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Ingrid Pitt, British horror movie star, dies at 73

LONDON - Ingrid Pitt, who survived a Nazi concentration camp and dodged Communist police to become one of Britain's best-known horror stars, died yesterday, her daughter said. She was 73.

Steffanie Pitt said her mother collapsed while on her way to a birthday dinner due to be held in her honor over the weekend. The cause of death wasn't known, although Steffanie Pitt said her mother had recently been in poor health.

Known in Britain principally as the buxom bloodsucker in "Vampire Lovers" and "Countess Dracula," Ingrid Pitt's acting career very nearly wasn't.

Born to a mother of Jewish descent, Pitt was interned in a Nazi concentration camp at the age of 5. She survived the war, but was forced to flee Communist Berlin on the night of her planned stage debut, plunging into the River Spree in a bid to escape East German authorities. In a twist which easily surpassed the drama of the camp horror films in which she starred, she was rescued by an American soldier who would go on to become her husband.

Her movie career was jump-started by her role in the 1968 action-adventure movie, "Where Eagles Dare." The World War II drama would eventually lead to her being taken on by Britain's Hammer Films - home to Christopher Lee's "Dracula."

She would play alongside the horror legend in 1971's "The House That Dripped Blood" and 1973's "The Wicker Man." Steffanie Pitt told The Associated Press that her mother was a determined woman and that "acting was in her blood from the word 'go.' "

It seems her mother would have agreed, writing in her autobiography, "Life's a Scream," that she had a "strong sense of the dramatic even before I was born."

Although Pitt had a series of other roles in film and on television, it was her 1970s vampire films which drew a cult following, with fans crowning her "England's first lady of horror."

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