As a forty-six year old English fan of all things horror, I horror was obviously raised on a diet of Hammer films. What makes Hammer so special? (See my previous article, Hammer – A History of Brilliance) Undoubtedly the period costumes, gothic settings and, of course, the ultimate horror icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, made the films so memorable for a period of over thirty years. But one equally important ingredient defined those films too; the Hammer glamour. A whole host of girls, some talented actresses, some not, but all of them stunning, contributed to the enduring popularity of Hammer.
In this retrospective I pay homage to the girls who made the formative years of a fledgling horror fan so utterly memorable and while not all get a mention, they are so numerous; you can bet they all passed through my mind as I wrote (one of them even follows me on Twitter and you can’t begin to imagine how excited that made me!) Here then, in no particular order, are the girls...
1. INGRID PITT
Ingrid was born in Poland on 21st November 1937 and as a child during WWII was interned in a Nazi concentration camp. Surviving this she eventually grew up in East Berlin from where she escaped in 1962 by swimming across the River Spree. Initially appearing in low-budget films in Spain, Ingrid was cast in 1968 in Where Eagles Dare alongside Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Despite only appearing in two Hammer films during its ‘Golden Era’ (The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula) Ingrid is felt by many fans to be THE Hammer girl. Post-Hammer, Ingrid appeared in The Wicker Man and then worked as a writer. She died on 23rd November 2010 after suffering from a heart condition for several years.
2. MARY & MADELEINE COLLINSON
When I mentioned in conversation the article I was working on, the reaction from (male) friends was, “Oh, Twins of Evil” and was invariably said with a smile! And, while this was the only Hammer film Mary and Madeleine starred in, their place in the studio’s history was sealed. They were born in Malta on 22nd July 1952 and followed in their mother’s footsteps to become models. In 1969 they were recommended to Hugh ‘Playboy’ Hefner who instantly liked what he saw! They became the magazine’s first twin Playmates being ‘Misses October’ 1970. They starred opposite Peter Cushing in Twins of Evil and both have subsequently described it as the best experience of their lives. Afterwards they moved to Italy and continued modelling. Mary still lives in Milan and Madeleine lives in England.
3. YUTTE STENSGAARD
Yutte was born in Denmark (in keeping with Hammer’s predilection for exotic European beauties) on 14th May 1946 and is my personal favourite Hammer girl. Or was it Marie Devereux? Or Ingrid Pitt? What about Julie Ege? Anyway, like the Collinson twins, Yutte Stensgaard is another actress who only appeared in one Hammer film, Lust for a Vampire. But, again like the Collinson twins, her performance is unforgettable; this despite the fact that by Hammer standards (which were unfortunately slipping by now) the film is of inferior quality, being overly-gratuitous and somewhat lacking in traditional Hammer style. After Hammer, Yutte worked as a hostess on the UK television game show The Golden Shot. Her acting career then dropped off dramatically, but happily she is now living in America and works for a radio network.
4. MADELINE SMITH
Madeline was born in Sussex, England on 2nd August 1949 and launched her acting career with something of a cliché; i.e. she was approached on a street in 60s Swinging London and offered a role by a talent scout. In her second Hammer film, The Vampire Lovers (having previously appeared in Taste the Blood of Dracula) she co-starred with Ingrid Pitt. That was a pairing to make even the strongest of men go weak at the knees! Her final, and in my view best, appearance for Hammer was in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (my personal favourite Hammer film and with a young, pre-Darth Vader Dave Prowse playing the monster). Having completed an English degree after her acting career came to a close Madeline worked as a writer, the acting gene was strong though and her daughter, Emily has since graduated from drama school.
5. MARIE DEVEREUX
Marie was born, depending upon which source you believe, in either 1938 or 1941! From the age of 16 she was modelling for so-called ‘saucy’ magazines that were all too keen to showcase her magnificent 38-23-36 figure. It was at that time she changed her name to Marie Devereux (having been born a rather less enticing, Patricia Sparks). For obvious reasons she picked up the nickname ‘The Countess of Cleavage’. Despite her desperation to become a serious actress, Marie’s physical attributes saw her being used by Hammer in mostly ‘decorative’ roles. Sadly the nearest she came to stardom was being Elizabeth Taylor’s body double in Cleopatra (1963) her last film for Hammer was The Pirates of Blood River in 1962.
6. SUSAN DENBERG
Susan Denberg was her adopted stage name having been born Dielinde Zechner in Austria on 2nd August 1944. Susan was another actress who made only one film for Hammer, Frankenstein Created Woman, but such was the film, the role and the publicity photographs and posters she was destined to become a part of Hammer folklore. The fact that she was Playboy’s Miss August 1966 also helped! Unfortunately the whirlwind lifestyle that accompanied such fame proved too intoxicating for Susan and she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic after suffering a breakdown. Susan’s father took her back to Austria where she still lives to this day.
7. JACQUELINE PEARCE
Jacqueline, who was born in England on 2oth December 1943, appeared in two Hammer films, The Reptile and The Plague of the Zombies. These were filmed back to back, as was quite often the case with Hammer, and eagle-eyed viewers of the two can spot several scenes and actors which are duplicated. She is more familiar to a generation of Englishmen starring as the velvet-voiced, dictator/villain (dominatrix??) Servalan in the UK sci-fi series Blake’s 7 (a role in which she also made several guest appearances in my schoolboy fantasies!) After Jacqueline was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then finished with the subsequent treatment, she moved to a sanctuary in South Africa looking after orphaned monkeys. She still lives there and considers it home.
8. CAROLINE MUNRO
Caroline (born in England on 16th February 1949) was a student at Brighton Art School when a friend photographed her for a modelling competition. Naturally enough Caroline won and her modelling career started there. She sprang to attention in UK as the face of Lamb’s Navy Rum, aided by the posters of her in a partially unzipped wetsuit. Caroline has the distinction of not only being a Hammer girl (starring in Dracula AD 1972 and Capt Kronos Vampire Hunter) but also a Bond girl (playing assassin Naomi opposite Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me). Still incredibly beautiful and fun-loving, Caroline is a very popular regular at Hammer fan events.
9. julie ege
Julie was born Julie Dzuli in Sandnes, Norway on 12th November 1943 and was a model, appearing as Miss Norway in Miss Universe 1962. She was in two Hammer films, Creatures the World Forgot and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, both of which were largely panned by the critics. Julie returned to Norway in 1977 and retired from acting the following year after the birth of her daughter. Later qualifying, and still working, as a nurse Julie was diagnosed with cancer and died on 29th April 2008.
10. kate o'mara10, Kate O’Mara
Born in Leicester, England on 10th August 1939, Kate was already a UK TV regular throughout the 60s before her first Hammer appearance in The Vampire Lovers (1969). Her only other Hammer film was The Horror of Frankenstein. Kate went back to TV and stage and starred in UK soap opera Triangle and then US soap Dynasty, playing the scheming sister of an equally scheming Alexis (Joan Collins). Kate was very much typecast as the ultra-glamorous, but equally ultra-evil, bitch role. However, in real life she is nothing like her perceived persona and is a vegetarian and animal rights activist.
"Whenever I get on stage, I feel safe and in control. Life can be so uncertain, but on stage I always know how a drama or crisis is going to end. Acting is a great comfort blanket, and has gotten me through countless personal crisis. I am a firm believer that the show must go on."
On March 30, 2014 the world lost the beautiful and talented Kate O'Mara. Horror Central would like to send our thoughts and prayers to her friends and family. She was something special to all of us, and will be missed dearly.
Jamie Tucknutt, 46 years old from Co Durham, England. Ever since I watched my first black and white vampire film at the age of five, then spent a sleepless night cowering beneath the covers as frequent droughts from my open bedroom window caused my (creaky) bedroom door to move ever so slightly, I have been a devotee of all that is deliciously dark. Zombies and slashers, ghosts and ghouls, or even just that fleeting shadow you caught in the corner of your eye, have the power to hold us all entranced. I look forward to sharing with you my passion for horror.
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