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Count Yorga, Vampire

Do you believe in vampires? Ever stop to think what life would be like if they really existed? Imagine it: creatures that roamed by night feasting on the blood of the living. In your own world. In your own time. Count Yorga, Vampire, like many tales concerning the Nosferatu that preceded it, attempts to show the audience the blasphemous horrors that could ensue at the arrival of a bloodsucker into modern times.

A group of friends attend a séance held by the mysterious foreigner Count Yorga, a handsome aristocrat who arrived in Los Angeles from his home in Bulgaria. When one woman suffers a nervous breakdown when the spirit of her mother is conjured, Yorga is able to calm her down. He also places a hypnotic suggestion in her mind to obey his every demand. Another couple from the group gets stranded on the Count’s castle grounds after giving him a lift. After a little nighttime necking in their Volkswagen, the lovers meet the wrath of Yorga who comes in for his bite. Soon the two women become slaves to Yorga’s terrible lust and it is up to Mike and his physician friend Hayes to exterminate Yorga before his plague can turn the world asunder.

The film had been originally planned to be made into a porno under the title “The Loves of Count Iorga” (the title card of which can still be spotted in the MGM Midnite Movies version of the film). At some point during the project the decision was made to make it into a straight horror film, thus the movie we see before us. Count Yorga still possesses many of the erotic overtones that had been left over from its previous incarnation. The aforementioned scene in the Volkswagen is an out-and-out session of love making set amongst flickering candles and soft core music. There is even a raunchy (as well as random) scene where Count Yorga descends into the crypt of his castle where two beautiful undead maidens lay on slabs. Waking them with his hypnotic powers, Yorga forces one of the brides to embrace the other and head in for a kiss (the camera cuts away before showing anything too explicit). It then focuses in on Yorga’s unflinching face as he stares hardly at the depravity unfolding before him. Yorga=Ancient Creeper.

The movie never forgets its darker roots though. One of the more unsettling scenes occurs when Paul, boyfriend of the attacked Erica, walks into his disheveled apartment after his phone calls go unanswered. He finds Erica huddled in the corner, a mutilated kitten in her hands and her screaming mouth smeared with blood. It is a chilling scene to watch, especially since the cat in the actress’s hands is most definitely real (but thankfully unharmed). The vampire brides, or “snarling she wenches” as I chose to name them, give one the creeps everytime they’re present on screen. Their wide, staring eyes and gaping, fanged mouths make their ghostly faces appear to be the genuine conjuration of your worst nightmares.

Some of the other frightening scenes blend both horror and sensuality together, creating an atmosphere of both revulsion and attraction. In the ever repeated scene of the vampire’s midnight seduction, Yorga appears before the willing Erica as she writhes in ecstasy on her bed. The camera mainly focuses on Yorga’s mouth, the yellow fangs prominently displayed for our displeasure. He embraces the woman and then smothers her in rather nasty kisses, eventually penetrating her throat. The erotic kiss is tinged with the terror of seeing the flowing blood and we are left with the uncomfortable indecision of either being aroused or just weirded out.

There are a few problems with the film that keep it from being a completely awesome vampire flick. There is one particularly annoying sequence where Paul is conversing with his pal Mike on Erica’s strange behavior after the ordeal at Yorga’s place. The scene is made up of nothing but long shots of the two walking through the streets of L. A., the audio sounding like it was clearly recorded elsewhere. We never see their faces or can really make out their actions… it’s just walking, and walking, and talking, and walking. Granted the dialogue is necessary exposition, but it seems that the filmmakers could have been a little more creative instead of giving us this banal street side trekking. Some of the performances are also a bit lackluster. The film at times seems to be missing that essential spark that creates chemistry and excitement between the characters. At times the lines are just delivered a little too stiffly (heh heh), creating a bored, static atmosphere that takes the injection of some bloody stakings and bloodsucking mayhem to pick things up and get the ball rolling again.

But, deadicated reader, don’t let my trifle neckpicking give you the wrong impression of this film. Count Yorga, Vampire is a fun excursion into the realm of vampire skullduggery that is enjoyable enough to pass the witching hour with. Watch it for the cold, steely performance of Robert Quarry as the unholy Count. Watch it to quiver in fear (or delight) at the sight of the blood-hungry brides shrieking in demonic glee. Watch it to see a smoking doctor hand out medical advice! Whatever your fear or fetish may be, blow out the dust from your DVD player to hunker down and give this old ditty a shot.

- Jose Cruz. (May 14, 2010)