COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970)
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Count Yorga, Vampire was originally written as a soft core porn film and while there are slight hints of this left in the flick, (and some prints are actually called The Loves Of Count Yorga, Vampire) star Robert Quarry (Yorga) refused to do the movie unless it was done as a straight horror. While the resulting 1970 cult classic does have a bit of a reputation, it is actually a bit talky and fairly tame by today’s standards.
Quarry plays Bulgarian vampire Count Yorga who has moved to L.A. and set his fangs on a group of friends by assimilating himself into that group by dating one’s mother…who then mysteriously dies (mysteriously…cough, cough). He then gains their trust by trying to console her daughter, Donna (Donna Anders) with a seance. Soon, one by one, the count goes after the women of the group to start his vampire harem. It’s up to the men, along with a doctor friend, to stop the fiend from putting the bite on their babes.
The film is directed in a pedestrian manner by writer/director Bob Kelljan (Scream, Blacula, Scream) and while he does give us some effective scenes, (the cat, the last act in Yorga’s mansion) in general the film could have used a bit more atmosphere, tension and good old fashioned scares. Yorga is classified by some as a classic 70s horror flick and it does have that nostalgic charm, but there were other early 70s vampire flicks like Blacula and The Night Stalker that just have more bite. Quarry does make a good vampire here. He is handsome and mysterious and can exude a calm menace when Yorga needs to be threatening, but he isn’t given all that much to do as there is a lot of scenes with characters sitting around talking and very little actual action. Quarry is definitely key in making the scenes that are effective work, especially when the film finally picks up a bit in the last act. The rest of the cast, thought, are rather bland and it seems really odd that the first character to suggest the work of a vampire, is the doctor (Roger Perry), who, as a man of science, should be the most skeptical. Also amusing is how quickly the rest of the characters go along with it.
Overall, this is an OK movie and there definitely is some entertainment value, especially with the 70s nostalgia elements, but it’s not quite the flick it’s reputation suggests it is. It is typical of the type of film American International Pictures was releasing at the time and probably would fit right in with the Blacula films, Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Night Stalker as part of a 70s vampire movie marathon.
EXTRA TRIVIA: in a move that echoes some of today’s big studio decisions, Yorga had a number of gore scenes removed by AIP to get a PG rating (GP back in those days for some reason) and reach a larger audience. Today on DVD, those scenes are restored and the film is now rated, ironically, PG-13.
2 and 1/2 fangs.
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