Hammer horror actress Ingrid Pitt, best known for starring in cult classics such as Countess Dracula, has died at the age of 73. The Polish-born star died at a hospital in south London after collapsing a few days ago.
She was regarded by many fans as the queen of Hammer horror films. The star’s death comes weeks after film-maker Roy Ward Baker, who directed Pitt in The Vampire Lovers, died at the age of 93.
Pitt’s daughter Stephanie Blake told the BBC News website that her mother’s death had come as a “huge surprise”. After the actress collapsed recently, doctors had told her was she suffering from heart failure. She could be incredibly generous, loving, and she’ll be sorely missed,” Mrs Blake said. She added that she wanted her mother to be remembered as the Countess Dracula with the “wonderful teeth and the wonderful bosom”.
The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy said he had “very good memories” of the actress. “She was a very attractive person in every sense. She was a perfectly good actress but a very decent person as well, not that those two things don’t often go together. I’m very sorry to hear she’s gone,” he added.
Official Hammer historian Marcus Hearn paid tribute to the star, calling her a “talented actress and fine writer”. He added: “She was partly responsible for ushering in a bold and brazen era of sexually explicit horror films in the 1970s, but that should not denigrate her abilities as an actress.”
A good friend of the actress, Mr Hearn said she was “gloriously uninhibited” and “great fun to be with”. Although she was not the first female star of a Hammer film, Mr Hearn said she had always been “very proud” of becoming the first prominent female protagonist in a Hammer after her role in The Vampire Lovers.
She began her career with fairly minor roles in several Spanish films in the mid-1960s.
But in 1968 she landed a supporting role in war movie Where Eagles Dare, appearing alongside Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton.
The actress got her breakthrough role two years later in the horror thriller The Vampire Lovers, which was a box office success.
Several Hammer movies followed, firmly establishing her as one of the key women of British horror of the 1970s.
Her other film credits included The Wicker Man (1973), Who Dares Wins (1982), Smiley’s People (1982) and Wild Geese II (1985).
Pitt made regular appearances at horror conventions and penned several books about her career in the genre.