Star Archive

Barbara Shelley (1932 - 2021)

Barbara Shelley has perhaps the best claim to be Britain's premiere Scream Queen. In a different era she would have been a rival to Valerie Hobson, but she arrived on the scene as the 50s horror cycle was about to start, settled into it fairly early and happily stayed there for most of her film career.  

She was born in London and began her career as a model. This lead to her first film role, in Hammer's Mantrap, appearing under her original name as Barbara Kowin. During a trip to Italy she struck up an acquaintance with Walter Chiari, a popular comedian of the time, and he helped her break into the Italian film industry. He also persuaded her to change her name to Shelley. She made 9 films there, steadily working her way up the billing order, before returning to England.

Her first film was as the lead in Cat Girl, as a woman who may or may not turn into a leopard when aroused. This would become her horror persona: a stately, reserved exterior with ungovernable fires beneath. It's certainly true of her best-remembered roles as the woman turned into a vampire in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, and the scientist with psychic abilities in Quatermass and the Pit

She also had a flourishing career in TV and on stage. There's scarcely a TV show she didn't perform in including Eastenders and Crown Court, and of course the sci-fi/fantasy classics Dr Who, Blakes 7 and The Avengers. She retired from acting in the late 80s.

She spend the last few years of her life in a nursing home where she died from Covid complications.    


1953 Mantrap
1955 Luna Nova
1955 Destinazione Piovarolo
1955 I quattro del Getto Tonante
1955 Ballata Tragica
1955 Lacrime di Sposa
1955 Motivo in Maschera
1956 Nero's Weekend
1956 Toto, Peppino e i Fuorilegge
1956 Suprema Confessione
1957 Cat Girl
1957 The End of the Line
1958 The Camp on Blood Island
1958 Blood of the Vampire
1958 The Solitary Child
1959 Deadly Record
1959 Bobbikins
1959 Murder at Site 3
1960 Village of the Damned
1960 A Story of David
1961 The Shadow of the Cat
1962 Postman's Knock
1962 Death Trap
1963 Stranglehold
1964 The Gorgon
1964 Blind Corner
1965 The Secret of Blood Island
1966 Dracula, Prince of Darkness
1966 Rasputin: The Mad Monk
1967 Quatermass and the Pit
1974 Ghost Story

Barbara Shelley at Amazon UK 

Barbara Shelley at Amazon US