Yutte Stensgaard: Hammers’ Other “Carmilla”

Yutte was born in Denmark (as Jytte Steensgaard) in 1948, she moved to the United Kingdom to improve her English in 1963. She worked as an au pair, studied stenography and became a model for a time. She was discovered by British producer Betty Box and given small roles as attractive yet decoration in The Girl with a Pistol (1968).

 She then played parts in diverse UK TV-series: The Saint (1968; episode: “The Desperate Diplomat”); Broaden Your Mind (1969) Doctor in the House (1969/70) – in which she played the recurring role of Helga, Dave Briddock’s girlfriend.

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 She moved on to appear in If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969)and once more for Betty Box in the little-seen Bulldog Drummond adventure Some Girls Do (1969). playing “Number One,” leader of an army of miniskirted robots intent on taking over the world (others included Virginia North and Vanessa Howard). Richard Johnson was the debonair hero, and James Villiers the malevolent super-villain.

Yutte then essayed a similar role in the even more obscure Zeta One / The Love Factor (1969), which was an ultra-low-budget slice of sexy SF about a group of outer space cuties called Angvians who battle British agents for control of the Earth. A mark of the film’s quality (or lack of it) can be found in the fact that “Carry On regular Charles Hawtrey gives the only memorable performance!

 She had no inhibitions about taking her clothes off on screen, and so, not surprisingly. soon drifted into low budget sex features like The Buttercup Chain (1970) and A Promise of Bed (1970). This film starred Victor Spinetti as a suicidal bloke whose life was inadvertently saved by a voluptuous party-loving blonde (Vanessa Howard). Running parallel to the main narrative was a humorous sub-plot about a randy taxi driver (John Bird) who dreams of a fantasy world populated by naked sunbathers and stripteasers – one of whom was Yutte!

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The same year she appeared with her clothes on in Betty Box’s Doctor in Trouble (1970), a forgettable addition to the long-running movie series based on Richard Gordon’s books. The rakish Leslie Phillips starred as madcap woman chaser Dr Burke, whose pursuit of mini-skirted Angela Scoular gets him stuck on board on ocean liner and labeled a stowaway. Needless to say James Robertson Justice’s formidable Sir Lancelot Spralt was also along for the farcical voyage. Stensgaard played a character named Eve, who received the full benefit of our hero’s smarmy bedside manner…

After this Yufte began to gather a few credits in the horror/fantasy area, first of all moving to Hammer’s chief rival, Amicus Films, to feature alongside genre giants Christopher Lee. Vincent Price and Peter Cushing in Scream and Scream Again (1970). a confused but entertaining tale of a mad scientist (Price) who is building a super race by attaching other people’s limbs to his laboratory creations. Based on Peter Saxon’s THE DISORIENTATED MAN, the film’s best sequence has one of these super-powerful creations ripping his own arm off to escape police handcuffs. then diving into a vat of bubbling acid!

More television work came with On the Buses (1970; episode: “The New Uniforms”, as Ingrid, a Swedish tourist); Special Branch (1970; episode: “Miss International” as Nina Sareth); sci-fi comedy series The Adventures of Don Quick (1970; as Flosshilda); Jason King (1971; as Arlene in the episode “As Easy as A.B.C.”)

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Stensgaard’s most famous role is that of the vampire Carmilla/Mircalla in Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire (1971). The film was the sequel to The Vampire Lovers (1970), which had starred Ingrid Pitt as Mircalla. The original film was an adaptation of Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. However, Lust for a Vampire shared little with the novel; it only used the vampire characters, and was thus a completely new story. In the film, the bisexual Carmilla infiltrates an all-girl boarding school while falling in love with a novelist.

LUST was to have been Yutte’s big break, but unfortunately the film as a whole didn’t enjoy the same box office success as its predecessor. Clumsily directed by veteran Hammer scriptwriter Jimmy Sangster who zoomed in on bulging cleavage or gory neck bites whenever the plot lagged, it was a very silly affair that reached its nadir with the inclusion of a dreadful song (foisted on it at the last minute by the producers). The tuneless ditty was called ‘Strange Love,’ and was very strange indeed – Sangster admits he prayed for the ground to swallow him up when this came on at a preview screening! At least Sangster was to survive the debacle and go on to find greater fame as a writer/director of Hollywood TV movies. Yutte, on the other hand was to find few other parts she could so effectively get her teeth into.

Stensgaard auditioned for the part of the Doctor Who companion (Jo Grant), alongside third Doctor Jon Pertwee in 1970. Towards the end of her career she appeared in pantomime and the stage-farce Boeing-Boeing (1971). She also appeared on TV as a hostess on the popular game show The Golden Shot hosted by Bob Monkhouse.

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Thereafter she married Tony Curtis (not the film star – the art director on Amicus Films!) and took a few decorative roles in television shows like Jason King (1971; as Arlene in the episode “As Easy as A.B.C.”); The Persuaders! (1971; playing Bibi, a Judo instructress who assists Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis) in the episode “The Morning After”); The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (1972), and anthology series Dead of Night (1972; as Gertrude Wickett in the episode “Bedtime”) before disappearing from the acting scene altogether in the mid-70s. It seems that Yutte’s marriage broke up around about the same time and she moved to Beverly Hills where she remarried and had one child.

She left acting in 1972, and became a Christian and for years worked at a radio station selling air-time and refusing to discuss her acting career.

The Dark Side#07

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