Hammer horror actress Ingrid Pitt dies aged 73

Ingrid Pitt Pitt's popularity in Hammer Film Productions made her a cult figure

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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".

'Gloriously uninhibited'

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".

Start Quote

All fans of Hammer and of British horror are going to miss her terribly”

End Quote Marcus Hearn Official Hammer historian

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.

"All fans of Hammer and of British horror are going to miss her terribly," he said.

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.

Read a selection of your comments

I knew Ingrid via the various memorabilia shows I used to be involved in organising. At each event she would draw a big following and was adored by many fans of all ages. Ingrid was so lovely, accommodating and professional to the last. I remember her being a very happy person who always gave more than was needed. She had a wicked sense of humour and her eyes sparkled with mischief.

Lee, Wolverhampton

I'll remember Ingrid Pitt for her two guest appearances in Doctor Who, particularly for her role as Queen Galleia in the Jon Pertwee story "The Time Monster" back in 1972. Her character in that story provided what almost amounted to a romantic interest for the Doctor's nemesis, The Master, played with great panache by the late Roger Delgado. Ironic that she died today on Doctor Who's 47th anniversary.

Stephen Frizzell, Newtownabbey

I met Ingrid Pitt at the Dracula 97 convention/conference in Los Angeles, which was a centenary celebration of Bram Stoker's famous novel. She was a charming and engaging speaker and I remember her fondly.

Jonathan Malcolm Lampley , Nashville, USA

I knew Miss Pitt best from her autobiography, Life's A Scream. For me she won't be the busty Hammer screen goddess, but a fascinating and multi-faceted lady. I believe she spoke 7 languages fluently. As a child she survived the horror of a concentration camp, later marrying a US serviceman and moving to America. Her story is more compelling than most Hollywood scripts. RIP a remarkable lady with so, so much more to her than just her film career.

Fiona Andrew , Pembroke Dock, Wales

I had the pleasure of digitally restoring some Hammer film stills and corresponding with Ingrid Pitt about them 2 years ago. She had not seen them before and was delighted. She was so wonderful and appreciative.

Russ, St Louis, USA

I worked at Pinewood studios in the early 1970's when she made Countess Dracula and I used to see her around. She was a goddess to me and I still have some photos of her! A lovely lady.

Robert Wrightson , Shoreham by Sea

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