Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Girls of Grindhouse: Caroline Munro

Caroline Munro was born in Windsor, Berkshire on January 16, 1950 and grew up in a Catholic convent school in Rottingdean near Brighton.  When she was 16, her mother and a photographer friend sent in some headshots of her to the British newspaper The Evening News which was having a "Face of the Year" contest.  Caroline won and her modelling career began.  At the age of 17 she signed a contract with Vogue and moved to London where she became a cover girl in fashion and television and eventually in 1969 began posing for her famous Lamb's Navy Rum posters.  In addition to modelling, Caroline was also a singer.  Also at the age of 17 while still in convent school, she released her first single called "Tar and Cement."

The popularity of her early ads led to some bit parts in films such as Casino Royale (1966) and Where's Jack? (1969) So now in addition to being a model and singer, Caroline Munro was also an actress.  She signed a one year contract with Paramount Studios and starred in the comedy/western A Talent for Loving (1969) where she me her first husband, Judd Hamilton.  She next starred opposite Vincent Price as his dead wife in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rides Again (1972).

These two films and the success of her Lamb's Rum posters attracted the attention of Hammer Film Productions CEO James Carreras who liked Caroline's posters so much that he tracked her down and brought her in for a screen test.  She was signed to a one year contract and was given her first role in Dracula AD 1972.  After filming, she decided to make acting her first priority instead of modelling.  Until that time she thought of herself as a model who also did some acting,  now she was an actress who also did some modelling.  In 1974 she finished her contract with Hammer Studios as the gypsy girl in the swashbuckling adventure Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter.  Hammer still wanted her in their films but Caroline declined roles in Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell because they would require her to be naked.  She would adhere to this personal no-nudity clause throughout her acting career, which of course would cost her roles.

The 1970s was a good decade for Caroline's career.  After her success with Hammer Films she starred in some high profile movies such as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), the Rosemary's Baby ripoff The Devil Within Her (1975), At the Earth's Core (1976) with Peter Cushing, and in 1977 she became a Bond girl when she played helicopter pilot Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me.  She had to turn down the role of Ursa in Superman to do so.  In 1978 she starred opposite "The Hoff" himself, David Hasselhoff,  in Starcrash and looked pretty damn good in the process.

In the 1980s Caroline's films were more trashy and "grindhousey."  She was in Maniac (1980) which was a gory and controversial slasher, then The Last Horror Film (1981), Slaughter High (1986) where she played a teenager at the age of 36, Paul Naschy's Howl of the Devil (1987), Jess Franco's Faceless (1988) and Luigi Cozzi's The Black Cat in 1989 - which would be her last major film performance. During this decade she was also in music videos for Meat Loaf and Adam Ant and even released a dance single of her own called "Pump Me Up" in 1984.

Her marriage to Judd Hamilton fell apart and they divorced in 1986, but she found love again and married George Dugdale in 1990.  Together they have two daughters, Georgina and Iona.  After The Black Cat, Caroline essentially left her acting career to concentrate on her family.  She has had cameos in a couple of movies since then such as Night Owl in 1993 where she played herself, To Die For (1994), and Domestic Strangers (1996) which she did as a favor for friend and director Jeffrey Arsenault, but she has never really returned to a career in film.