In the span of a few years, Ingrid Pitt burst upon the horror scene and left an indelible mark on the halls of horror. With her stunning, voluptuous beauty and top-notch talent, she solidified her position as a leading scream queen in the history of horror. For Hammer Films, she launched the Karnstein trilogy with Vampire Lovers (1970) proving a female vampire lead is just as viable as a male counterpart and starred in a vehicle based on the legends of Countess Bathory with Countess Dracula (1971). For Amicus she donned fangs once again for a short in one of their many anthology films, The House that Dripped Blood (1971). And she also costarred in the British horror classic opus The Wicker Man (1973) starring the great Christopher Lee. In the years following, she continued to star in sparse TV and feature films, and wrote a series of popular books including a 1999 autobiography titled Life’s A Scream: The Autobiography of Ingrid Pitt. On November 23, 2010, the horror community lost a gracious gem, two days after her 73rd birthday. Below are four of her most noteworthy horror outings.
VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970)
After making her debut in movies such as Dr. Zhivago (1965), The Omegans (1968) and, more famously, Where Eagles Dare (1968) as Heidi with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, Ingrid Pitt signed on with Hammer Films to star in Vampire Lovers. The film is the first in the Karnstein trilogy adapted from the J. Sheridan Le Fanu novella Carmilla and Ingrid stars as Mircalla Karnstein. In the story, Mircalla finds herself in the care of General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) and befriends his daughter Laura (Pippa Steele) who is suffering from nightmares and subsequently dies of poor heath. Mircalla subsequently disappears and resurfaces in the home of Dr. Roger Morten. After Mircalla seduces his daughter, Emma (Madeline Smith), and her governess Madame Perradon (Kate O’Mara), the General hunts down the vampire femme fatale.
THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1970)
In The Cloak, the final chapter in the anthology The House that Dripped Blood, Ingrid Pitt co-stared as Carla Lynde alongside Jon Pertwee as Paul Henderson, a famous and moody horror film actor. In the story, Henderson, begrudgingly stars in a horror movie titled “Curse of the Bloodsuckers,” wanders into town and purchases a unique antique cloak. To his surprise it grants him certain abilities resembling that of a vampire, including limited flight. When his costar begins to suspect what is happening, he discovers that there is more to the legend than he dared to fear. While it certainly has horror overtones and involves vampires and lore, The Cloak affords Ingrid Pitt a delightfully comedic role.
COUNTESS DRACULA (1971)
Hammer Films enlisted Ingrid Pitt star in their loose interpretation of the legend surrounding Elizabeth Bathory in Countess Dracula. In the story the character’s name is changed slightly to Countess Elizabeth Bathory Nadasdy and Ingrid begins as the aged version of the Countess who discovers that bathing in the blood of virgins restores her youth. Working with her steward and lover, Captain Dobi (Nigel Green), the rejuvenated Countess takes the place of her daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down) who is away at school. While she and Dobi continue to capture and drain the blood from many of the local women, she seduces the young Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Elès). Her plans begin to fall apart when her daughter returns. Ingrid Pitt handles the dual role with vivacious splendor and villainy proving she was more than capable of handling the lead role and could easily hold her own beside any of the male horror icons of the time.
THE WICKER MAN (1973)
In Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, Ingrid Pitt landed a supporting role as the town librarian and registrar. While the role is a seemingly small for this point in her career, she was interested in the project and wanted to work with Hardy and Christopher Lee. In an article she wrote for the site Den of Geek, she described seeking out any role in the film after learning it was to begin filming in just a few short weeks. The Wicker Man, considered an under-appreciated classic by many, is based on David Pinner’s 1967 novel The Ritual and also stars Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, and Britt Ekland.
Throughout the years, she cherished her career and legacy as a horror scream queen. She continued to appear at horror conventions, ran a web site called The Pitt of Horror and wrote a weekly web column for Den of Geek. Born Ingoushka Petrov in 1937, she revealed in her 1999 autobiography that she was a child Holocaust survivor, recounting her experiences in a Nazi concentration camp. In addition to her autobiography, she also wrote many other books including The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters, The Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers and The Ingrid Pitt Book Of Murder, Torture And Depravity. At her many convention appearances, she embraced her fans and was always warm and friendly. She will forever be considered horror royalty and will be missed.