An Homage to the Great Ingrid Pitt and a Forgotten Hammer Classic

I owe a lot of my taste in (for what it’s worth) and knowledge of horror films thanks to Chiller Theater on Rochester, New York’s late night TV on Friday nights. It was a far cry from WOKR’s Chiller Theater of the 1960s that was before my time. Instead of a schlock program hosted by a cheesy personality, it was just spooky graphics with a voice over announcer introducing that night’s scary movie. The other was Commander USA’s Groovie Movies on the USA Network. Just about every Saturday afternoon, Commander USA would introduce that day’s fare. Movies like tonight’s selections were common and had a profound effect on me.

MV5BNzEwZWE3MGYtZDYzZi00MmFhLWE2ODktYWRlMGU1MGQzNjc5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDc2NjEyMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,659,1000_AL_73. Countess Dracula
1971

Another Hammer film of this era with “Dracula” in the title that was sans Dracula. Many people now believe that the legend of the infamous Countess Bathory inspired Bram Stoker when he wrote Dracula.

Horror queen Ingrid Pitt stars as Countess Eilsabeth, a crone who can make herself young by bathing in the blood of the local maidens. Very much based on Elisabeth Bathory, who allegedly killed or had killed more than 600 young girls for this very purpose.

Pitt is fantastic in this role. Her sensuality mixed with the pathos of the character almost makes her sympathetic. But her double-crossing, bloodthirsty nature wins out and she gets what she deserves in the end.

This is another lush, colorful Hammer Horror production and Pitt definitely makes it go. Directed by Peter Sasdy and written by Jeremy Paul, this is a very different kind of vampire film.

MV5BMTcyOTMwNjkwN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTc1Nzg0NQ@@._V1_72. The Vampire Lovers
1970

A year before Countess Dracula, Ingrid Pitt starred in The Vampire Lovers. One of the vampire stories that has influenced me is Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. Hammer Films created a story arc based on Le Fanu’s novella. The Vampire Lovers is the best of the Karnstein bunch, mainly because of Pitt.

Pitt plays Carmilla/Mircalla, Marcilla, (it’s always an anagram for Carmilla), a vampire who terrorizes the local populace, usually young girls. Peter Cushing stars as a, you guessed it, vampire hunter. Okay, that’s a stretch. That’s not what he starts out as, but that is what he becomes along the way.

As much as I love Hammer’s Dracula films with Christopher Lee, I did enjoy it when they went off the rails a bit and used other source material or came up with original ideas.

MV5BMWRmYzAyOWItNDU2MS00MWIzLWI4MWEtZWU1MWIyODAyYzk2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDUxNjc5NjY@._V1_71. Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter
1974

This was another one of those movies I saw on a Saturday afternoon thanks to Commander USA’s Groovy Movies on USA Network. Horst Janson stars in the title role. His swashbuckling vampire slaying runs him afoul of Karnstein descendants.

Caroline Munro also stars in this rollicking adventure. I bet you didn’t know she starred in Adam Ant’s video for Goody Two Shoes. More than one vampire meets their demise at the pointy end of Kronos’ sword. Another example of an original concept, Kronos would go on to influence numerous other films, such as Van Helsing, helmed by Stephen Sommers. Kronos was refreshing after years of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Not that Cushing was bad, quite the contrary, it was simply a case of needing fresh ideas … fresh blood if you will.

I recently rediscovered this movie and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Munro, who also went on to become a Bond girl and then later star in the disastrous Starcrash, was a treat in this one as Kronos’ love interest.

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