Above, Ingrid Pitt, left and Madeline Smith in The Vampire Lovers.
Sad news from London today as word of the death of actress Ingrid Pitt, star of several classic Hammer horror films, reaches us. Pitt died just two days after collapsing en route to a birthday celebration in her honor, at the age of 73.
Ingrid Pitt was best known for her risque roles in the Hammer “vampire lesbian” films, Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers. She was one of the first, if not the first scream queen to go starkers onscreen. Both of these films were—unbelievably—often shown uncut on “chiller theatre” type TV broadcasts in the 1970s. If you are a male of a certain age (ahem) and were a big fan of horror films growing up, there is a very good chance that Ingrid Pitt’s extremely lovely—and blood-smeared—breasts were the first boobies you ever saw (Can I get a few “amens” in the comments?).
With all the hubbub about sexy vampires these days, courtesy of Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, it’s time to take a short stroll down memory lane to the “golden age” of vampire lesbian cinema with Hammer’s so-called “Karnstein Trilogy.”
The first of the series, The Vampire Lovers, starred beautiful Polish actress Ingrid Pitt, who had previously played Elizabeth Bathory in Countess Dracula for Hammer. In The Vampire Lovers, Pitt played Carmilla Karnstein, the literary prototype for all vampire lesbians, a character created by author J. Sheridan Le Fanu in 1872. I saw the film on a late night “chiller theater” TV slot in the mid-Seventies and while its actually a pretty decent, serviceable period piece horror film, uh, whatever... let’s get real here, the real attraction were the bare breasts of Ms. Pitt and crew! Without them no one would remember this film at all.
But ask any guy who grew up in the Seventies —and a few gals, too, of course— who watched horror movies and they will know all about this film and its two sequels, which were often aired—astonishingly—with the nude scenes intact. Back in the Seventies, this was a cause for celebration for teenage boys. I used to scour the TV Guide searching for weird things to watch and whenever there was a screening of one of these films, I can assure you that I didn’t have anything better to do that night!
The second film in the Karnstein Trilogy was 1971’s Lust for a Vampire starring blond Danish hottie Yutte Stensgaard. Again, ask any middle-aged guy in America or England who watched horror films as a kid and… they will know the name Yutte Stensgaard, who is seen bare-breasted and smeared with blood in the film.
A still from this scene made frequent appearances in monster movie books and magazines devoted to the genre, providing masturbatory fodder for an entire generation of horror film geeks (Sidestepping the implications of this matter entirely, here Stensgaard is seen signing it at a fan convention).
I love the tagline in the trailer: “Welcome to the finishing school where they really DO finish you…”
Twins of Evil was the final entrant in the series. Twins of Evil starred identical twin Playboy Playmates Mary and Madeline Collinson. It was a sort of pre-quel to the first film and starred Peter Cushing. Aside from just Sapphic twin vampires (you think this would be enough, but no…), Twins of Evil had themes of witchcraft and devil worship, so it was an extra campy Hammer entry. The Collinson twins turned out to be such bad actresses that their voices were overdubbed in post production.