Ingrid Pitt, the lovely blonde actress who became a legendary horror film star in Hammer Films of the 1970s, died at the in London, England on November 23, 2010, two days after her 73rd birthday. She had suffered a heart attack the day before her death.
Ingrid Pitt was a survivor. Born Ingronushka Petrov in Warsaw, Poland on November 21, 1937, she was the daughter of a ethnic Russian father who was a German citizen and a Polish Jew mother. Both Russians and Jews were considered subhuman by Adolf Hitler, the cryptorchidistic former Austrian paper-hanger who would soon disrupt the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Before she was two years old, Poland was dismembered by Hitler’s Germany, which invaded from the West, and Stalin’s Soviet Union, which subsequently invaded Poland from the East as part of a secret pact between the two murderous megalomaniacs with a taste for ultraviolence. Subsequently, her family were committed to a concentration camp run by the Nazis, who overran all of Poland in June 1941, when they — in turn — invaded their ally the USSR. Three years later, Poland was “liberated” by Stalin’s Red Army.
That Pitt wold achieve fame in vampire films can be seen as an ironic reflection of her sanguinary childhood, when murder and bloodletting were common. Forty to fifty-two million civilians died during World War II, including 5.5 million Poles (three million of whom were Jews), which along with the quarter-of-a-million Plish military deaths in the war, brought the losses to a total of between 16% and 17% of the pre-war population. Poland suffered a greater loss of life than even the Soviet Union, where the term “Russian Front” was synonymous with the hellish brutality of Hitler’s war.
Stalin moved the Soviet Union border’s eastward into Poland and Poland’s Western border was adjusted to take in what was the German provinces Prussia and Silesia. (The old crocodile Stalin kept the Prussian university city Königsberg, renamed Kaliningrad, for himself to serve as a port for the Red Navy.)
Pitt not only survived the Holocaust and life under the post-World War II Soviet occupation of Poland and East Germany, where she found herself and from which she escaped, but battled cancer and other major health problems over the last decade of her life.
Sea of Dust
Horror movie actor and make-up special effects artist Edward X. Young, Ingrid Pitt’s co-star from her last starring film Sea of Dust, shared his memories of the “Queen of Horror” with me. I first met Ed Young in high school during the time that Pitt’s career in horror films was in full gear, and one of the factors cementing our friendship was our joint admiration of the buxom blonde beauty.
Playboy had only recently added pubic hair to the staple (and stapled) T&A of the magazine most purloined from Dad’s sock drawer and Deep Throat hadn’t even ventured north to Boston’s Combat Zone at the time. (It would be several years before it hit the screen of the old Strand Theater in Manchester, New Hampshire.) Seeing Ingrid Pitt in a drindl that pleasing displayed her ample assets was hot stuff in 1973.
We were both horror film aficionados, and we both thought Miss Pitt was something special. We were 14 year-old freshmen in a town with five TV channels representing three networks and PBS. (There were two affiliates of ABC, the perennial also-ran among the networks at the time.) The local station still broadcast in black and white, and would do so into the 1980s!
The TV and former vaudeville houses converted to movie palaces in the silent movie era that would meet the wrecking ball before WMUR-TV would convert to color were the temples were we worshipped Ingrid Pitt, the Queen of Horror. Little did we know that a generation later, when a clever four year old by the click of a mouse button could access “blue” materials that could curl the salty locks of Barnicle Bill the Sailor, Ed would co-star with the woman he calls his “adolescent idol.”
Ingrid Pitt went from being an object of youthful idolatry to a professional colleague, then a friend, Ed told me. He had sent her a birthday greetings in London, which contained a horror movie magazine in which he reminisced about her. The Queen of Horror still had her subjects in thrall, 40 years since she starred in such B-movie horror classics as The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula and The House That Dripped Blood.
The Last Person She Killed
“I will miss her dearly,” Ed Young told me. “As an ardent fan of Ingrid Pitt, I am honored to be the last person she ever kills on screen.”
Edward X. Young actually had a hand in getting Pitt cast in the film as he was friends with one of the creatorrs of Sea of Dust. The creators of the movie intended it to be an homage to the great Hammer Horror films of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and it was at Hammer that Pitt made her name. However, one of the creators had a “thing” for Pitt’s rival as Top 70’s Scream Queen, Barbara Steele.
Ed managed to steer the casting to Pitt, whom he had first met in person at at horror movie fan convention in New Jersey in 1999.