The Mondo-Esoterica Guide to

Ingrid Pitt


Born in Poland in 1937, during the Second World War Pitt and her family were imprisoned in a concentration camp after her father's refusal to work for the Nazi regieme. She survived the camp and spent some time as a stage performer in East Germany before her outspokenness against the Communist repression forced her to flee the city into the West. Her first film work came in Spain, appearing first in the low budget horror picture El Sonido prehistórico (1964) before getting very small roles in the Orson Welles production Chimes at Midnight (1965) and David Lean's classic Doctor Zhivago (1965). With these successes she travelled to Hollywood, working as a waitress between occasional television roles, including an epsiode in the first season of Ironside. After a lead performance in the bizarre The Omegans (1968) shot in the Phillipines, Pitt's first major film role came as secret agent Heidi in the Alistair MacLean adventure Where Eagles Dare (1968) starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, but instead of staying in Hollywood she moved to London to raise her daughter where she found that the British film industry was at a low ebb and there was no work to be found.

After bumping into James Carreras, co-owner of the British Hammer Films studio at a party, Pitt managed to secure the role of the vampire vixen Carmilla in The Vampire Lovers (1970). The film was the first of Hammer's female vampire productions, an attempt to catch up with the increasing liberalisation in European cinema at the time and permitting a fair helping of blood and breasts - amply provided by Ingrid Pitt. The film was a success and a sequel was soon comissioned entitled Lust for a Vampire (1971), but Pitt was told by her agent not to do a sequel because it would lead to typecasting - a decision she would later rue - and the Carmilla role was taken by Scandinavian beauty Yutte Stensgaard. Instead Pitt went to work for Hammer's rivals Amicus on their anthology horror picture The House that Dripped Blood (1971) playing a horror movie actress alongside Jon Pertwee in the comic final story. She did shortly return to Hammer for Countess Dracula (1971) receiving her only top billing in an adaptation of the real-life story of Countess Bathory co-starring Nigel Green - unfortunately the eroticism and horror of Vampire Lovers had been replaced by gratuitous nudity and an unexciting storyline and Hammer's demise over the next three years was inevitable. Pitt was particularly incensed by the decision made to dub her distinctive voice with a more neutral sounding tone.

After a lead role in Robert Hartford-Davis' Nobody Ordered Love (1972), a poorly rated behind-the-scenes drama based on the British film industry, now considered to be a lost film, Pitt gave one of her most famous performances in the British cult classic The Wicker Man (1973). Starring Christopher Lee, the film is one of the most effective horror films ever made and although Ingrid Pitt gets a quite short role, she really helps to build the overwhelming atmosphere of secrecy and dread that makes the film so impressive. After an appearance in Where the Action Is in 1975, an episode of the superb British television series Thriller (1973/76), Pitt took some time out from filmmaking, concentrating on her stage performances and began work as a writer, publishing her first book, a thriller entitled Cuckoo Run in 1980.

Her return to the screen came with the highly rated BBC television film Artemis 81 (1981) before appearing in the Lewis Collins SAS action movie Who Dares Wins (1982) and later in Wild Geese II (1985), followed by the appalling Clive Barker penned crime/horror film Underworld (1985) - closer to home was the story of Second World War heroine Hannah Szenes in Hanna's War (1988). However she was never able to gain any major roles and left the profession again. In the 1990s she survived breast cancer and published her auto-biography in 1999. With the recent reappraisal of the classic cult films on home video and DVD Pitt was cast in the British horror tribute The Asylum (2000) and went on to appear in the Sci-Fi Original Movie The Minatour (2006) and starring alongside Tom Savini in Hammer Horror tribute Sea of Dust (2008). In November 2010 she died in hospital in London after a short illness.

DVD Reviews: Films starring Ingrid Pitt

Countess Dracula (1971)

Network UK Region 2 DVD
An interesting idea, but a rather unimpressive Hammer production, Pitt gets her only top billing in a great dual role.
Not recommended.
The House that Dripped Blood (1970)

Anchor Bay UK Region 2 DVD
Pitt plays a vampire actress in the final, comedy chapter of this well made Amicus anthology film.
Vampire Lovers (1970)

Alan Young ITA Region 2 DVD
Pitt plays the seductive vampire Carmilla in this erotically charged and well made Hammer film.
The Wicker Man Director's Cut (1973)

UK Optimum Releasing Region 2 DVD
Ingrid Pitt gets a small but impressive role in this powerfully atmospheric and creepy highlight of the horror genre.
A must see film for all horror fans and highly recommended.


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All text in this page written by Timothy Young - September 2007.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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