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petzipellepingo [userpic]
by petzipellepingo (petzipellepingo)
at November 24th, 2010 (04:12 am)

Ingrid Pitt: An appreciation of the late 'Queen of Horror'

by Clark Collis

My first real introduction to the horror film came courtesy of the British film company Hammer, whose gory, gothic output was a late-night TV staple when I was growing up in the U.K during the ’70s. However, there was much more to Hammer movies than death. There was also, frequently, sex. And no Hammer actress was sexier than the Polish-born Ingrid Pitt, the star of 1970′s The Vampire Lovers and the following year’s Countess Dracula, who sadly died Tuesday at the age of 73.

It may seem poor taste to talk in such a lusty manner about the recently deceased. But I suspect the self-proclaimed “Queen of Horror” — who once published a tome called, fabulously, the Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity — would have appreciated the thought. The actress possessed a compelling feistiness, both on- and it seems off-screen, that was surely the result of an early life more dramatic than any film in which she subsequently starred.

Pitt was born in 1937 and, at the age of five, was interned at a concentration camp in Poland with her mother, who lived in Berlin but was of Jewish descent. At one point, Pitt and her mother were actually marched inside a gas chamber. “The Russian Army was coming, so our camp, Stutthof in Poland, had to be moved, or liquidated, as they called it,” Pitt recalled to the London Independent newspaper in 1997. “We were marched into the gas chamber, and I remember my mother holding me so tight. I don’t know if it was luck or destiny, but we survived. I was eight. Why didn’t the gas chamber work? We must have been in there for hours, because when we went in there it was dark and when we came out it was dark again — so a whole day must have passed. It was a miracle that they opened the door, because we could have just stayed there, and they could have all gone.”

After the end of the war, Pitt and her mother returned to Berlin, where they were reunited with her father. Pitt eventually joined the Berliner Ensemble theatre company. But the family was trapped in the Russian-occupied half of the city, which Pitt was desperate to escape. In 1962, she decided to do just that and almost drowned when she swam across across the Spree river to seek sanctuary in West Berlin, before being rescued by an American soldier, whom she subsequently married.

Pitt got her break when she was cast alongside Clint Eastwood and the legendary Welsh actor Richard Burton in 1968′s WWII actioner Where Eagles Dare. The following year, Hammer founder James Carreras recruited her for The Vampire Lovers, a part the actress took despite being warned that it would require nudity. In fact, nakedness didn’t seem to be a huge issue for the actress who, so legend has it, flashed the film’s producers when they were banned from the filming of explicit scenes. On the other hand, Pitt was not someone you wanted to cross. Director Peter Sasdy replaced the actress’ voice during post-production on Countess Dracula, a decision that drove her “absolutely berserk.” Pitt later took her revenge upon him at a Spanish film festival. “I knew he couldn’t swim so I pushed him into the sea,” she told Marcus Hearn, author of the recent book Hammer Glamour.

Although Pitt appeared in a number of other horror films, including the Amicus anthology The House That Dripped Blood and the original 1973 Wicker Man, she seemed determined to be constrained by neither genre nor form. Her acting credits included the acclaimed 1982 BBC spy drama Smiley’s People, and she also penned a number of books, including a 1999 autobiography called Life’s A Scream.

Yet it is undoubtedly for those bloody, lusty ’70s horror movies that Pitt will be remembered, a fact that the actress herself didn’t seem to mind one jot. “It is divine,” she one said, “because people just love them; it reconfirms me and it keeps me alive for ever — like the vampires I play.”



Posted by: Joke 'Em If They Can't Take A Fuck (op_tech_glitch)
Posted at: November 24th, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)

I've got both her Doctor Who stories as well as Wicker Man (and oddly enough, a scant few hours prior to hearing about the news I'd just been thinking back to her lameass kung fu kick against the Myrka and subsequent demise in Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep).

Gonna miss her a whole lot, thats for sure.

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