COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE -Twilight Time (limited run 3,000 copies) 1970 – 93 mins- original rating GP (now PG-13) BLU RAY $29.95 http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/count-yorga-vampire-blu-ray/
On June 10, 1970, A.I.P. released a low budget pick up vampire film. The movie had cost about $64,000 (costs vary) and had begun life as a soft core porn film. The lead actor agreed to play the role on his time away from a big budget film (WUSA) which meant weekends and weekday evenings. The actor, who thought it was a nice way to make a few extra bucks (only $1,249 for starring, plus a $350 bonus), felt it would come and go while the big budget film would help his career.
A.I.P. submitted the film several times to the ratings board, until they got the GP rating they so desperately wanted, excising a few minutes of gore (most infamously, the suggested killing of a kitten).
No one expected the film to do the box office that it did, but, in the year that LOVE STORY ruled the roost, a small indie film that began life as “The Loves of Count Iorga” earned about $8 million.
COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE was not the first vampire to be set in contemporary times (the original DRACULA (1931) seems to be set in then present day )but after all the Gothic horrors that Hammer had popularized , YORGA was seen as innovative. Most compelling was the performance by then 45 year old actor Robert Quarry . With his strong good looks and mesmerizing voice, his vampire could be either charming or deadly in a moment .
When I myself played Dracula, I asked the star how does one play a vampire ,and he gave me a superlative bit of advice. “ You’ve lived a long time, so you have picked up a lot of knowledge .You are charming ,witty, and have only one bad habit. Also , move slowly unless you are attacking. Let others come to you-a spider in the web.”
When you watch his performance, you know that he consciously made such choices in playing Yorga. In the film he appears mysteriously without explanation where he came from. Instead what we presume to be his coffin is brought from the docks to a California mansion. We then jump to a party wherein a Donna (Donna Anders) is holding a séance, presided over by the mysterious Count Yorga. When things get a bit out of hand, Yorga hypnotizes Donna to calm her. Later, Erica (played by Judy Lang) and her boyfriend Paul (Michael Murphy) drive Yorga to his home. The couple decide to make love within their van but are soon attacked by a now ferocious Yorga .Paul was knocked out but did not see his attacker and Erica recalls nothing of the attack the next day.
Erica begins to act differently, listless and odd, and finally found drinking the blood from her dead kitten (a scene cut to near a near subliminal shot in its original release). Friend Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry) performs an emergency blood transfusion in hope of helping Erica.
Yorga meantime amuses himself in his mansion, watching his undead “brides” engage in sex for his amusement (a quick cut away to Quarry watching but the implication is there. In the original softcore version I am sure it was far more explicit). One of the brides, implied to be Donna’s mother whom she was trying to contact via the séance, is played by Marsha Jordan, a soft core star of the 1960s.
Dr. Hayes, Paul, and Michael (Michael Macready, also the film’s producer .He is the son of George MacReady , Prof. Ernst from MONSTER & THE APE (Columbia,1945 ).George provides his beautiful voice as the film’s opening and closing narrator . ) begin to believe Erica’s behavior is caused by a vampire and suspect that Yorga is the leader. Erica is drained of blood by Yorga, brought to his home as his new “bride’. Paul goes there and is quickly killed by Yorga and his servant Brudah (Edward Walsh).
Near the finale, Dr. Hayes is confronting Yorga. The Doctor repeatedly calls out for help from Michael. Yorga, in a magnificent display of power, mockingly echoing his cries of “Michael!”and laughing more and more maniacally. This scene is Quarry at his villainous best.
The film ends with a downbeat fashion, in that although Yorga is slain, evil apparently wins.
The Blu Ray release from TWILIGHT TIME is, in a word, amazing. The image quality has been cleaned up and sharpened so much that film looks and sounds clearer than it did in its original theatrical release. The original Thorn EMI VHS release was very muddy and dark (by that time AIP had folded shop and Orion had obtained the AIP library). MGM later acquired the library, and cleaned up the prints quite a bit. When they released the two films as a Midnight Movie co-bill DVD, the bloody kitten scene had been restored and the sharpness of the picture was much cleaner. The new Blu Ray makes that previous copy look obsolete.
For that alone I would recommend people pick up the BLU RAY. However, they go the extra mile with extras. For visual comparison on what the film used to look like, go to the original trailer included here. The film can be watched with just an isolated score track. Also, most fun and informative is listening to film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker Tim Sullivan’s informative commentary track .Also included is a still gallery both from MGM and Tim Sullivan’s private collection , several of the stills are private moments with an older Bob goofing about with Tim, as well as rare production stills ,including a few which show several of the sex scenes that were shot but abandoned .Also a recreation by Del Valle & Sullivan recreating a lost audio interview between Quarry & Sullivan. Finally, a radio interview with the horror actor and Sullivan is included. The cover art is the same artwork from the MGM DVD release. Inside is a small booklet with a beautiful Yorga illustration that contains a story summary by Julie Kirgo Only 3000 copies of this BLU RAY are being made, so don’t miss out on getting this definitive version of the vampire classic.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!!! – GET IT. -KEVIN G SHINNICK