Scream queen, cricket buff, karate black belt, Holocaust survivor - the late, lovely Ingrid Pitt was all these and a whole lot more.
Ingrid Pitt was a Holocaust survivor. It was a tragedy she very rarely talked about, but the very real horror she faced in her early life couldn’t have been more at odds with the Kensington gore-soaked Hammer horror she’d become famous for.
Remarkably the Polish-born Pitt only starred in two Hammer features, Countess Dracula, a tale inspired by the real-life exploits of Elizabeth of Bathory that exchanged historical fact for yards of bare flesh. And although it would have perked things up if she’d appeared in the Horne/Corden opus Lesbian Vampire Killers, Ingrid Pitt actually starred in The Vampire Lovers – which admittedly features lots of killing and lesbians.These appearances – together with a memorable cameo in the Amicus’s The House That Dripped Blood and a supporting role in the ‘Citizen Kane of horror movies’ The Wicker Man – were her only substantial contributions to horror cinema. But it was for these pictures that she was to remain famous. And being a sweet, eccentric soul, she was happy to play up to her ‘scream queen’ image at conventions from Neath to Nevada.
“It’s great meeting the fans,” she once told an interviewer. “They say I’m more beautiful now than I was 25 years ago. All lies of course, but sweet. Where else is an old bag like me going to find strapping young men and women to whisper sweet nothings in her ear?”
But there was so much more to Ingrid Pitt (born Ingoushka Petrov, 21 November 1937) than a charming wit and an impressive set of… fangs. A Bond girl of sorts – she redubbed one of the voices for Octopussy – she appeared in one of the BBC’s greatest ever drama series Smiley’s People, and rubbed shoulders with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood in perhaps the ultimate action movie Where Eagles Dare. According to some sources, Our Ingrid did a lot more than simply rub Mr. Eastwood’s shoulder. However, true love for Ms Pitt came in the form of her writer/actor husband Tony Rudin, with whom she collaborated on scripts for Doctor Who and a brace of novels, The Perons and The Cuckoo Run.
When John Ashbrook wrote his essential article on Where Eagles Dare for Film Review magazine, he found that the best anecdotes came not from Clint Eastwood or director Brian G Hutton but from Ingrid Pitt. Not only that, Ashbrook – who described Miss Ingrid as “the loveable eccentric’s loveable eccentric” – was blown away by the generosity of the actress, who sent him on his way with a cache of previously unpublished photographs. He also found it hard to credit that a woman raised in Poland and Germany could have an encyclopaedic knowledge of cricket.
Pitt’s other passions included karate (she studied for and acquired a black belt), Second World War aircraft and her daughter, the actress Steffanie Pitt. She also took great pride in writing a monthly column for Motoring & Leisure magazine
Ingrid Pitt – just the first of many Poles to have set up home in Britain and made themselves completely indispensible to their adopted homeland.
Countess Dracula starring the immaculate Ingrid Pitt is available now on Blu Ray via Network