During the Sixties and early-Seventies Britain's Hammer Films cranked-out a truckload of Grade B horror flicks that were drive-in movie favorites and generated a fine profit due to their lurid nature and the films' decidely low-budget origins.
Although the best-known actors in the Hammer stable were probably Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing the one who made the biggest splash was undoubtedly Ingrid Pitt.
Pitt, who starred in "The Vampire Lovers" (1970) and "Countess Dracula" (1971), brought sex appeal (and nudity) into the Hammer horror tradition and helped usher in a new era of truly sensuous bloodsuckers.
Today, Pitt is a successful author and still has a hand in the film world with several upcoming projects based-on her writings, as well as her website Pitt of Horror.
Was the making of "The Vampire Lovers" a fun experience?
INGRID PITT: Fun experience? It was certainly less hassle than most film making. Due almost entirely to Roy Ward Baker's deft and experienced control. There were some funny incidences like the time I lost my vampire teeth down the from of Kate O'Mara's decollete. That brought on the giggles and when I kept repeating the trick the whole set was reduced to near hysterical laughter. In the end I warned her that if she didn't shape up I'd fang her for real. Fat lot she cared.
How was Roy Ward Baker as a director?
IP: Patient and willing to work out any problems that might crop up without sounding irritable or giving the impression that it is a burden having to work with a load of dumb broads. Something that not a lot of directors are capable of doing and still keeping control.
Were you reluctant at all about the the fairly extensive (for the time) nudity in the film?
IP: I don't know about reluctant. I didn't think there was anything gross or indecent about what we were doing. I think Maddy Smith was probably a little more apprehensive than I was but again I must salute Roy. He gave us a closed set and treated it all as the most natural thing in the world. I do get people who seem embarassed when they buy nude photographs of me, They're very apologetic. I'm not sure why. It doesn't bother me. In fact I'm quite proud of the young bod. Something to show the grand children and remind them that Grandma wasn't always an old bag.
Which film do you feel you did your best work in?
IP: With reservations, I would say Countess Dracula. The reservations? First I'm not ecstatic about the fact that they dubbed my voice. With no reason as far as I was concerned. I had done Where Eagles Dare for MGM, Vampire Lovers and half a dozen American TV series as well as some minor English language films and nobody had ever complained. Another thing that didn't go down too well was that they intercut some of my most dramatic scenes and lost all the power of the performance. But that's probably just me being actressy. I also was quite pleased with what I did in Nobody Ordered Love. Perhaps one day it will turn up and I will be able to reappraise it.
What's the story behind all that?
IP: Story line is that an aging actress is being shafted by a producer who wants to get her out of the picture they are making to put his new girlfriend in. The actress goes a bit potty and murders the younger woman and turns a bit Norma Desmond in the end.
What happened to the film is a mystery. Bit like what happened to the edited out-takes from The Wicker Man. It seems that the producer had a row with the distributor and went off in a huff with the film under his arm. He married a Yankee lady and promptly died. Said Yankee Lady sold the house and left the tins of film in the garage. That's one version of the story anyway. There are others.
You're also an author. What sorts of books do you write?
IP: So far I've been a bit daft. Everyone knows that if you are going to be a successful author you have to develop a particular line of writing. I've done a thriller about spying, a drama about life in a concentration camp, a political drama, a couple of children's stories, a book about Indians etc. Only recently have I caught on to the idea that I ought to specialise. The Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers, The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters, The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity and now I'm working on Ingrid Pitt's Darkest Britain. When it comes down to it I'm a whore. I'll write anything for anyone who rustles a few quid under my nose.
Your books have some "dark" titles. Do you get a lot of goth kids seeking your autograph at conventions?
IP: I guess so. They are all very polite. I go to the festival in Whitby most years. This is entirely Gothic in character and is a good weekend.
Do you keep-in-touch with your old Hammer co-stars?
IP: We meet sometimes, but there isn't an Olde World sorority or anything like that. Mostly we keep in touch by turning out at the same Festivals and Conventions.
What do you think fans would be surprised to know about you?
IP: They would probably be surprised to find out that I am an all-in wrestler.
What's an "all-in wrestler"?
IP: All in wrestling? I don't know what else to call it. It's on TV all the time and consists of big fat men jumping on each other and doing things which would obviously kill anyone if it was done for real.
What do you think of the horror movies that are coming out today like "Scream"?
IP: Great fun although I could do with less of the visual gore. I think most of the film makers have forgotten that 'horror' is the cinema of reaction. However graphic a scene, it can never match up to an individuals' own concept of what the horror confronting him or her could be. Each person has their own idea of what is horrific. Rats, spiders, heights, confined spaces have different menace for different people. So Fred, who is petrified standing on a thick carpet, can't undestand why Doris goes into hysterics at the sight of a spider in the bath. Albert, whose worst nightmare is a closed telephone box, loves rats, etc.
So, in the best horror films it is more effective to show an individual's "reaction" to the horror confronting him than to see what it actually is. If I want to see steaming viscera I'll take a night job at an abattoir and experience it first hand. For the ultimate in unseen horror see Alien.
Okay. Getting back to you: What will fans find on your site Pitt of Horror?
IP: Lots of lovely goodies. And all the latest on what is going on in my neck of the Universe. For instance, I've just come back from a two week trip to Transylvania--where, among other murky adventures-- I slept in a coffin in Castle Dracula. You can find out more about that on Pitt of Horror or, if you want the academic viewpoint, go to Dracula's Homepage.
Any upcoming projects?
IP: Masses. Trouble is that such a small percentage come up that you spend your life rushing around pitching and then you're too exhausted to enjoy them when they achieve lift-off. Main one at the moment--other than Darkest Britain--is something I've been working on for a decade. At last it looks like coming to fruition. It's called Dracula Who...? and is about Dracula trying to become a vegetarian - much to the displeasure of his blood sucking wife. I now have John Glen (eleven Bond films) as director, Chris Chrisafis (thirty-nine major films) as producer, Gary Kutz (Star Wars) as co-producer and a top horror star as Dracula. We hope to get up to speed either in Autumn, 2000 or Spring, 2001--Depending on when everyone is available at the same time.
Fan Club & Merchandise:
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