Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

Director: Bob Kelljan

Or should that be The Loves of Count Iorga? Cos that’s the title on the MGM DVD print, with the additional Vampire on a second title card abruptly rushing towards the viewer… which ties in with the slightly vexed story of the film’s origins as a supposed softcore production. The story usually goes that star Robert Quarry told director Bob Kelljan he’d do the film (then indeed called The Loves of Count Iorga) but only if it were done as a straight horror, but this review denies the porno origin story for reasons it doesn’t really give, only opining that the film looks like it might’ve had sex scenes cut from it after filming. I don’t know. Either way, the MPAA were reportedly divided on whether to rate it R or X at the time, and damned if there’s anything meriting an X rating in the film as it stands, and American International (who distributed it) refused to let it go out with any rating harder than PG, so some things did indeed get cut… whether or not everything’s been cut back in since then I don’t know.

Anyway, away from its censorship issues, Yorga is essentially a modernisation of Dracula in large part, insanely cheap ($64,000, apparently) and hugely popular (something like $8m at the box office in 1970), and I presume it may have had some effect on Hammer in the UK who made their own “modern Dracula” just a couple of years later. Unfortunately, cheap and cheerful doesn’t really count in the film’s favour; nothing inherently wrong with the story, but the low budget kind of gets in the way of the execution at times. I mean, the initial plan to wipe out the vampire is literally to just keep him up until sunrise and kind of talk him to death; it’s not the most effects-heavy idea. Yorga really is the sort of film people mean when they say it’s only films that were kind of botched first time round that should be remade; I can see a really good film lurking somewhere in this, maybe even one that actually utilised its modern setting (really, it could’ve just been set in the 19th century). Ill-starred Quarry is much the best thing about the film, playing Yorga with some weight; I do look forward to seeing him reprise the role in the sequel, which some reviews I’ve read tell me is a marked improvement on the original.

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