Count Yorga, Vampire Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Twilight Time
Written and directed by Bob Kelljan
1970, 93 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on October 27th, 2015
Limited to 3,000 copies.
Robert Quarry as Count Yorga
Roger Perry as Dr. Jim Hayes
Michael Macready as Mike Thompson
Michael Murphy as Paul
Donna Anders as Donna
Judith Lang as Erica Landers
Edward Walsh as Brudah
Sybil Scotford as Judy
Seeking closure in the days following her mother’s funeral, Donna enlists the help of Count Yorga, a medium capable of contacting the spirit world. Her friends Paul, Erica, Mike and Judy join them for a séance, where an exciting encounter with the supernatural leaves Donna emotionally drained. Later that night, Paul and Erica give the Count a ride home, but something strange happens before they can leave. The next day, neither can remember exactly what happened, but Erica is weak and has a pair of puncture marks on her neck. They visit Dr. Hayes, who encourages Erica to rest, but when Erica is abducted, he suspects something else is going on. The doctor tells Mike vampirism may be the cause and suggests that the mysterious Count Yorga could be the villain. His jumps in logic prove to be correct and Hayes leads the charge into Yorga’s home intending to rescue the girl and kill the monster, but what match are a bunch of inexperienced vampire hunters against a creature that has survived centuries?
Count Yorga, Vampire (aka The Loves of Count Iorga, Vampire) owes a stylistic debt to countless Hammer Horror Film productions of the 1950s and ‘60s, as well as the Universal classic Dracula (1931). Unlike earlier incarnations, writer/ director Bob Kelljan (Black Oak Conspiracy) is more interested in uncovering the dark humor that comes with seeing how the vampire character interacts with modern society. Yorga is not a fish-out-of-water story, as the titular character has long adapted to his surroundings and enjoys a life of wealth and taste. He is full of confidence and charm, but has a bit of a mean streak – not because he is a vampire but rather that he is simply bored. He resides in contemporary Los Angeles, where he knows how to blend in at the finest social gatherings and has mastered the game of life for countless generations.
Robert Quarry (Rollercoaster) stars as Count Yorga and gives a career-defining performance that is as commanding of your attention as the vampire himself. Quarry carries the picture by playing it straight and allowing the supporting characters the opportunity to reveal the comedy subtext of the material. Roger Perry (Roller Boogie) is the insightful Dr. Hayes, a man a bit too eager to drive a broken furniture leg into a stranger’s heart on the off chance that he may be a vampire. Yorga is well aware of Hayes’ suspicions and finds his efforts humorous and quaint, but also a bit of a fun distraction. The film suffers pacing problems due to an excessive number of scenes where nothing happens, but all is forgiven whenever Quarry and to a lesser extent, Perry, are on screen. Character actor/ Everyman Michael Murphy (Dead Kids) gets to inject some levity as Paul, the reluctant skeptic. He is more than just comic relief here, as Paul is legitimately concerned for his girlfriend Erica (Judith Lang, The Psycho Lover) who, after their run in with Yorga, most disturbingly is caught eating a cat food treat.
Bob Kelljan never allows his movie to descend into full camp, but at times barely keeps the lid on things. Yorga’s dry sense of humor is something that was not typical in horror cinema and remains a high point of this film. Quarry may not be as charismatic as Bela Lugosi or as strikingly handsome as Christopher Lee, but he brings a certain charm to the role and is always engaging. Count Yorga was originally pitched as a low-budget softcore porno flick, but the producers wisely reconsidered, and yet there are a few moments that maintain the earlier tone. The film was successful enough to spawn the sequel The Return of Count Yorga and launch a ravenous fan base that I am certain will continue to grow as this Blu-ray release introduces the new audiences to the suave vampire.
Video and Audio:
Count Yorga sinks its teeth into Blu-ray with some impressive image quality, as the source materials are in surprisingly great shape. There are a few moments of minor print damage, but nothing worth complaining about and any soft focus shots are more the fault of the camera crew than this transfer. Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture offers a surprising level of detail and is easily a strong improvement over previous editions. Colors are rich, especially the reds that flow when the count is doing what he does best.
The DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono track keeps dialogue levels free from distortion and well balanced with the music and sound effects. There is not a lot of dynamic bite, but the film doesn’t call for it.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
The audio commentary is well worth the listen, as it features the always-welcome historian David Del Valle in conversation with filmmaker/ Yorga super-fan Tim Sullivan. The discussion is lively and touches on a wide range of topics that you won’t want to miss!
Many years ago, Sullivan had the opportunity to interview Robert Quarry for Rue Morgue magazine. The recordings have been lost, but the interview has been recreated in the audio segment My Dinner with Yorga (13 minutes). Reading from the transcript, Sullivan asks his questions while Del Valle channels Quarry’s catty responses. The piece is far more entertaining than it sounds and is well worth a listen.
Jessica Dwyer (Fangoria) hosts the Fangirl Radio Tribute to Robert Quarry (46 minutes), in which she interviews Sullivan about the late, great actor and his career before and after Yorga. Sullivan delivers a wealth of stories that further solidify the idea that Quarry was a highly entertaining man who suffered more than his share of hardships. There are many interesting stories shared here that you will definitely want to check out.
A pair of photo galleries provided by both the MGM studio vault and Sullivan’s personal archive offers a collection of behind the scenes stills and promotional images for marketing the movie.
The original theatrical trailer is only a minute long, but teases just enough content to interest viewers.
Fans will be happy to hear that the original score is included on an isolated track.
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