[box cover]

Count Yorga, Vampire

Some vampires just don't age well. Compare 1922's silent classic Nosferatu with 1970's "mod" bloodsucker flick, Count Yorga, Vampire, and see which one comes off as the dated period piece. Okay, so that's not a fair comparison. Nonetheless, Yorga's Southern California styles and setting are now Brady Bunch retro-chic, while its self-conscious exploitation of the era's newly liberated "free love" attitudes has in 35+ years slid from being cool to quaint.

Robert Quarry (the bad guy in Dr. Phibes Rises Again) is the charismatic Count, complete with red-lined black cape. A suave, refined sophisticate who lives in your average SoCal spooky manor, Yorga is a master of mesmerism and is building a kinky coven of bewitched beauties in modern L.A. It's up to a local Scooby gang to stop him. Every vampire needs a Van Helsing, and here it's reluctant Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry). Most of the not-quite-fearless vampire killers are brutally dispatched one by one, and they include young actor Michael Murphy. While writer/director Robert Kelljan (Scream, Blacula, Scream!) doesn't shine in either aspect, the script and direction are efficient and functional if not inspiring. Quarry stands out in a performance that, like the movie, stays a half-inch this side of camp.

Yorga was produced through low-budget shock stalwart American International Pictures, home of The Fall of the House of Usher, X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and other genre favorites. Now rated PG-13 "for vampire violence/gore and some sensuality," Yorga began life as a full-bore skin-flick, and a leftover from that incarnation is found on this disc with the opening's alternate title: The Loves of Count Iorga, Vampire. The remaining pre-marital sex by our heroes and Yorga's licentious lair may have lost their titillation factor, but the scene where the would-be vampiress is caught devouring the cat is still one of the memorable moments.

As horror movies go, Count Yorga, Vampire is marginal, which hasn't kept it from attaining a feeble "cult favorite" status, meaning that its fans like it way beyond its objective worth. In good old vampire tradition, The Return of Count Yorga soon followed. It's worse.

(Two father-son trivia points: The completely superfluous opening narration is recited by the producer's father, venerable actor George Macready. And Yorga's musical score was composed by Bill Marx, Harpo's eldest boy.)

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As a DVD, MGM's Count Yorga, Vampire is a bare-bones release consistent with others in the studio's Midnite Movies series. It's your typical unrestored yet healthy print and trouble-free transfer in 1.85:1 (anamorphic). The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack comes in English and French. Some unremarkable source wear is evident, and don't show off your sound system with this disc, but it's all clear and clean enough. "Fun Facts" and the original theatrical trailer are also here.

—Mark Bourne



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