Count Yorga, Vampire
count yorga vampire | bob kelljan | robert quarry | roger perry | michael murphy | vampire | vampires | drama | fantasy | mystery | romance | thriller | united states | michael macready | donna anders | judy lang | edward walsh | julie conners | paul hansen
Film: Count Yorga, Vampire
Director: Bob Kelljan
Writer: Bob Kelljan
Starring: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry and Michael Murphy
This was a film that I remember first hearing about from the horror film encyclopedia I’m working from. Even more than that though, it was one of the best horror films from the 1970’s from a series of shows they did over the summer. I was quite intrigued to check it out and finally got around to it. The synopsis is a couple invites a Count from Bulgaria, who recently immigrated to America, to conduct a séance fro the woman’s recently deceased mother, oblivious to the fact that he is actually a vampire.
We start this film off with a casket being delivered. It is actually in the back of the truck and we see it as it’s driven to a gated mansion. This is also taking place in Southern California. During its drive, we are given a voice-over narration by George Macready, giving us the lore of vampires.
It then shifts to the séance in the synopsis. It is hosted by Donna (Donna Anders). Her mother is recently deceased and she wants to speak with her. With her is her boyfriend, Michael Thompson (Michael Macready). He isn’t really taking it serious. There are two other couples with them, Paul (Michael Murphy), who definitely is acting like a child as well as his girlfriend Erica Landers (Judy Lang). Running the séance is Count Yorga (Robert Quarry). He finally does seem to conjure something when Donna freaks out. It is on the couch that the Count calms her down and we see he telepathically tells her something and seems to hypnotize her further.
The Count then states he has to leave. He’s offered a ride by Paul and Erica, which he accepts. At the gates, we see that the Count has a servant, Brudah (Edward Walsh), who opens it for them. Yorga invites the couple in for a drink, but they decline. On their way out, they get stuck in the mud. They try to get out, but can’t. They decide to sleep in the van. It is quite eerie as they hear a wolf howling. In the middle of the night, Erica looks out the window to see Count Yorga staring in at them. Paul exits and is knocked out.
The next morning, Paul and Mike are hanging out. Paul tells what he remembers and apparently Erica isn’t feeling well. She is tired and she goes to see Dr. James Hayes (Roger Perry). He finds that she has a low blood count and has two odd puncture wounds on her neck. He seeks out Paul and Mike. It is there he tells them he thinks that a vampire did this. When Erica disappears in the middle of the night, the men take this more serious. Their adversary is much older and stronger than they realize.
Now having seen this film, I do have to say that it’s definitely interesting. It really does borrow some things from Dracula without really being an adaptation of the story. What I mean there is that the big thing with the classic is that Dracula buys a house in London so he can have more victims as the towns around him are pretty much tapped. There is also the idea of the romance where he falls for a girl and wants to make her his bride, depending on the adaptation.
This film brings some of these ideas to the 1970’s. I have seen Dracula films that do this, so it isn’t necessarily a new concept. To actually analyze this film though, I really do think this works. I like a vampire from the old world, in this case Bulgaria, coming to California. What makes it interesting as well is that the casket is just tossed into the back of a truck. I honestly don’t think anyone would question this as long as the payment was made.
Going from that, I really like the idea of taking old world things and bringing to a modern time. When it is brought up that Erica could be bitten by a vampire, we would question it, even more so in the 1970’s than the era of Dracula. We can run tests and we know a lot more about physical ailments. I actually think that a vampire could thrive in this day and age if they were real. There was another aspect, where Dr. Jim is trying to find weapons that Mike states they don’t have a crucifix in the house. This made me chuckle, people are even less religious.
The aesthetic to the film feels like the 1970s. It doesn’t have as bright colors as you would see in many films from the era, but just the look of the characters and the van that Paul drives. This one is from the United States, but it has a touch of feel that it almost could have been a Hammer film with just a little bit of tweaking.
To the pacing of the film, I think it is a bit off for me. I like how it starts out. We jump right into the séance and then get introduced to the characters. Spooky things happen after that, but after Erica is bitten, the film kind of hit a lull for me. I do think that it does pick up when Dr. Jim and Mike decide to confront the Count, but getting there was a bit slow. The ending I thought was quite intriguing. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how they defeated Count Yorga, but the final image is good.
Acting was something that I thought was solid in this one though. Quarry as the vampire I thought was good. He gives off enough arrogance and mysterious that I believe him in his role. He has a good look for the villain as well. Perry was fine as the doctor that even though he’s a man of science, he believes in the supernatural. I do like that actual fact is backing it up as well. Murphy and Macready are both fine in their roles. Anders and Lang were both attractive in a 1970’s type of way and fit for what was needed. I think the rest of the cast rounded it out as well.
To the effects of the film, it actually doesn’t have a lot of them. They were done practically, which is in part due to the time period the film was made. I do like the look of the vampire teeth. This one has them almost looking like piranha where all of their teeth are sharp. This doesn’t make a lot of sense if there are only two puncture wounds on Erica’s neck. There is a scene though where Count Yorga just has the two fangs. Regardless, this doesn’t ruin it, but just something that threw me off.
The final thing to cover would be the soundtrack of the film, which I think is really solid. We get some of the weird sounding songs that were made popular in the era. I do think it helps to build the tension for scenes, which is definitely something I’m looking for in a film. I would say it is one of the stronger aspects and one I would listen to when writing for sure to help set the mood.
Now with that said, I do find this to be a solid vampire film. I love the concept of taking an old world monster and bringing it into an era that is more modern. This film definitely takes into account looking at things scientifically and how people see religion. I think this actually holds up even today. The film borrows elements of Dracula, but really does its own thing. I do think there is a bit of a slight pacing issue later in the second act, but the third really picks it up. I like how it ends. I think the acting is solid and the effects were as well. I enjoyed the soundtrack quite a bit. Overall I’d say this is a good film and would recommend it if you like vampire films.
My Rating: 8 out of 10