An Exclusive Interview with
Despite appearing in just two Hammer Horrors, Ingrid Pitt became synonymous with the company and often regarded as Hammer’s most seductive female vampire. Born in Poland, she became a well-known actress in East Berlin after World War II. Then, following a number of roles in Spanish films, she landed the part of Heidi alongside Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton in “Where Eagles Dare” (1968).
Her first film for Hammer was “The Vampire Lovers” (1970), where she played the vampiress Mircalla, then, after playing another vampire in the Amicus production “The House that Dripped Blood” (1971), she was cast as Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy in Hammer’s Countess Dracula” (1971).
She returned to make one more film with Hammer in 2009, playing Tooley’s Mum in “Beyond the Rave”.
Ingrid Pitt, was a much loved cult figure of horror, she died from heart failure on 23rd November 2010, at the age of 73.
Hammer Graveyard’s Phil Alexander interviewed Ingrid on 8th October 1998
Ingrid Pitt Interview
8th October 1998
PA: Can you tell us something about your roots?
Ingrid: Whatever anyone may have told you about my roots, this I can tell you definitely – they are not dyed.
PA: When and how did Natasha Petrovana become Ingrid Pitt?
Ingrid: You want to get me deported?
PA: How did you find the experience of being directed by Orson Welles in “Chimes at Midnight”?
Ingrid: Gruesome. He wasn’t an easy man to work with. They claim it is because he was a genius. OK but so what? I only had a small part in the film so I didn’t have much to do with him on set. Off-set was a different matter – we still didn’t get along.
PA: Your early filmography includes titles like “The Sound of Horror” (1964), “The Splendour of Andalucia” (1965) and “Kiss in the Harbour” (1965). Presumably these films were made in Spain. Do you know if they ever receive any showings these days?
Ingrid: All three were indeed made in Spain. Now the only chance to see them is if you’re an insomniac on holiday in Ibiza or a late night couch potato in New Mexico.
PA: How did you come to move to England?
Ingrid: I came here to do Where Eagles Dare, fell in love with red buses, black cabs and Big Ben, gathered up my child from Spain and settled in London.
PA: What were your parts in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “The Omegans”?
Ingrid: My ‘part’ in Funny Thing was purely decorative and a butt for what passed for humour. In The Omegans I was an old man’s darling having naughties with the gardener and getting my come-uppance when I got plastered with some luminous paint which was doubling as a monster. My first real lead role.
PA: “Where Eagles Dare” must have been quite an interesting experience, working alongside the likes of Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Did you find it intimidating ?
Ingrid: I was determined not to be undermined by the big stars. They were wonderful and never got seriously out of hand. Mary Ure was another matter. She resented me on the film and did her best to make sure I was marginalized.
PA: Had you been a fan of Hammer or horror films in general before you made “The Vampire Lovers”?
Ingrid: My life, real and filmic, has tended to veer towards the horrific. The Spanish films and The Omegans were horror. It just happened that way.
PA: The make-up in “Countess Dracula” must have taken a long time to apply. Was it a nuisance and how long did it add to a normal working day when you had to shoot the scenes as the aged countess?
Ingrid: It took about 4 hours to apply and 3 to take-off. That’s a working day in itself. And while I had it on I wasn’t allowed to talk or eat. I could manage not eating but…..
PA: Were you forewarned that your voice would be dubbed in ‘”Countess Dracula” and were you ever told why it was done? Did it upset you and, for that matter, does it still?
Ingrid: Let’s not talk about it unless you want a bunch of fives up your right nostril.
PA: Oops, just pretend we didn’t ask that! Now, at the risk of getting another bunch of fives, we have heard that you have a huge “following”. Having seen it in the flesh in “The Vampire Lovers” and “Countess Dracula”, we can say that we don’t think that it’s at all huge, just very well formed!!! But, do you have any embarrassing moments you remember from your nude scenes that are repeatable?
Ingrid: Ha! Ha! Embarrassing nude scenes? Not really. I always liked getting my kit off. I did have a little qualm when I was making Vampire Lovers and asked for a closed set. Then I spoil it by flashing my all at the producers when they looked so sad that they couldn’t get on the set. I really should move to Hampstead Heath.
PA: How did you get along with Peter Cushing in “The Vampire Lovers” and Christopher Lee in “The Wicker Man”?
Ingrid: Peter was lovely. Then everyone will tell you that. He worked on it and it has left a lasting impression on everyone he met. Christopher is a bit harder to fathom. I still see him from time to time and he is always friendly and the perfect gentleman but I feel that, in spite of the fact that he is like me and never stops talking, he is a very shy person underneath. Working with him was great. He’s always word perfect and gives the scenes bags of confidence.
PA: Are you a fresh air type of person and did you enjoy the scenery and the location work during the making of “The Wicker Man”?
Ingrid: I love Scotland and thought the scenery magic. If only they could install some under the mountain heating or stick an immersion heater in the sea it would be perfect. The filming itself was not without its problems – financial and temperamental.
PA: In “The House that Dripped Blood” your story was its light relief. How do you feel about playing comedy as opposed to serious roles?
Ingrid: Comedy’s great. If you can get it. For some reason directors look at me and see either a vampire or a terrorist. I’ve done a few stage comedies and they worked out OK. At least I heard somebody laugh and it was the night my mother wasn’t in the audience. I shall be getting another crack at it in the Spring when my film Dracula Who.. ? goes into production – so watch this space.
PA: You worked with Jon Pertwee in “The House that Dripped Blood” and again in the Doctor Who story, “The Time Monster”. Do you have any special memories of him?
Ingrid: Yep. His funeral. The vicar who did the service met him on the top of a bus – on his way to the VE Day celebrations. Jon, being Jon, asked him if he would do his funeral when the time came. He also told him a lot of very funny stories. So Jon toddles off to the great cabbage patch in the sky and the Rev. steps in. He repeated Jon’s jokes of the long ago bus ride and everyone fell about. Then came that horrible moment when grim reality intrudes and the coffin slides towards the furnace door. On the coffin was an effigy of Wurzel Gummidge. As it approached the doors the figure fell off and someone in the pews said, “That’s Jon for you. Always plays it for laughs”.
PA: There has been much talk of remaking some of the Hammer classics and of reviving Doctor Who. Are you surprised at the cult following (there’s that word again!) these productions have? Do you think it’s a good idea to make new versions of them, or should we just stick with what’s in the archives and be grateful?
Ingrid: I’m all for letting sleeping dogs die. Kids expect so much more now. Put Dr. Who through a morphing machine and it loses its unique charm. Those wobbly sets, the badly fitting monster costumes and the excruciating dialogue. I was asked recently if I would consider the role – would you believe – and I said yes prettily – well it is work. But – I don’t know.
PA: Can you tell us a bit about “Transmutations” (“Underworld”)? It’s a film we haven’t heard of – sorry about that!
Ingrid: Very little. Clive Barker of Hellraiser fame was involved of course. It was mostly night shooting and freezing cold. It’s out on video but I’ve never actually seen it so I’m not a good one to ask for an opinion – try Larry Lamb.
PA: Do you have any particular memories of working on “Who Dares Wins”, “Hanna’s War” and “Wild Geese II”?
Ingrid: Wild Geese 2 could have been nasty. It very nearly hit the buffers before it had a head of steam. The night before I was supposed to do my scenes with Richard Burton he inconveniently died on John Hurt’s kitchen floor. Luckily Edward Fox was at a loose end and stepped in and saved the film. It was made in Berlin but the Germans had obviously never heard of Vorsprung durch Technik and the blood cartridge on my chest went off unexpectedly. I thought I was dead but it was only stage blood. But I was deaf for a couple of days and had a nasty scorch mark across my prize possessions. Hanna’s War I don’t want to talk about. Who Dares Wins was fun. Especially the fight with Ros Lloyd. They wanted to bring in stunt girls but I gave them the evil eye and the director, lan Sharpe, agreed we could fight it out to the finish. And finished we nearly were. We were both covered in bruises when we left the set that evening.
PA: Now, here’s your chance really to publicise yourself!! What’s your new film and what else have you got planned for the near future? More films, TV, books?
Ingrid: The last time I tried to publicise myself someone asked me who I thought I was. A strange question with sinister over-tones. Anyway – here goes. I’ve just finished a short horror film called Green Fingers and will be starting the new one in the Spring. My first book in a trilogy is on the shelves – The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers – and the second part is with the publishers as I speak and is entitled The Bedside Companion for Ghost Busters, due out in April 1999. The final part will be for Monster Mashers. I am also half way through my autobiography for Random House – as yet unnamed but shelf space has been booked for June 1999. I’ve cut my tracks on a CD and write columns for Shivers, Monsterscene and Area 51. I have an active fan club, information for which can be obtained from Pitt of Horror, PO BOX 403, Richmond. Surrey, TWlO 6FW or on website www.pittofhorror.com or if you really, really are interested you can get me on e-mail info@pittof horror.com. How about that?
PA: Not bad. You obviously have plenty to keep you busy. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and all the best.
Ingrid: You’re welcome. Cheers! By the way, can you mop your blood up on the way out?