Pitt, Ingrid

Enlarge picture
Ingrid Pitt is about to become a vampire’s lunch in The House that Dripped Blood.

Pitt, Ingrid (1943–)

(pop culture)

Ingrid Pitt, an actress who became known for her portrayal of female vampires in the 1970s, was born Natasha Petrovana on a train heading from Germany to a concentration camp in Poland. She grew up in East Berlin, and as a young woman, she escaped to the West to become a model and actress and married the man who had helped her during her flight.

Pitt made her first horror movie in 1964, The Sound of Horror, a Spanish production. Following her appearance in Where Eagles Dare (1969), she was discovered by Jimmy Carreras of Hammer Films. Her two films for Hammer established her fame and her identification with vampirism.

Her first Hammer movie, The Vampire Lovers, was based on Sheridan Le Fanu‘s story, “Carmilla”. The increasingly permissive standards for movies allowed a degree of nudity and a more direct presentation of lesbianism than had been possible. As Carmilla, Pitt successively vampirized Pippa Steele, Madeline Smith, and Kate O’Mara, after which she was tracked down and beheaded by Peter Cushing. While her same-sex scenes were most frequently described as lesbian, Pitt did not see it that way, believing that vampires had no specific gender.

There was little doubt that Pitt’s popularity was due to her glamorous appearance and nude scenes. She was offered a variety of vampire scripts, which she turned down because she felt they were little more than sexploitation movies. However, she soon returned to Hammer to make her second movie, Countess Dracula (1971), based on the life of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Pitt took her portrayal very seriously, and her research included a trip to Eastern Europe to visit Bathory’s castle. The dynamic story of the Bathory legend involved her bathing in blood to restore her youth. The aging countess believed she was rejuvenated by the blood, and one of the more memorable scenes in vampire movies was that of Pitt coming out of her bath with the blood dripping off of her body.

Pitt would take on one more vampire role, a comic spoof, “The Cloak”, which appeared as a segment of the horror anthology The House that Dripped Blood (1971). After appearing in several other movies in the early 1970s, she moved behind the camera to start writing. Pitt participated in her husband’s production company in Argentina, during which time she wrote a novel, The Cuckoo Run (1980) and a nonfiction work, The Perons (1982).

From the early 1980s to the present, she has concentrated on writing and producing, with only a few guest appearances acting in movies and on television.

There is an active Ingrid Pitt fan club, the Pitt of Horror, also accessed through the Pitt of Horror Website, http://www.pittofhorror.com/), which makes available a wide variety of items related to Pitt and Hammer. To celebrate the Dracula centennial, Pitt made a number of personal appearances and was the cinema guest of honor at Dracula ‘97: A Centennial Celebration in Los Angeles. Her book, The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers, appeared in 1998. She continues to be active in the British fan scene.

Sources:

Hallenbeck, Bruce C. “Countess Dracula.” Femme Fatales 1, 3 (Winter 1992/93): 52–5.
“Ingrid Pitt: A Profile.” For the Blood Is the Life 2, 10 (Autumn 1991): 17.
Pitt, Ingrid. The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers. London: BT Batsford, 1998. 192 pp.
———. Life’s a Scream: Autobiography of Ingrid Pitt. London: William Heinemann, 1999. 320 pp. Rept. Ingrid Pitt: Darkness before Dawn. Baltimore, MD: Luminary Press, 2005. 320 pp.

Pittsburgh Dark Shadows Fan Club see: Dark Shadows Fandom