Review: The Count Yorga Collection
Blu-ray: The Count Yorga Collection (1970, 1971)
Count Dracula was introduced to cinema audiences in Tod Browning’s 1931 classic ‘Dracula‘; a suave vampire who impressed his future victims with his confident and aristocratic demeanour, a far cry from Count Orlok in Nosferatu who kept himself hidden in the shadows. By the time Count Yorga, Vampire was released in 1970 there had been a multitude of iterations on the Dracula story released into cinemas, and as the 60’s gave way to the 70’s, movie studios were intent on bringing Dracula (and all variations of him) into the present day.
Writer/Director Bob Kelijan struck gold by having Robert Quarry in the role of Yorga. Handsome and charismatic, Quarry was perfectly cast as the Bulgarian Count who arrives on the shores of California…to be whisked into Los Angeles in a rickety wooden coffin on the back of a flatbed truck in plain view of everyone! Mostly known for television appearances, Robert Quarry made the part of Count Yorga his own and seemingly revelled in playing the self-assured and fearless vampire.
Despite having the occasional moment of levity, the overall atmosphere of Count Yorga, Vampire is one of brooding tension; both sexual and of imminent violence. The scene with a kitten will stay in your mind forever…I’ll say no more!
The clothes and locations all reflect the 1960’s as it tries in vain not to give way to the new decade, but all of these add a patina of nostalgia to the proceedings. I especially love watching out for the cars in older movies, and this has a great camper van where the horror staple of ‘have sex and die’ is once again brought to the fore. This makes more sense when Kim Newman in one the fantastic special features (see below) explains that it was originally going to be filmed as a low budget soft-core movie called ‘The Loves of Count Iorga, Vampire!’ before the decision was made to make it a straight horror movie. This is the title still used at the beginning of this Arrow Films release as it is the longest version that is available. Although some nudity and brief sexual fumbling still occurs, the soft-core scenes that were filmed have long since been lost.
Special mention has to go to Edward Walsh who play’s ‘Brudah’; Yorga’s loyal valet. Resembling a cross between the Addam’s Family ‘Lurch‘ and a completely drunk and dishevelled Doug Stanhope, Brudah isn’t the sharpest tool in the box…see the aforementioned way in which he collects his master from the shipping docks!
Count Yorga, Vampire was a big hit and so a sequel was greenlit immediately, which led to The Return of Count Yorga being released the following year in 1971. With a bigger budget, this led to bigger and more opulent sets as well as a bigger cast; though many members of the original movie return but as different characters (see if you can spot them).
Beginning with a haunting graveyard scene where the recently revived undead claw their way through the earth to chase Tommy (Philip Frame as a young boy who I defy you to have any empathy for by the time the end credits roll), the movie plays more like a reimagining of the original than a true sequel. How did Yorga return? Why did he return at a barn dance!? Brudah is back but now called Brudda, is that supposed to explain his reappearance after what happened in the original? Despite all the questions the sequel (reimagining?) raises, it is still a creepy movie with a great vampire lead. An attack on a house by the undead almost pips the ‘kitten scene’ from the 1st movie as being most memorable.
I’ve deliberately been vague regarding plot points and storylines as these are 2 movies that you should go into knowing as little as possible. If you are a fan of the Christopher Lee Hammer versions of Dracula, then you should definitely get a kick out of them. Fans of The Twilight Saga will probably be left lamenting the lack of sparkles.
Overall this is an unmissable double movie collection that is accompanied by superb special features that are the (blood splattered) icing on the cake.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- High Definition digital transfers of both Yorga films, from original film elements by MGM
- Original mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary on Count Yorga, Vampire by David Del Valle
- Audio commentary on The Return of Count Yorga by David Del Valle
- Interview with critic and author Kim Newman
- Theatrical trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- First pressing only: Booklet featuring new writing on the films by Frank Collins
The Complete Count Yorga Collection will be available to buy from August 8th, 2016.