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Ingrid Pitt            
        by Bill Harry                                     

She reputedly slept with one of the stars of her first English-language film ‘Where Eagles Dare’, but won’t reveal whether it was Clint Eastwood or Richard Burton; she has a black belt in karate and practiced the martial art with Elvis Presley; she speaks fluent Spanish, Italian, French, German and Russian, has a pilot’s licence and flies a small plane; is skilled at motor racing, tennis, fencing, golf, swimming and yoga and although she has only made a dozen films, has become a legend because of her portrayal of female vampires in the Hammer movies.

Where Eagles Dare She is also a best-selling author and screenwriter. Ingrid Pitt, the screen’s most erotic vampire, fuelled many a schoolboy fantasy with her portrayals of classic female bloodsuckers such as Carmilla Karnstein and Countess Dracula. Over twenty five years after her last appearance in such a role she is feted as the star guest in conventions in America and Britain.

Born Ingoushka Petrov on a train taking prisoners to a concentration camp in Poland in November, 1944, she spent three years in the camp with her mother, and then walked from Warsaw to Berlin seeking her father who had disappeared into a displaced persons camp. The Red Cross found him and reunited the family. Although her parents were scientists and had hopes of their daughter becoming a doctor, she chose acting as her profession and in 1959 joined the Bertold Brecht Berliner Ensemble, appearing in numerous stage plays.

In November, 1962, she heard she was due to be arrested backstage after a performance because of her criticism of the political system and she escaped by swimming across the River Spree at night. Ingrid then moved to America to visit her sister and joined the Pasadena Playhouse in 1963, touring America playing Blanche du Bois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Whilst in the States she gave birth to a daughter, Steffanie. In July 1964 she settled in Spain with her sister and daughter, appeared with the National Theatre in Madrid, and made her film debut in ‘El Sonido Prehistorica’ (Sound of Horror). She then appeared in ‘A Kiss in the Harbour’ in 1965 and ‘Chimes at Midnight’ in 1965, followed by a couple of paella westerns.

Small roles followed in films such as ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ and ‘Dr Zhivago’ and in 1968 she was given the lead in a Philippine sci-fi thriller ‘the Omegans.’ She made her international film debut in the spectacular ‘Where Eagles Dare’ in 1970 and her eyes droop slightly while her lips curve slowly into a grin as she recalls the time during the making of the film when Clint Eastwood revealed to her that both Richard Burton and himself had a bet as to who would be the first to “get her into the sack”. Which star, if any, succeeded, she refuses to say. By this time she’d decided to settle in England but Equity problems resulted in her working as a waitress in a café to support herself and Steffanie. A chance meeting with James Carreras, head of Hammer, at a party, led to her being cast as Carmilla in ‘The Vampire Lovers’. She then starred in ‘Countess Dracula’. ‘Carmilla’, penned by Sheridan Le Fanu, is the classic female vampire.

The Vampire Lovers When adapting the story for ‘The Vampire Lovers’, director Roy Ward Baker worked closely with Ingrid and she developed her characterisation beyond the script, adding a new element by having Carmilla fall in love with her main victim, Emma. Ingrid also recalls, “I had to bite Kate O’Mara to death and my fangs kept falling out every time I was ready to kill her! The crew happily begged to assist in finding these fangs which had escaped into her dress. Everyone wanted to retrieve them”. ‘Countess Dracula’ was actually based on the exploits of a 16th-century Hungarian Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, who bathed in virgins' blood in an effort to preserve her youth. In the film she was renamed Countess Nadasdy. Ingrid put much effort into developing the voices of her character, who at times is young and at other times old. Her East European accent also suited the character perfectly. She was noticeably upset to discover that her performance was then re-dubbed by a British actress.

The American release of the film was also held up for two years and then only issued in a heavily censored version. This puzzled the actress who considered that the film was very tame. She thought it incredible that a film, based on a character who bathes in blood, never depicts such an action. Instead, they have her dabbing her face in front of a mirror with a blood-soaked sponge. Ingrid attempted to urge Hammer to have the scenes done more effectively. The first killing was that of a prostitute and Ingrid felt the scene should feature the victim hanging by her feet, and then having her throat cut, with the blood pouring over the Countess. Her suggestion was turned down. Despite the fame which the two Hammer movies brought her she declined to continue as the character of Carmilla in two further Hammer movies, ‘Lust For a Vampire’ and ‘Twins of Evil’. She explains, “Horror scripts kept coming in, but they were mostly the same".
Countess Dracula

The House That Dripped Blood "In ‘Vampire Lovers’ and ‘Countess Dracula’, the nudity had been an authentic part of the story. Suddenly, nudity and sex were the stories. It wasn’t prudery that made me turn them down, I was ready to bare a breast with the best of them. But the stories – ugh!”.
Her other horror movies include the Amicus production ‘The House That Dripped Blood’, her own personal favourite, in which she played a vampire called Carla. She also featured in the cult classic ‘The Wicker Man’, although the film was so drastically edited that most of her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Together with her husband Tony Rudin, she formed a production company called TRIP to produce TV plays and stage shows and they moved to Argentina for three years, where she featured in another horror movie, ‘The Wolf.’ During their time in Argentina, Ingrid and Tony wrote a book, ‘The Perons’, published in 1982. Ingrid then concentrated her efforts on becoming a successful author, although continuing to appear in various TV shows and occasional films such as ‘Who Dares Wins’, ‘Underworld’ and ‘Wild Geese 2’.

Her first published novel was ‘Cuckoo Run’ (1980) about a female James Bond type character, Nina Dalton, followed by a sequel, ‘Pigeon Tango’. She also wrote a series of children’s books, ‘Bertie the Bus’ and ‘Bertie to the Rescue’. Back in England, she appeared regularly in stage plays such as ‘Dial M For Murder’, some Shakespearian productions for the BBC such as ‘The Comedy of Errors’, wrote five tales for the TV series ‘Hammer’s House of Horrors’ and appeared in numerous TV series ranging from ‘Dr Who’ to ‘Smiley’s People’. ‘Katherine’ is a book mainly about her mother and the Second World War and some of her completed but unpublished novels include ‘Dragon Hunter’, ‘Annull Domini’, ‘The Dragon Factor’ and ‘Dracula Who…’. The latter is a comedy in which the vampire Count becomes a vegetarian. Ingrid’s daughter Steffanie followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an actress in her own right, appearing in films such as ‘Bullseye’.

Doctor Who

also see: Sixties City: Hammer History and Films

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