Count Yorga, Vampire was directed by Bob Kelljan and was released in 1970. This exploitation film stars Robert Quarry as the mysterious Count Yorga. First conceived as a softcore porn and entitled The Loves Of Count Iorga, the end result is a straight horror film, thanks to Robert Quarry.
Count Yorga is a vampire living in a Los Angeles mansion with his brides. To hide his true nature, he presents himself as an expert on séances. A group of friends invite Count Yorga to perform a séance in order to contact Donna’s recently deceased mother. After giving the Count a ride home, Michael and Erica’s van gets stuck in the mud and they end up spending the night on Count Yorga’s property. After being attacked by Count Yorga, Erica develops unusual symptoms. When she disappears, her friends confront the Count, who they suspect is a creature of the night !
Count Yorga, Vampire is 1970’s exploitation at its finest ! It remains in the tradition of classic vampire films of previous decades while adapting the story to modern settings. I found the movie to be a very refreshing take on the vampire genre. Furthermore, it doesn’t feel like a rehash of the story we have seen a thousand times before but instead, the film is an entertaining modernized version of this classic tale.
The highlight of the film is Robert Quarry’s performance as Count Yorga. He portrays a charismatic and enigmatic character. Very charming and refined, it is not surprising that female characters fall under his spell. I especially enjoyed his interactions with human characters ; all the confrontation scenes are well written with very good dialogue.
Though the female characters are very weak, the supporting cast does a decent job. I especially liked the characters’ reaction to the doctor’s theory that Count Yorga might be a vampire. It’s very realistic, going from surprised looks of disbelief to mockery.
The strenght of the film resides in its third act, where most of the action takes place. Though there is no real tension throughout, it has a great atmosphere and ends on a high note. The shocking ending is going to surprise you and you will definitely remember it (along with a famous kitten scene which was heavily edited upon release because of its content).
With its lot of fake teeth and bright red blood, Count Yorga, Vampire is an extremely entertaining vampire film. If you enjoy exploitation films, this one is a must-see.
Arrow Video is releasing the film in a double-feature with its sequel on August 8th, 2016. This edition includes two audio commentaries (one for each film) by David Del Valle, a journalist and film historian. The most interesting feature is an interview with critic and author Kim Newman in which he gives a lot of details on the production of the films and Robert Quarry’s career. A must-see to better understand these exploitation delights !