HAMMER TIME: Questions for Hammer Studios legend Ingrid Pitt by Owen Keehnen

Ingrid Pitt has had a wooden stake driven into her heart, shot in the chest, decapitated, shot twice in the head, and electrocuted by a monster among other things. She was the bodice-busting, blood-lusting, fog-creeping vixen the Hammer Studio classics Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers (the 1970 girl-on-girl fang fest). In a genre where women were seen primarily as victims, her sexually predatory performances transformed the face of horror. This vamp was far from shy and her sensual nude scenes are legendary. Her popularity even rivaled that of costars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She has also appeared in several other horror classics such as Wicker Man (in which she played The Librarian!!) with Christopher Lee, Britt Eklund, Diane Cilento, and Edward Woodward and the unforgettable four-part chiller The House That Dripped Blood. Her gruesome blood-drenched resume also includes the 2000 release The Asylum co-starring her daughter Steffanie Pitt, the creepy 20 minute film short Green Fingers, Bones (1984) with Bryan Brown, Underworld (1985) with Denholm Elliott written in part by the incomparable Clive Barker, two memorable episodes of the classic Dr. Who series The Time Monster and Warriors of the Deep, as well as her 1964 fright flick debut in The Spanish Sound of Horror. In addition Ms. Pitt She has also appeared in two documentaries about horror films Bride of Monster Mania as well as Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror. The Polish born actress (who survived early life in a Nazi concentration camp and eventually escaped from East Berlin) is also an accomplished author. Her numerous books include novels (such as Cuckoo Run and The Perons), a memoir (Ingrid Pitt: Darkness Before Dawn), and specialty books such as Bedside Companions of Butch Bitches, Ingrid Pitt's Britain, The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters, and The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity (the first chapter of which is devoted to Countess Elizabeth Bathory, the character Pitt portrayed in Countess Dracula who believed bathing in the blood of virgins would keep her forever young.) Pitt has also contributed to numerous anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories By Women. In addition this living legend has appeared in numerous non-genre films such as Where Eagles Dare with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, Who Dare Wins, Hanna's War with Ellen Burstyn, Smiley's People, Nobody Ordered Love, and Wild Geese 2. She was formally trained at the The Berlin Ensemble run by reknowned playwright Bertolt Brecht and his wife, and even spent some time at Strasberg's Actor's Studio. Recently she even formed a new production company with Hammer sex pot alumni Caroline Munroe (Dracula 72) and Veronica Carlson (House of Frankenstein). The trio has called their venture Hammer Glammer Films and is devoted to producing films in the Hammer vein with established genre stars as well as providing a showcase for new talent. The first project under way is a three-part film called Three For Hell with each of the three women starring in a different segment. Pitt (born Ingoushka Petrov) is also a frequent sight and fan favorite on the horror sci-fi convention circuit. And just when you thought that was it here's an amazing fact for last she even learned karate with Elvis! Recently she took a break from her busy schedule to answer 10 quick questions for www.RacksandRazors.com.



1.) Owen: First off I was wondering how you came to initially be cast in all those wonderful Hammer pictures 'The Vampire Lovers, 'Countess Dracula', etc?

Ingrid: 'VAMPIRE LOVERS' was the direct result of sitting next to Hammer boss, Jimmy Carreras, at the apres premier dinner for ALFRED THE GREAT. I had just finished 'WHERE EAGLES DARE' and he thought I would be right for the film he was about to do. I met him in his office the next day and I was in. I learned about 'COUNTESS DRACULA' when I went to the theatre. I heard a couple of men behind me discussing Hammer's upcoming picture. I thought they were talking about Vampire Lovers but they were talking about Countess D. I went straight up to town next day and confronted Jimmy Carreras. He told me that the Director, Peter Sasdy, wanted Diana Rigg. I convinced Jimmy that the part was made for me and I got it.

2.) Owen: The films were very progressive in their view of lesbianism, especially in 'The Vampire Lovers', was that a problem with censors at the time or was the main to-do over the nudity?

Ingrid: I've only recently found out that it was a lesbian film. At the time I thought it was about a couple of friends having fun on hot sunny afternoons. And I can't remember the nudity being a particular problem

3.) Owen: Do you find you have a large lesbian following today as a result?

Ingrid: I've never noticed one.

4.) Owen: I am also a huge fan of your classic "chapter" film 'The House that Dripped Blood' as well as the profoundly creepy 'The Wicker Man'. Did you have any idea at the time that people would be asking you repeatedly about these films years later?

Ingrid: I'm afraid my work ethic is very basic. Do what you have to do and beat it. It's wonderful that people still remember stuff I did 30 years ago but at the time it was just earning a living.

5.) Owen: You've also done a number of esteemed films outside the fantasy genre and worked with so many amazing actors in your career Richard Burton, Peter Cushing, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Lee...who has taught you the most about acting?

Ingrid: You haven't mentioned Alec Guinness in 'SMILEY'S PEOPLE'. He was marvelous. Didn't hog the camera and was willing to let others take the shot. One scene I had with him the camera was focused on Alec. I was emoting madly but off camera. Alec called time out and suggested to the director that it was in fact my scene and the camera should be on me. Reluctantly the director agreed. Alec was too good an actor to be petty - unlike G.B.

5.) Owen: What makes you scream in real life?

Ingrid: Rats.

7.) Owen: Are you at all superstitious...and if so of what?

Ingrid: I don't think so. I can't think of any little hang-ups.

8.) Owen: What is the favorite/most common question that fantasy/horror fans always want to know?

Ingrid: Fantasy horror fans? I guess it's something about how long it took to put on the make-up in 'Countess Dracula'. What happened to the dummy of my head that Peter Cushing chopped off in 'The Vampire Lovers'? The answers are four hours and I dunno. What most people ask is what was it like working with Clint Eastwood/Richard Burton. The answer to that is wonderful.

9.) Owen: As someone with such a strong and loyal genre following, are you frequently offered roles in horror films today?

Ingrid: Frequently but not often with money attached. And in my old age I've become very mercenary. As they might say in Yorkshire - " .I do nowt for nowt" So I write. That way I'm sure of a reasonably steady income.

10.) Owen: Do you have a favorite "on the set of a horror film" memory from all those classics in which you starred?

Ingrid: I suppose it must be Edward Woodward sticking his freezing feet up my skirt in 'The Wicker Man' burning scene. It was hilarious. There he was being dragged around in a nightshirt and bare feet by the villagers and every time a 'cut' was called he rushed around trying to keep his feet warm. I tried to comfort him with the thought that he was about to become very warm but that didn't seem to help.