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Count Yorga, Vampire/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Count Yorga, Vampire
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After a failed seance in which the mysterious Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) attempted to call the spirit of a young woman named Donna's (Donna Anders) recently deceased mother, young couple Paul and Erica (Micheal Murphy and Judith Lang) agree to give the man a ride back to his enormous castle-like home. Their van gets stuck on the way back from dropping Yorga off and they decide to stay the night in their vehicle, despite being out in the middle of nowhere. Alone and defenseless, they are attacked during the night by a strange shrouded man who may or may not be Yorga and Paul awakens to find his lover bearing two puncture wounds on her neck and a strange proclivity for eating kittens raw. Concerned, he enlists the help of Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry), who suggests the impossible: that Erica has been bitten by a vampire and has contracted the disease spread by the undead. Hayes knows that it must be Yorga who has done this, so he gathers Paul and his friends to try and take down the vampire before his evil can be spread and more young lives can be claimed.

While owing its roots more towards traditional horror films, Count Yorga, Vampire could almost be known as a serious spoof of such films. Instead of going the tongue-in-cheek route with the script, the film takes its story seriously, while somehow managing to turn all the normal conventions of horror films on their ears. Half of the film seems to be spent having Dr. Hayes trying to convince all the other disbelieving characters that vampires could actually exist and that one is responsible for everything that is going on. He doesn't do it with the wild eyed raving of a madman either, but with calm, rational explanations of the legend of vampires and how one could exist in the present day. To the screenwriters credit, none of the characters relent on their skepticism (not even the police, whom Hayes routinely tries to contact over the matter), even as Hayes has them getting ready to commit murder in order to prove him right. Even early on, during the seance scenes, the characters refuse to believe in the supernatural and make jokes all throughout the ceremony which end up closing down the proceedings early. While none of this may seem totally fresh to those brought up on horror films of the late eighties and nineties, for its time, Count Yorga was slightly revolutionary.

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Unfortunately, despite its interesting change-of-pace script, the film is bogged down with relentless dialogue scenes that tend to kill its hip edge. The fact that it takes nearly thirty minutes for Paul and Erica to be attacked in their van, an event which is heralded as the beginning of the plot proper, is living proof of how plodding the film is at times. Once the driving force behind the story has occurred, it is still a long time off until the final showdown we know is going to occur between Yorga and the belabored doctor. In between these scenes are dogged explanations of vampire lore and uneventful near-confrontations between the vampire and the characters. For a film that many have claimed to be fast paced, I sure could not tell it from the evidence gleaned here.

DVD Review

Count Yorga, Vampire (on-screen title: The Loves of Count Iorga, Vampire) has been released on DVD as part of MGM's Midnite Movies collection. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been given a rather nice anamorphic transfer. Though the end sequences do seem to be a little grainy, many will find this to be the best presentation of the film ever released on the home video format. In comparison to the scratched up full frame original trailer (the only extra that is included), one will definitely be able to see an improvement with the film's transfer.

As with several other recent MGM DVD releases (such as the Dr. Phibes films), Count Yorga sports a brand new PG-13 rating to go along with its updated transfer. Originally rated PG during a time where it was the only other ratings distinction for adults besides a G or an R, Count Yorga certainly carries its fair share of bloody, gruesome killings of both humans and vampires. I'm sure the update was given to reflect the new feelings towards violence held by the MPAA ratings board that weren't as strict back in the seventies, and this film is certainly deserving of the new rating (if only to warn parents away from showing their children scenes of somewhat intense violence).

Review by Pockets of Sanity

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