A Real Horror Star: Articulating the Extreme Authenticity of Ingrid Pitt

Kate Egan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


While Ingrid Pitt achieved her greatest film successes in the early 1970s, she has remained a visible presence within horror fan circles due to her appearances at horror film festivals and through the management of her fan club and website. As noted by Peter Hutchings (1993), The Vampire Lovers (1970) ushered in a new focus, in British horror, on the threat posed by an active, sexually independent female to an inadequate male authority, leading to Pitt obtaining the same star status within British horror as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The impact of Pitt’s performance in The Vampire Lovers has been attributed to her ‘aggressive physical presence’ (Hutchings, 1993: 161), East-European accent and exotic looks. In many respects, then, Pitt’s status as one of the key female predators of British horror seems related to her status as ‘exotic other’: an East-European actress who functioned, as with foreign actors in previous British films, as a sexually transgressive ‘exotic outsider’ (MacNab, 2000: 143).

However, Pitt’s continued presence within a range of discursive sites has enhanced but also complicated this star image. On the one hand, her recounted stories about battling with Hammer horror producers and maintaining control over the display of her body have extended her image as an independent, strong woman into the off-screen realm, and this has been complimented by what fans have identified as her business savvy in continuing to maintain control over her career. However, on the other hand, her unsentimental account (in her 1999 autobiography) of her time in a Nazi concentration camp, and her appreciation by fans as a down-to-earth lady who is modest about her achievements and pragmatic about the film industry, has complicated the initial emphasis on exoticism, presenting Pitt as a relatable survivor in every sense. The purpose of this chapter is to explore how this tension between Pitt’s ‘extraordinary’ and ‘ordinary’ qualities has been discussed by fans and addressed via interviews, and to therefore consider how this oft-cited aspect of the appeal of conventional film stars can also be seen to inform the discursive constructions of figures who have gained ‘a reputation through small-scale championing’ (Mathijs and Sexton, 2012).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCult Film Stardom
Subtitle of host publication Offbeat Attractions and Processes of Cultification
EditorsKate Egan, Sarah Thomas
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780230293694, 0230293697
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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