Together on one blu-ray disk, ‘Count Yorga’ and ‘The ‘Return Of Count Yorga’. A modern day update, well for 1970s that is, of the vampire myth. The only thing really holding them back was budget and with much of the production done in studio sets but that was also the norm of its day.
Count Yorga (1970) 93 minutes
cast: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready, Donna Anders, Judy Lang and Edward Walsh
After holding a troubled séance, Count Yorga (actor Robert Quarry) is given a lift home by Paul and Ericka Landers (actors Michael Murphy and Judy Lang), who decline an offer a drink at his house and further down the road, their camper van gets trapped in a pothole. Ericka is a little creeped out by Yorga, so they nestle down for the night, except a certain vampire is hungry. The next morning, they can’t remember anything that happened and back in London, can’t figure out how Yorga isn’t home when they tried to get his help, considering their van was blocking his driveway.
Back in the city, Ericka is inspected by Doctor James Hayes (actor Roger Perry) who later tells her husband and friends she might have been bitten by a vampire and goes to find out more details by telephoning a friend away in a foreign country as you do.
However, when Erika goes missing and Paul chases after her, the other three, Hayes, Michael and Donna (actress Donna Anders), follow to Count Yorga’s house, not knowing both are already gone. Yorga is guarded but hospitable. They want to stay until dawn to see what happens to him but he persuades them to go and come again the following evening.
Hayes tries to convince Michael that Yorga has to be killed but there is still the dilemma as to if Yorga really is a vampire, despite the fact that there have been sixteen instances of odd deaths reported lately in the newspapers.
Later that day, Yorga having hypnotised Donna the previous night mentally calls her over. Hayes and Michael follow and while the doctor entertains Yorga, the latter makes his own discoveries.
Despite a couple scenes filmed outside, much of this story is studio bound and depends a lot on dialogue with sudden volleys of action when needed. Quarry’s presence as Yorga is hypnotic, rising above the script, and its obvious to see why the film was a success at the time. If anything, it’s more of a surprise that it became a cult classic in the days of rarely being seen on TV and the days before video. I can’t remember if I saw it in the cinema but have a feeling I might have been a tad too young to pass as 16 and just missed it.
The Return Of Count Yorga (1971) 97 minutes
cast: Robert Quarry, Mariette Hartley, Roger Perry, George Macready, Yvonne Wilder and Edward Walsh
The sequel, ‘The Return Of Count Yorga’ is very similar to the first film, only with the names and roles changed, including a bunch of police officers this time, but that’s much later.
At the beginning, Count Yorga (actor Robert Quarry) is an uninvited guest at a fancy dress party at the house next door but charms everyone there. Later that night, he sends some of his female friends around for a bite but keeps one girl, Cynthia Nelson (actress Mariette Hartley) for himself. Not to make her into a vampire, but because he’s fallen in love with her. Yorga hypnotises her into thinking she survived a car accident but essentially keeps her a prisoner. It’s only when one of her friends gets the police involved that they unwittingly investigate. I mean, would you believe there was a vampire active in America? Nice twist at the end.
This really is a film that is dying to be camp. Although re-scripted by Yvonne Wilder (she plays the deaf woman in the film) there are some odd lapses in logic. It’s a bit of a puzzle when in the vampire phase they all lose the power to speak and, especially the ladies, act a tad like zombies. Granted it might have added to the cost to have any of them say anything but it is a bit odd why Yorga would have so many brides who must surely have fed into his own blood needs.
Extras: The first extra is a 32 minute discussion from Kim Newman of the first film and how it was nearly a skin-flick. He also goes on to explain how the ‘Count Yorga’ plot was liberally borrowed for other cheap vampire films. I would recommend watching this one after seeing both films.
There is an 86 stills photo gallery and audio commentaries for both of them, columnist/film expert David Del Valle and filmmaker C. Courtney Joyner. They explain for ‘The Return Of Count Yorga’, its less a second film and more a remake with more money. Even so, watching one after the other, but giving myself a couple days between to avoid staleness, I’m less inclined to see it as a total remake as some elements were changed. I should point out that both commentaries fill in a lot of background detail about production, Robert Quarry himself and other things at the time and after.
Even so, back in the 1970s, when Hammer Films had so successfully milked the ‘Dracula’ myth in its own films up to that point, another studio releasing another vampire series of its own must have felt like a big gamble, even if it was supposed to originally be a skin-flick. The fact that the cheaper ‘Count Yorga’ was more successful that its more financially endowed sequel should tell you it isn’t always about money.
Although slow by comparison to modern films, there are a very jump moments and whether you want to re-live your past or, as a younger generation, want to see what your grandparents watched or purely to lay your hands on a cult classic, then this blu-ray will give you that opportunity.
(region 2 blu-ray: pub: Arrow Films. 1 blu-ray 2 films (93m and 97m) with extras. Price: £12.99 (UK). Cat Number: FCD1349)
check out website: www.arrowfilms.co.uk/