Sadly, we lost Ingrid Pitt in November 2010, but her memory still lives on. I interviewed Ingrid back in 2002 for my old website ‘The Lair of the Shebitch’, which was a site dedicated to vampires. I used to be known as LiaCarla back then, hence requesting Ingrid to sign the print to LiaCarla instead of my real name. The interview below is untouched and not updated. It is my favourite interview of all time and reading it now puts a huge smile on my face. I got to chat about vampires, Hammer Horror and Transylvania with a very lovely lady and I hope you enjoy reading it.
Who is Ingrid Pitt?
Ingrid Pitt starred as Countess Dracula in Hammer Horror‘s 1970 film of the same title. She also starred as Carmilla in the 1970 Hammer Horror film, ‘The Vampire Lovers’. Nowadays she is a renowned author with such books as ‘BEDSIDE COMPANION FOR VAMPIRE LOVERS‘ and ‘BOOK OF MURDER, TORTURE & DEPRAVITY‘.
For more information about Ingrid, including the chance to purchase personally signed autographed books, posters and lots more items, visit Ingrid’s official site, http://www.pittofhorror.com. You won’t be disappointed!
A big thank you to Ingrid for answering my questions. Let the interview commence!
Hammer Horror Interview with Ingrid Pitt
Ingrid, you played the role of Countess Dracula in Hammer Horror’s classic film of the same title. This film was based on the true account of Elizabeth Bathory who tortured and murdered over 600 young women. She believed that their blood would keep her skin looking youthful. How did you prepare yourself for this role and what are your thoughts of Countess Bathory?
Well I decided that the best way to get into the role was to round up a few virgins and try out the efficacy of their blood before starting the picture. Unfortunately the extreme difficulty encountered in my search for virgins made this impossible – so I winged it. And the Countess? I once spent the night in Cachtice Castle in Romania to satisfy the sadism of a cackle of journalist. I now fully understand her quest. The castle is so cold and depressing I was willing to do anything to break the monotony after a couple of hours.
You also played the role of Carmilla Karnstein in Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers, based on Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s 1872 novella, “Carmilla”. Carmilla is my favourite vampiress of all time as she was an excellent seductress with stunning looks, but not only was she deadly, she seemed to have a caring heart, a lost soul searching for her soul mate in eternal life. Did you read the novel before filming and is Carmilla your idea of a female vampire, if not, what is?
Carmilla’s great. Sexy dresses and lots of sultry langorous looks. I did read the novel before I played the part. A fat lot of good that did me. I completely missed the idea that it was a take on lesbianism! It wasn’t until I was asked to introduce the film at a festival at the National Film Theatre that it struck home. There was a big poster saying it was the seminal lesbian/vampire movie. I just thought it was about a couple of friends, bored out of their skulls during a hot summer in Styria. And one of them happened to be a vampire. I’m just an innocent, I guess!
Would you have accepted the role beforehand if you’d known that Carmilla was a lesbian?
I’ve no problem with other peoples sexual proclivities – just don’t understand them. Professionally a role is a role is a role.
Hammer productions have announced that they’re making a comeback for the 21st century. This will involve the remakes of Hammer’s non horror films and at a later date, they will produce horror films. Do you think that Hammer can capture the gothic essence once again and create future cult classics like the films you and other big names such as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing starred in? Also, will you have any involvement with this as you are now a renowned author of vampire books; perhaps one of your tales could be adapted for the screen?
I am supposed to be involved in it. But you obviously know more about it than I do. As to my scripts and things – I’m working on it!
Good luck with the scripts. I simply took my information from their main website. In what way will you be involved?
Hammer are setting up a publishing arm to produce books, fictional and factual. I have been asked to write the definitive Hammer book and help set up the company. There is a bit of an hiatus at the moment. The book was supposed to be out for Christmas last but we are still in the throes of working out who does what in the company. And don’t bother to send in your valued manuscript – at least until the company is up and running. There is no way that it can be looked at in the near future and will be consigned to the trash can.
What are your most memorable moments from your time spent working with Hammer?
Having regular paydays. The thing about Hammer was they didn’t pay much but they did stick with old friends. My problem was I came to the company when it was on the slippery slope. And I had the temerity to turn down a couple of pictures. The poor salary gave everyone a common bond. There was always something to talk about and sympathetic ears to unload into. But it wasn’t serious. Everybody swore at some time or another that they would never work for them again. But they always did. Witness Chris Lee.
There is much speculation about which character from history Bram Stoker based his novel Count Dracula on. Some people say that he got the name Dracula from Vlad Tepes who was also known as Count Dracula. His father was Dracul and Dracula simply means ‘son of’. The real life Dracula is notorious for impaling his victims on stakes. It’s no wonder that people claim Stoker based Dracula on this character but other people claim he only used the name of Dracula and that the novel was actually based on Countess Bathory. Does this kind of speculation interest you and if yes, what do you believe is fact?
I think that when Bram Stoker was scuttling from house to house in Whitby writing his magnum opus he was using what material he had to hand to write fiction. And he had research on Dracula. I did the Dracula Tour a couple of years ago. Visited all the sites mentioned in Stoker’s book, slept in the tower room at Dracula Castle Hotel in the Borgo Pass, had lunch in the Golden Krone in Bistritz (where Jonathan Harker supped on his way to see Count Drac), visited Vlad Tepes’s birthplace at Sigisoara and so on. Great background stuff and I would have thought that there was little doubt about Vlad Tepes being the role model. But Raymond McAnally put the case for Erzebet Bathori in DRACULA WAS A WOMAN and who am I to argue against that?
You obviously still have a big interest with vampires due to your novel, ‘The Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers’ and a project of which you was involved in, the making of a film titled ‘Dracula Who?’. What are your thoughts to the existence of vampires and what do you imagine one to be like?
My thoughts on vampires? Well the folkloric side is very interesting. So many blood suckers in so many countries over so many centuries. I love some of the stories. I guess my favourite is the Russian Kravalitza. It spends most of the year hanging around as an icicle until a posse of drunken peasants turns up and thaws it out and he savages them. Don’t ask me about the logic – just enjoy the legend. Clearly there are those who would testify to the existence of vampires. Like Colonel Johanne Flukinger who was sent to investigate the case of Arnold Paole who caught a dose in Greece. Vampirism that is. He returned to plague his home town in Serbian until being decapitated by the village Priest. The Colonel reported back to headquarters that it was a clear cut case of vampiric possession.
What do I think vampires are like? I go for the Groglin Grange, Varney The Vampire, Nosferatu model. Skinny, smelling, filthy and not fit to grace the drawing room of a young lady of refinement and breeding.
The topic of vampires is becoming huge on the Internet with more and more vampire sites and discussion forums popping up all over the place. Do you visit such sites and get involved with discussions, and what do you think about the presence of vampires on the Internet?
Not something I’ve thought about and I’ve never been asked to say my piece on the internet. Although I have had a couple of Chatrooms which seemed very interesting although not solely on a vampire theme.
Through out your career you have travelled around the world and met lots of adoring fans. Have you ever had any scary moments and what do you like best about meeting fans?
I can truthfully say that I have never had any problems. It might have something to do with the fact that my husband is 6′ 2″ and mean looking and is constantly with me. But I don’t think so. I just think people are lovely and I adore chatting to them. My favourite night of the year is the Fan Club reunion. Seventy or eighty members turn up in London, we pig out on delicious Polish nosh and dance the night away to a Russian band. And I get lots of time to chat. I sometimes get accused of taking too long to sign autographs when I’m at conventions. Not from the fans waiting for the autographs but from others who won’t be named. Of course, like everybody, I like talking about myself but the nature of the beast means that it gets boring after continuous repetition – so I make my time interesting by finding out what everybody who bellies up to the stand do, what their ambitions are, how their family is getting on – and what they think of me!
It’s only fair to mention that your only interest isn’t vampires and that you have starred in numerous non vampire related movies. What is your best achievement in life so far and what plans do you have for the future?
My problem is that I don’t feel I have achieved anything. A few films that didn’t exactly set the screen alight. A dozen or so books which are not and never will be , compulsory reading in schools, a reasonable game of golf, a small ability to pilot a plane. That’s about it. Unless you want to include things like my daughter and through her my beautiful grand daughter – or surviving two serious cancer attacks. And, of course, being happy. Plans for the future are numerous and mainly unattainable – but it makes me happy to have a go. As is often repeated. If you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the lottery.
What message do you have for your fans who read this?
As Sam Goldwyn (I think) famously said, “Messages are for Western Union”.