While checking the Doctor Who News Page yesterday, I saw the news that Ingrid Pitt had passed away. She had just turned 73 on Sunday. For the generations that grew up watching horror films in the 1960s and 70s, she became as iconic -- and as identified with the British horror of Hammer and Amicus Studios -- as Lee's Dracula or Cushing's Frankenstein.
Her real life story was as remarkable as any movie. Born in Poland, her father German and her mother Jewish, she and her family were held in a concentration camp. She survived the war, married an American soldier in the 1950s and moved to America, and worked as a waitress while trying out for parts as an actress.
Her film debut came as a minor role in Doctor Zhivago. Soon after, she had a speaking role opposite Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare.
In the late 1960s and early 70s, Hammer Studios (and others) tried to press the easing censorship rules by adding more sex appeal to their Gothic horrors. Ms. Pitt's first breakout part in the horror field was The Vampire Lovers (1970, directed by Roy Ward Baker, who died in October). She later starred in Hammer's Countess Dracula.
Aside from her famous horror film roles, she also appeared in many other movies and television programs (twice on Doctor Who) in the UK and the US. She formed a successful touring theater company, and wrote a number of fiction and non-fiction books, magazine articles, screenplays, and a weekly column at Den of Geek.
I don't remember which film I first saw her in. It was probably Where Eagles Dare. Rather than any one particular role, I will continue to remember Ms. Pitt mainly as being representative of that era of movie-making, when corseted vampires crept about through Gothic landscapes and spoke the Queen's English with the slightest Eastern European accent. Thank you, Ms. Pitt.
Our cat Java does her best Ingrid Pitt impersonation.