieda prefers the mysterious Count Karnstein to the dull choirmaster.  Sick of her uncle's restrictions she slips out of the house getting her sister to cover for her.

Wearing yet another amazingly low-cut dress she is picked up by Count Karnstein's coach whilst making her way towards his castle through the woods.  The woods were Hammer favourite location Black Park, right next to Pinewood Studios.  They have been used in dozens of films including standing in for Switzerland in the night time Aston Martin DB5 chase in Goldfinger.

Having had dinner with the count and his friends, Frieda is turned into a vampire after being bitten by the Count.

Well you would, wouldn't you?

Karnstein then gets Frieda to try out her new vampiric powers on a girl, Gerta, (Luan Peters - most famous as the Australian girl accidentally groped by Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers) chained in his dungeon.  Frieda, foregoing the usual neck bite engages in a bit of lesbian flirting before chomping her new fangs into Gerta's splendid bust.

When Frieda returns home she gets a good talking to from Maria who is dismayed by her sister's more aggressive personality.  Frieda threatens her sister if she reveals her secret tryst with the Count. The choirmaster points out to the witch hunters that burning won't work on a vampire; only decapitation or a stake through the heart.

Right we need to change your clothes with your sister so this isn't a gratuitous scene at all!

Frieda, however gets caught by Uncle Gustav biting a man in the woods and he carts her off to prison and tries to lock up Maria too, although her aunt stops him.   Count Karnstein however breaks into the prison, frees Frieda and swaps her for Maria back at home.  Maria gets dragged out of prison to be burnt by the witch hunters who think she is Frieda.

The choirmaster pops up to see Maria who, much to his surprise tries to seduce him.  Realising it is Frieda he only just escapes from her vampiric attack.

Freida gets the chop (actually a dummy head and a large German sausage) whilst Maria is out for the count

Eventually persuading Gustav that he has got the wrong girl the choirmaster and the villagers storm the castle to deal with the evil Count, behead the evil twin and save Maria who has been seized by Karnstein.

Twins of Evil is one of the best seventies Hammer films, not just because of the luminous presence of the Collinson twins, who never look anything other than totally edible, but because Peter Cushing, committing himself to work to help get over the recent death of his wife, gives his all in the unsympathetic role of the twins' uncle.  He steals the film.  Again.  Whilst neither of the twins were great actresses they acquit themselves well in this film; Madeleine, as the evil Frieda, in particular.

Mary plays the hero's girlfriend

The final appearance by the twins in a film is an oddity in that when the film, Come Back Peter (1969), was originally shot the twins weren't in it.  In concept, a  racier version of the Michael Caine hit Alfie, it had a fraction of the budget and was shot in London in just eight days.

Madeleine plays her banana toying sister

In fact, the principal interest in the film now is to see what London looked like at the end of the sixties.  The title sequence is all shot around Sloane Square and the Kings Road just a few hundered yards from where Triple P lived in the late eighties/early nineties.

Although the film was supposedly a sex comedy the sex scenes were not strong enough to ensure continental sales so eighteen months later the director, Donovan Winter, went back to the original locations (which were all apartments belonging to friends of his) and shot some more sex scenes with very unconvincing doubles for the original actors.

The Collinsons scenes were all new as they hadn't been in the original film at all. The hero, Peter, visits one of his girlfriends in her flat and discovers that she is a twin.

Topless twin catfight!

The two girls argue over the hero and get into a fight whilst he tries to calm them down.

They then join forces and turn on him stripping him off before both joining him in bed.

Peter finds himself sandwiched between the twins in bed and he, and the camera, lingers, understandably, on their very perky busts.

However, as he concentrates on some nipple kissing, the girl's faces get closer and closer leading to the scenes which made this film notorious. Arguments forgotten, the girls start kissing each other.

The bemused Peter decides to leave them to it and we see him leave the apartment. However, we then return to them to watch them kissing, nuzzling and stroking each other.

This wasn't the first time that the Collinsons had been filmed in a nude love scene with each other but the first, in Groupie Girl, had been cut from the finished movie.

It's quite an explicit scene for the time, much more so than the rather tame lesbian scenes in the Hammer Carnstein films, for example.  There is nipple kissing and, at one point one of the girls strokes the other's groin.   The added frisson coming, of course, from the fact that they really are sisters.  This extended version of Come Back Peter with the added charms of the Collinsons appeared in the re-named release Some like it Sexy in 1972.

Although most of the girls' appeal was due to the fact that they were identical twins they did occasionally appear, at least in magazine pictorials, seperately.  Here, for example is Madeleine in Fiesta magazine in March 1970, one of their earliest shoots.

Pictures from this shoot, which was also an early one and could have well been done by Harrison Marks, turned up in a number of publications including Parade.

It wasn't just Britain that couldn't get enough of the Collinsons; they appeared in European magazines as well as British ones.  They even turned up in a pack of sexy playing cards!

Over their six year modelling career their hairstyles changed; although some were, perhaps, more flattering than others.

Here they are enlivening a men's magazine fashion shoot but, gradually they also did more conventional modelling work which actually enabled them to keep their clothes on.

Mary ended up living in Milan and here is her model card from that period.  She has lost her slightly chubby teenaged face and turned into a very elegant young woman indeed.

Back to back as Page 3 Girls in The Sun

It was always difficult to tell which twin was which but, watching some of their films, the key clue is their height:  Madeleine seems a little shorter.  Mary is listed as 5'7" on her modelling card.  Their Playmate data sheet gives their height as 5'6", although as they were so young at the time they could still have been  growing, conceivably.

Don't worry!  He's very safe in taxis (if you are a girl, anyway)

This is definitely Mary, going under the surname Collins as she occasionally did in her solo work, with pop impresario Jonathan King. 

In this rather bizarre set, one of the twins (we are not sure which) interacts with inflatable animals to somewhat slutty effect.

Mostlly, of course, their appeal to photographers was based on the fact that they were identical twins, some of whom couldn't resist putting them in poses which implied some sort of lesbian interaction.  Triple P has some experience of twin ladies and whilst we don't think any of them ever had lesbian sex with each other they did have a much more relaxed attitude to each other's bodies than normal sisters.  It's probably something to do with their bodies developing at the same time.

From January 1971's Playmate Review

From December 1971's Sex Stars

From January 1979's Twenty Five beautiful years

Finally, we are going to go full circle and return to Playboy, as they took very much the best photographs of the twins.  Firstly, we present some of the extra pictures that appeared in the magazine after their centrefold appearance.

In 1971 they also appeared in the Playboy 1972 calendar as the June picture, posed on a rather splendid bed with a brass bedstead.

More extensively the twins had some new photos in a 1986 pictorial on sisters, one of which featured the only hint of their fluff that had appeared in the magazine.

The twins had made an impact in the US, even appearing on the Johnny Carson show, and were offered work by Columbia and Warner Brothers. Mary, however wanted to return to Europe so they went to live in Milan where Mary remains, as fas as is known.

After some time in Milan, Madeleine returned to Malta and worked for the British Council there.  At the end of the nineties she went to live in Bournemouth on the south coast of England.

Mary and Madeleine appeared in a pre-pubic Playboy although, as we have seen, they were quite happy to flash their fur right from the start of their modelling careers.   These pictures were taken during their original Playboy shoot but never appeared in the magazine but give us a splendid record of their early seventies fluffiness.

Playboy has had other twins and even triplets since Mary and Madeleine Collinson but their immortality was assured by their appearence in Twins of Evil.  None of their other films had the impact of that superior Hammer horror, although who knows what their profile might have been if they had stayed in America.  This is the most recent picture we could find of the twins, taken at a Hammer convention in Bray in 1998, still looking lovely in their late forties.

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