There are many aspects of Hammer horror movies that fans love, from the lush Gothic setting to the iconic monsters like Dracula. And then there are the scream queens: the beautiful ladies whom have graced many a Hammer production – and how!
Here are just a few of my favourite Hammer girls.
Veronica Carlson is, without a doubt, my No. 1 Hammer actress. She is arguably the most popular and beautiful female ever to star in a Hammer horror movie. Born in Yorkshire on the 18th September 1944, Veronica was working as a model when a newspaper photo of her wearing a bikini was spotted by Hammer mogul James Carreras. This led to her landing her first role in a Hammer film, that being the part of Maria in Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968). This debut proclaimed Veronica as Hammer’s latest star discovery. A year later, she made her second appearance for Hammer, starring as the ill-fated Anna (near the movie’s climax, she is shockingly stabbed to death by Baron Frankenstein) in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Veronica’s third and final film for Hammer was The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), although this time it wasn’t Peter Cushing she was facing as the Baron, but Ralph Bates. Right to this day, Veronica still proudly keeps up the Hammer horror spirit by regularly attending fan conventions and talking fondly of her days as a Hammer leading lady. She is also a consummate painter, and often talks of the time Christopher Lee posed for her as she painted his portrait on the set of Dracula Has Risen From The Grave.
Valerie Leon is another very popular Hammer scream queen. Born in London on the 12th November 1945, Valerie landed the role of Tera, a reincarnated Egyptian queen, in Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb in late 1970, through the assistance of James Carreras, who deemed her more suitable for the role than the studio’s first choice, which was Amy Grant. In addition to this, her only Hammer film, Valerie has appeared in a couple of Carry On movies, plus a few James Bond films, and is also famous for being the sexy, seductive lady in the Hai Karate aftershave movie.
Ingrid Pitt’s name is so synonymous with Hammer horror films. She is especially noted for her role as Countess Dracula (1970). Ingrid Pitt was born in Poland on the 21st November 1937, and narrowly escaped imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. Again, just like all the other Hammer actresses mentioned here, it was James Carreras who gave Ingrid her first Hammer part, in The Vampire Lovers (1970). Then, in the summer of that year, Ingrid was offered the role of Countess Elizabeth Bathory in Countess Dracula. She went on to star in various other non-Hammer roles like The Wicker Man (1973), The House That Dripped Blood (1971) and Who Dares Wins (1982). Ingrid sadly died on the 23rd November 2010. She leaves behind a remarkable screen legacy.
Madeline Smith was the sexy star of a string of British comedies in the 1970s. However, she also made her name in three Hammer horror movies: Taste The Blood of Dracula (1969), The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Frankenstein and The Monster From Hell (1974). Born in Hartfield, East Sussex, on the 2nd August 1949, she initially wanted to become a doctor, but was eventually bitten by the acting bug and attended classes at London’s City Lit to improve her acting skills. Her first Hammer role, in Taste The Blood of Dracula, was the comparatively minor part of Dolly, a prostitute in a brothel scene, and a part especially remembered for its snake-charming sequence. Like Veronica Carlson, Madeline occasionally appears at Hammer conventions. She was left a widow in 1989 when her husband, fellow Hammer star David Buck, sadly passed away from a brain tumour. She has one daughter to David, Emily, and it was having to cope as a widowed mother that contributed a lot to the end of her acting career. However, Madeline Smith’s place in Hammer horror history is, like those of all the other scream queens of the studio, is firmly carved, and will always be treasured by the fans.