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The Top 30 Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Actresses, #4 [Part seven of a series.]
Scream queens. Horror heroines. Sci-fi divas. Cult/genre film legends. We know them. We love them. We’ve watched them run, scream, bleed, cry, die, strip, cower, fight, kill and kick ass in numerous science fiction, fantasy and horror films over the years.
Who are the most memorable and important genre actresses? I’m not talking about on-screen characters, like Alien’s Ripley or Dana Scully of The X-Files, but the women who portrayed these scream queens and sci-fi heroines. I’ve chosen thirty actresses who I think have made the most important contributions to the sci-fi/horror/fantasy/cult genres, in both film and television.
My criteria for this Top 30 List were as follows: the sheer number of roles in horror/fantasy/sci-fi movies and TV shows; the famous, outstanding and genre-defining roles/characters portrayed; and, the actresses’ acceptance of and participation in fandom and fan events. I developed a complex algorithm to evaluate these factors and determine list ranking. (In other words, my list is completely subjective and only slightly more advanced than throwing darts at a dart board.)
Here’s the list so far:
30. Connie Mason; 29. Jenny Agutter; 28. Jane Seymour; 27. Amy Irving; 26. Bobbi Bresee; 25. Rosalba Neri/Sarah Bay; 24. Erika Blanc; 23. Asia Argento; 22. Lindsay Wagner; 21. Lynn Lowry; 20. Michelle Bauer; 19. Linda Blair; 18. Shawnee Smith; 17. Sarah Michelle Gellar; 16. Tiffany Sheppis; 15. Brinke Stevens; 14. Nancy Allen; 13. Caroline Munro; 12. Marilyn Burns; 11. Debbie Rochon; 10. Sybil Danning; 9. Fay Wray; 8. Linnea Quigley; 7. Adrienne Barbeau; 6. Dee Wallace Stone; 5. Margot Kidder
4. INGRID PITT
Even though she was in only a handful of films, Ingrid Pitt is on my list – and on most other similar lists – because of the iconic, infamous impact she had on the genre. She might not have been on screen much, but when she was, by God, you noticed and remembered her.
Most iconic and infamous was her performance as Mircalla/Carmilla in The Vampire Lovers. After two decades of Gothic horror films, Hammer ventured into new territory in 1970 with The Vampire Lovers, the first of its female vampire movies. To keep up with the Joneses (who were loading their films with sex and violence), Hammer upped the boobs-and-blood level in their film AND somehow managed to successfully walk the tightrope of sensual, sexy nudity without falling into sleazy, gratuitous T&A.
[It just dawned on me that my last sentence is probably wasted on all you boobs-and-blood fanboys who don’t care if the nudity in a film is gratuitous or not, just as long as it’s there. So just trust me – there is a difference.]
Pitt is the reason Hammer achieved that balance in The Vampire Lovers. She brought class and sophistication to all her roles; your standard voluptuous vampiric vixen she was not. The film, based on J Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novella Carmilla, avoids the typical lesbian exploitation angle and instead convincingly combines erotic romance with genuine horror. Here’s BloodyGoodHorror.com’s take on Pitt’s infamous role:
"The Vampire Lovers showcased Ms. Pitt as a buxom red headed vampiress intent on lust and blood. Using her unearthly wiles as well as more... mortal assets... she made her mark in the horror world and ingrained her visage (and curves) into the minds of men the world over. Chasing topless red headed virgins wearing scant else than a towel wrapped about her waist, The Vampire Lovers also managed to feature her acting skills as well setting her as a formidable horror queen in her own right.”
Born in Poland, Pitt began her film career in Spain, had a small role in 1965’s Doctor Zhivago and appeared Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. She appeared in the sci-fi movie The Omegans in 1968, and then had the good fortune of having a run of bad luck at a poker game at John Wayne’s house, thereby giving her a chance to meet some Hammer film folks while taking a break from the game.
Pitt turned down Hammer’s sequel Lust for a Vampire because her agent didn’t want to her be typecast. Instead, she went on to play…another vampire…twice more. (Her agent seems to have misunderstood the meaning of the word “typecast.”) She appeared in Hammer’s film Countess Dracula, which was loosely based on real-life “vampire” Elisabeth Bathory, who bathed in virgins’ blood to preserve her beauty. Pitt was given top billing, but her voice was dubbed.
She played a horror actress who’s really a vampire in The Cloak segment in the Amicus horror anthology film The House That Dripped Blood. And let’s not forget her brief but memorable role in The Wicker Man (1973) as the crazy schoolteacher/librarian who liked a good soak in the bathtub.
In addition to being the head Hammer hottie, Pitt was in Clive Barker’s Underworld (1985), the horror film The Asylum with her daughter in 2000, and the 2006 horror film Minotaur. She’s done stage and TV work, including one episode of Thriller and several episodes of Doctor Who.
Pitt has published 15 books, including The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters, The Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers, The Bedside Companion of Butch Bitches, The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity and her autobiography Life’s A Scream. She writes regularly for various magazines and websites, including her own site PittOfHorror.com.
In her autobiography she talks about the highs and lows of her life. Pitt is a survivor: she spent two years with her family in the Stutthof concentration camp during WWII and had “two serious cancer attacks” in the 90s. Other interesting tidbits are that she has a student pilot license and a black belt in karate.
Then there’s her dating sites. Ingrid Pitt has not one but two – two! – dating sites: IngridPittDateline.com and IngridPittBlindDate.com. (The description on the second website reads “I put it down to the uniform. There's one thing for certain. Gothic military men of any rank know how to look after a lady. And women want men who have something else to talk about than football. This site is for gothic men and women who love excitement.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’m so going to create a profile there.)
Despite not quite understanding her appeal, Pitt enjoys meeting and talking to fans at conventions and film festivals. The Ingrid Pitt Fan Club has an annual reunion each November in London, an event which Pitt herself attends religiously each year.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Number Three (Here's a hint: If you asked the average person on the street for their top ten genre actresses, this actress would most likely be #1. But she's only #3 on my list.)
[Sources include PittOfHorror.com, myspace.com/ingridpittforreal, Mondo-Esoterica.net, AmandaNorman.com, BloodyGoodHorror.com, IngridPittDateline.com, IngridPittBlindDate.com, Wikipedia, IMDb and probably some others I’ve forgotten.]
[I owe PCR columnist Chris Woods a big thank you for his help with this article: for the brainstorming ideas, the debates over ranking, and for pointing out the many glaring omissions on my original list.]
"FANGRRL" is ©2010 by Lisa Scherer. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.
[Part seven of a series.]