Long before her ascendancy to the Hammer horror throne in the mid-70s, Ingrid Pitt struggled through a series of B films and bit parts that sorely tested her thespic mettle. But much like her vampiric counterparts, her spirit simply couldn't be stifled. On an early excursion to Hollywood, a B movie white knight of sorts rode to her rescue. B filmmaker W. Lee Wilder, director of Killers From Space, Man Without a Body and many others, provided invaluable inspiration. "I just loved the man," Ingrid sighs. "He saved me.

"I was brought to America to do a screen test for 20th Century Fox," she says ruefully. "I realized once I got there that there were lots of 'foxes' in the cupboard. It was all a great big put on by a stockholder at Fox. I was homeless, moneyless and friendless in a country where I didn't know anyone. I had to sing for my supper. I went to a spaghetti house on Sunset Boulevard and cooked. Willie came in one night and, because he's Austrian, went potty about my plum cake -- and I must say it's quite fantastic. On the third night that he came in he said, 'I've got a film for you.' He didn't give me a contract or anything at all. He just said, 'We're making it in the Philippines.' He told me the date. He took my address. He said, 'You can go home now -- back to Madrid -- and wait for my air ticket.' We shook hands. He smiled. I smiled. I didn't sleep all night and I went home the next day.

Wilder was as good as his word. "Six weeks later, I had my air ticket, my script and my contract. And later, while sitting in the jungle, [filming The Omegans], I found out lots of things about Willie. He had a brother, Billy Wilder. Both of them lived in Austria under the Nazis. They only had one passport. Willie left Austria and, through messengers, sent the passport back to Billy. When I met Billy Wilder and told him that I'd made this incredible movie with his brother, he was quite shitty. He wasn't nice at all about his brother. He said, 'You're here to audition for me and not to tell me fables about my brother.' I said, 'I'm so sorry. I didn't realize you didn't love him -- because I do.' I didn't get the job."

The world's best-known vampire lover has played opposite an astounding variety of performers and she's most generous when it comes to citing favorites. "Everyone you work with you love at the time. Peter Cushing was heaven to work with, as were Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward." Ultimately, she leaves little question as to which she remembers the most fondly. "Clint Eastwood was really fantastic. He was so incredibly cool. He's such a normal person. He doesn't go around drinking himself to death like Richard Burton did. I think Clint is one of the greatest men I've ever met. He's a fantastic sportsman. He's a health freak. He's a fabulous artist. He directs his own films. He's a great actor -- though he always says he doesn't have to act, his wrinkles do it for him. His acting seems to be effortless, but I'm sure he works like hell. I've never seen him give a bad performance."

Even as she maintains an upbeat, positive professionalism, in the course of such a varied career even this endearing Queen of Horror must have knocked heads with an insufferable co-star or two. "Gene Barry," she sneers. "God, he was an asshole to work with. He was disgusting. He never stayed for his off lines. This bloody man would go and sleep in his Winnebago. He'd have some runner do the lines. Richard Burton never, never, never did that. Every proper actor reads his off lines. But that cretin just went and slept in his Winnebego. I think the guy was out of his mind."

The bulk of her schedule is devoured by the fandom she lives to please, but Pitt maintains an array of interests that seem to energize her in the midst of merely discussing them. "I love writing -- and cricket, obviously. You can't live in England and not be taken up by cricket. And of course, Spitfires. I'm completely besotted with flying. I just love this extra dimension that humanity has been able to develop into something quite perfect."

Though her energies are divided among several ongoing pursuits, there is one recent project that Ingrid seems especially anxious to promote -- one that seems a fitting coda to a career that predated the trendy gothic craze of the '90s by two decades. "I've written nine books" she declares, "and I've just delivered another called -- and listen to this -- The Ingrid Pitt Bedside Companion For Vampire Lovers."


"Nameless! Fleshless! Deathless!"
The Mummy's Ghost

"Alive with thrills that started a million years ago!"


"The hate-beast who lives to kill is loose!"
Gorilla At Large

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