Ingrid Pitt (21 November 1937 – 23 November 2010) was a Polish-British actress best known for her work in horror films of the 1960s and 1970s.
Pitt was born Ingoushka Petrov in Warsaw, Poland, to a German father of Russian descent and a Polish Jewish mother.
During World War II, she and her family were imprisoned in a concentration camp. She survived and, in Berlin in the 1950s, married an American soldier and moved to California.
After her marriage failed, she returned to Europe, but after a small role in a film, she headed to Hollywood where she worked as a waitress while trying to make a career in the movies. Her natural hair colour was brown, though she frequently lightened it to blonde.
In the early 1960s, Pitt was a member of the prestigious Berliner Ensemble, under the guidance of Bertolt Brecht’s widow Helene Weigel.
In 1965, she made her film debut in Doctor Zhivago, playing a minor role. In 1968, she co-starred in the low-budget science fiction film The Omegans and, in the same year, played “Heidi” in Where Eagles Dare opposite Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
She appeared as Queen Galleia with Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado in ‘The Time Monster’, which was the fifth Serial of the ninth season of ‘Doctor Who’, broadcast in six weekly parts between 20 May – 24 June 1972. Pitt also appears in the second broadcast episode of the short-lived cult ITC series The Zoo Gang ‘Mindless Murder’ – 12 April 1974.
It was her work with Hammer Film Productions that elevated her to cult figure status. She starred as “Carmilla/Mircalla” in The Vampire Lovers (1970), based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella Carmilla, and played the title role in Countess Dracula (1971), based on the legends about Countess Elizabeth Báthory.
Pitt also appeared in the Amicus horror anthology film The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and had a small part in The Wicker Man (1973).
In the mid-1970s, she appeared on the judging panel of the British ITV talent show New Faces.
During the 1980s, Pitt returned to mainstream films and television. Her role as Fraulein Baum in the 1981 BBC Playhouse Unity, who is denounced as a Jew by Unity Mitford (Lesley-Anne Down), was uncomfortably close to her real-life experiences.
Her popularity with horror film buffs saw her in demand for guest appearances at horror conventions and film festivals. Other films Pitt has appeared in outside the horror genre are: Who Dares Wins, (aka The Final Option), Wild Geese II, and Hanna’s War.
Generally cast as a “baddie”, she usually manages to die horribly at the end of the final reel. “Being the anti-hero is great – they are always roles you can get your teeth into.”
It was at this time that the theatre world also beckoned. Pitt founded her own theatrical touring company and starred in successful productions of Dial M for Murder, Duty Free (aka Don’t Bother to Dress), and Woman of Straw. She also appeared in many TV shows in the UK and the U.S. – Ironside, Dundee and the Culhane, Doctor Who (The Time Monster, Warriors of the Deep), Smiley’s People, etc.
In 1998, Pitt narrated Cradle of Filth’s “Cruelty and the Beast” album, although her narration was done strictly in-character as the Countess Elizabeth Báthory, as she portrayed in Countess Dracula.
In 2000, Pitt made her return to the big screen in The Asylum, starring Colin Baker and Patrick Mower and directed by John Stewart. In 2003, Pitt voiced the role of “Lady Violator” in Renga Media’s production Dominator. The film was the UK’s first CGI animated film.
After a period of illness, Pitt returned to the screen in 2006 for the Hammer Films-Mario Bava tribute, Sea of Dust.
Pitt’s first book, after a number of ill-fated tracts on the plight of Native Americans, was a novel, Cuckoo Run, a spy story about mistaken identity. “I took it to Cubby Broccoli. It was about a woman called Nina Dalton who is pursued across South America in the mistaken belief that she is a spy. Cubby said it was a female Bond. He was being very kind.”
This was followed in 1984 by a novelisation of the Peron era in Argentina (“The Perons”), where she lived for a number of years: “Argentina was a wild frontier country ruled by a berserk military dictatorship at the time. It just suited my mood.”
In 1984, Pitt and her husband Tony Rudlin were commissioned to script a Doctor Who adventure. The story, entitled The Macro Men, was one of a number of ideas submitted by the couple after she appeared in the Season 21 story arc Warriors of the Deep (1984).
The plot concerned events surrounding the Philadelphia Experiment—the urban legend about a U.S. Navy experiment during World War II to try to make the USS Eldridge destroyer escort invisible to radar. Pitt and Rudlin had read it in The Philadelphia Experiment – Project Invisibility (1979) by paranormal writer Charles Berlitz, grandson of the founder of the Berlitz Language Schools.
It involved The Doctor (Colin Baker) and companion Peri (Nicola Bryant) arriving on board the ship in 1943 in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and becoming involved in a battle against microscopic humanoid creatures native to Earth but previously unknown to humankind.
The couple had several meetings with script editor Eric Saward and carried out numerous revisions, but the story progressed no further than the preparation of a draft first episode script under the new title The Macros. The story was released in June 2010 by Big Finish Productions as The Macros in their Doctor Who: The Lost Stories audios, five months before Pitt’s death.
In 1999, her autobiography, Life’s a Scream (Heinemann) was published; and she was short-listed for the Talkies Awards for her own reading of extracts from the audio book, “I Hate Being Second”.
The autobiography detailed the harrowing experiences of her early life—in a Nazi concentration camp, her search through Europe in Red Cross refugee camps for her father, and her escape from East Berlin, one step ahead of the Volkspolizei. “I always had a big mouth and used to go on about the political schooling interrupting my quest for thespian glory. I used to think like that. Not good in a police state.”
The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters (2003) was Pitt’s tenth book. It was preceded by the The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers (1998) and The Ingrid Pitt Book Of Murder, Torture & Depravity (2000).
Pitt’s credentials for writing about ghosts spring from a time when she lived with a tribe of Indians in Colorado. Sitting with her baby daughter, Steffanie, by a log fire, she was sure that she could see the face of her father smiling at her in the flames. “I told one of the others and he went all Hollywood Injun on me and said something like ‘Heap good medicine’. I guess he was taking the mickey.”
Other writing projects include a different look at Hammer Films entitled The Hammer Xperience. She also wrote a story under the pen name Dracula Smith, which was illustrated within the Fan club magazine and is rumoured to be waiting to be snapped up for production.
Pitt wrote regular columns for various magazines and periodicals, including Shivers magazine, TV & Film Memorabilia, and Motoring and Leisure. She also wrote a regular column, often about politics, on her official website, as well as a weekly column at UK website Den of Geek. In 2008, she was added to the merchandising of Monster-Mania: The Magazine.
In 2011, Avalard Publishing acquired the rights to Cuckoo Run (1980) and a number of other previously unpublished titles, including Annul Domini: The Jesus Factor (March 2012), a speculative novel about what would have happened if Jesus had never made it to Jerusalem.
Pitt’s original novel Dracula Who…? was released in a limited edition by Avalard in October 2012 alongside the script for the unproduced film version. Dracula Who…? saw the return of Countess Dracula, a role Ingrid had played on screen for Hammer Films.
Pitt married three times: Laud Roland Pitt Jr, an American GI; George Pinches, a British film executive; and Tony Rudlin, a writer and racing car driver. Her daughter, Steffanie Pitt-Blake, is also an actress.
She had a passion for World War II aircraft. After revealing this on a radio programme, she was invited by the museum at RAF Duxford to have a flight in a Lancaster. She held a student’s pilot licence and a black belt in karate.
Pitt died in a south London hospital on 23 November 2010, a few days after collapsing, and two days after her 73rd birthday.
Seven months before she died, Pitt finished narration for Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest (2011), an animated short film on her experience in the Holocaust, a project that had been in the works for five years.
Character design and storyboards were created by two-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Bill Plympton.
The film is directed by Kevin Sean Michaels; co-produced and co-written by Jud Newborn, Holocaust expert and author, “Sophie Scholl and the White Rose”; and drawn by 10-year-old animator, Perry Chen.
There will be a feature-length documentary, also by Michaels, to follow.