Obituary: Madeleine Collinson, actress

Share this article
0
Have your say

Born: 22 July, 1952, in Sliema, Malta. Died: 14 August, 2014, in Msida, Malta, aged 62

In the early 1970s Madeleine Collinson achieved an almost iconic status, at least among teenaged boys, after starring in the Hammer horror film Twins of Evil and posing nude for Playboy magazine, along with her identical twin sister Mary.

They came to Britain from their native Malta as penniless teenagers in 1969, hoping to pursue a career in modelling, and within a few years they had been on the cover of Playboy – and in the centrefold – and had played the title roles in Twins of Evil, alongside Hammer legend Peter Cushing.

In America they guested on Johnny Carson’s prime-time American chat show and appeared in the Hollywood movie The Love Machine, adapted from a Jacqueline Susann best-seller.

But film producers seemed interested in them only as a pair and only for roles in which they had to take their clothes off. They disappeared as suddenly as they arrived, though Twins of Evil acquired the status of a minor Hammer classic and found a new audience on video and DVD.

Collinson retired from films, married an RAF pilot, brought up a family and lived quietly on Malta under her married name of Dixon.

Latterly she did attend a few events to meet old and new fans, but her death in August initially went unreported even by the local press.

She had emphysema and was at her home on a ventilator system, which shut down as a result of a prolonged nationwide power cut. Her sister Mary, who now lives in Milan, later complained to the Times of Malta that Madeleine could have survived if the emergency services had got her to hospital quicker.

Madeleine and Mary Collinson were born in the town of Sliema in 1952. They never knew their father, who was a British sailor, though latterly they made contact with his family in Australia.

Madeleine attended convent school and then headed for London with Mary. They were considered rather busty for models, but secured several small roles in films, including the 1970 drama Permissive, in which they play groupies. It was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray by the British Film Institute.

They also starred in Halfway Inn, a short film by Harrison Marks. The Internet Movie Database sums up the plot in 12 words: “A man stops at an Inn and is seduced by twin sisters”.

Much of their appeal was in their looks – exotic, sexy, mischievous, and the fact that they came in duplicate. They had a natural intimacy together, whether clothed or unclothed, and Mary would later say on Johnny Carson’s show that men fantasised about dating them both together.

They met Victor Lownes, who ran Playboy’s European operations, at a party and were persuaded to pose for the magazine. The shoot apparently took months to complete, during which they stayed at Lownes’s London residence and had their every whim catered for by a butler.

In their Playboy profile they revealed that they liked big planes, big cars and the Rolling Stones. In their leisure time they would “read, play squash or go for long walks and swim where there’s sea”.

Hammer had revived the horror genre with their Frankenstein and Dracula films in gory colour in the late 1950s, but by this point the studio was looking for new ways in which to spice up the genre. Hammer discovered a winning formula with sexy young female vampires, who shared their male counterparts’ aversion to crucifixes and garlic, but also had an intense dislike of clothing, which they would discard at every possible opportunity. The Vampire Lovers, starring Ingrid Pitt, came out in 1970. Twins of Evil followed in 1971, but with the twist of two identical female protagonists Frieda and Maria, who are orphaned and go to live with their puritanical uncle (played by Peter Cushing) in some backward Central European location.

It was one of Hammer’s better films of the period and is rightly regarded as a minor classic., though Andy Boot in his book Fragm

Madeleine said: “Working for Hammer Productions was a wonderful experience.

“I loved playing the evil twin and Mary played herself.”