Precinct1313’s Favourite Hammer Horror Vamps…
Classic British film production company Hammer was founded in 1934 and is mainly remembered for their slew of gothic horror movies, though the company also produced science fiction, thrillers and the occasional comedy it was their horror films that made the company famous worldwide.
Their first foray into the horror genre was in 1955 with the Quatermass experiment, from here the company would continue to make mostly dark gothic horror with the likes of The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula Prince of Darkness and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb. Ushered into the spotlight were its stable of classic British actors – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Donald Pleasence amongst many others, Hammer were a huge success story at the time, with its very own unique look and feel that to this day has not been replicated successfully by any other company (though British rival Amicus came close)
I personally didn’t start watching Hammer films until the mid 1980’s, I knew of them when I was a small lad in the late seventies because my older brother loved them, but was too young to appreciate them at the time. When I finally became an avid viewer of their movies, it was no surprise that I found myself more attracted to the many beautiful Hammer Scream Queens, and so this is dedicated to my personal favourites of these ‘fangtastic’ actresses.
Number 5: Valerie Leon…
Beautiful statuesque actress Valerie Leon was born in Hampstead, London in November of 1943, the eldest of four children she got her first acting part after auditioning for a stage role in Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand. From here she went on to become a well loved English actress with several appearances in many Carry On films. She is one of a few actresses that played a Bond girl twice, the first being The Spy Who Loved Me with Roger Moore in 1977 and then later on in 1983 in Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery
It was her lead role in the Hammer Horror film: Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb that garnered her a huge following, her first leading role cast her as reincarnated Egyptian Princess Tera, the film was only a moderate success for Hammer but helped propel Valerie into the limelight as ‘the’ classic English vamp seductress.
Vamp Rating: 4 reincarnated Egyptian Princesses out of 5.
Number 4: Madeline Smith…
Stunning actress Madeline Smith was born in Sussex, England in August 1949, she started her working life as an assistant in Biba, a famous boutique in London, it was here that she first was discovered and became a very successful model in the late sixties and early seventies. Her first on-screen acting role was in Hammer’s Taste The Blood Of Dracula, where she acted alongside the amazing Christopher Lee. From here she went on to be a popular recurring Hammer star with roles in Vampire Lovers and Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell. Like Valerie Leon before her, Madeline was also a Bond girl appearing in Live And Let Die with Roger Moore, also like Valerie she starred in a number of Carry On movies as well as Up Pompeii with the late comedy actor Frankie Howerd and Theatre of Blood with the great Vincent Price.
After having a daughter with her husband, actor David Buck she gradually wound down her acting career, In 2009 she was the cover star of the retrospective book Hammer Glamour, she finally returned to acting in 2011 in English television series Doctors.
Vamp Rating 4 Vampire Lovers out of 5.
Number 3: Raquel Welch…
Ravishing Raquel Welch was born in Chicago in September 1940, Raquel was a performer from a very young age, studying ballet at age seven. When she was fourteen she won her very first beauty pageant, this was the first of many for her until 1959 when she married James Welch and fell pregnant with her first child. Deciding she wanted to take up acting as a career, she enrolled at San Diego state college for drama lessons, and got several roles in local theatre productions. Her first on-screen role was in television series Bewitched, after a small role in film Swinging Summer she was contracted to work for Twentieth Century Fox in a series of films, it was here that she made classic Sci-Fi movie Fantastic Voyage in 1966, the film was a massive hit and it propelled Raquel into super-stardom. Later that same year Fox allowed Hammer to star Raquel in probably the film that she is most famous for: One Million Years BC, she was without a doubt the star of this film even though she actually only had three lines of dialogue.
The poster for the film, showing Raquel in her famous fur ‘bikini’ became one of the biggest selling posters of all time and Raquel Welch never looked back, going on to have a long and successful career.
Vamp Rating: 4.5 cave girls out of 5.
Number 2: Ingrid Pitt…
Stunning Ingrid Pitt was born in Warsaw in November of 1937, having a traumatic start to her life as she was incarcerated in a concentration camp along with her family during World War 2. After getting through this terrifying ordeal relatively unscathed, she married an American soldier whom she met in Berlin in 1950 and subsequently moved to California. Her first role was relatively minor in the film Dr Zhivago in 1965, it was in 1968 that she got her first major role in the classic war movie Where Eagles Dare, where she acted alongside Clint Eastwood and English thespian Richard Burton. It was the 1970 Hammer movie Vampire Lovers that gave Ingrid her cult vamp status and she went on to become Hammer’s most prolific female stars thanks to her stellar peformance as Elizabeth Bathory in the 1971 film Countess Dracula. Other notable roles of the time were for Hammer’s rival company Amicus in The House That Dripped Blood and a part in the classic 1973 released: The Wicker Man.
Sadly Ingrid passed away in November 2010 at at the age of 73 in her home in South London, England, though she will live on as one of the greatest horror actresses of all time.
Vamp Rating: 5 blood-bathing vampires out of 5.
Number 1: Caroline Munro…
The unbelievably beautiful Caroline Munro was born in Berkshire, England in January 1949, Caroline originally wanted a career in art and enrolled in art school in Brighton, after photographs of her entered into a photo competition being held by World class photographer David Bailey won, she went into a career as a model, landing a contract to work with Vogue magazine at age just seventeen. Her first acting role was in the original version of Casino Royale in 1967, it wasn’t until 1971 that she got her first Horror role in the Vincent Price led: The Abominable Dr Phibes.
Her first Hammer role was Dracula AD-72, where she co-starred with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. She went on to star in Hammer’s Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, but turned down the role of Vampirella because it required some amount of nudity. Like a lot of previous English Hammer actresses, she was also a Bond girl starring in the 1977 Spy Who Loved Me, other notable roles are in: At The Earth’s Core with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure and in the classic Ray Harryhausen movies: 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye Of The Tiger.
Vamp Rating: Off the scale!