Feature

Ingrid Pitt, 1937–2010

The queen of horror who knew the real thing

With her fangs and voluptuous figure, Ingrid Pitt was a grande dame of erotically charged British vampire cinema in the 1970s. As a child, however, she had endured the real horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. “I was born into the biggest horror show of the century, the brutalities of the Nazi regime,” she said. “But maybe that’s why I’m good at it.”

Pitt was born in Poland as her father, a Prussian engineer, and her mother, a Polish Jew, were fleeing Nazi Germany. Forced to get off their train when Pitt’s mother went into labor, they were eventually caught by the Germans in 1943, said the London Telegraph. With her mother Pitt spent three years in the Stutthof concentration camp. In 1945, they escaped during a forced march to Germany; Pitt was reunited with her father in Berlin after the war. He regularly took her to the movies, where she was “enchanted by the make-believe world of adventure films and Westerns.” She joined the Berliner Ensemble theater group, but “the political climate in East Germany “didn’t suit Pitt,” said the Los Angeles Times. “On the night of her planned stage debut,” she instead dove into the Spree River and swam toward freedom in the West. Pitt was rescued by a handsome U.S. Army lieutenant, whom she later married.

Pitt’s screen career began in Spain after a producer saw a photo of her. “That she spoke no Spanish was apparently no impediment,” said The New York Times. After a role in Where Eagles Dare in 1968, she auditioned for Hammer Film Productions, “the British studio famous for the lurid, the lascivious, and the low-budget.” Billed as “the most beautiful ghoul in the world,” she starred in such classics as The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood.

A prolific writer, Pitt authored several novels and a memoir, Life’s a Scream. Until late in life, she attended horror conventions and maintained her website, Pittofhorror.com. Her daughter by the first of three marriages, Steffanie Pitt, said Pitt should be remembered as the Countess Dracula with the “wonderful teeth and the wonderful bosom.”

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