Sunday, March 12, 2017

Count Yorga, Vampire aka The Loves Of Count Iorga, Vampire

The career of 44-year-old journeyman Robert Quarry received a major boost from COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE, which led to a sequel and an AIP contract as the studio’s next big horror star. What was originally intended as a softcore sex flick by writer/director Bob Kelljan (RAPE SQUAD) and producer Michael Macready (TERROR AT THE RED WOLF INN) was re-edited and released as straight horror based on the belief that Quarry’s regal, sexy performance as a charismatic vampire would make the film a success. Some prints still bear the original title, THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE, but the film is strictly PG fare.

After performing a seance for Donna (Donna Anders) and her friends, Count Yorga (Quarry) is driven home by Paul (Michael Murphy, later in Robert Altman films) and Erica (Judith Lang) in Paul’s van. After dropping off Yorga, the couple is stranded in the count’s driveway and spend the night there, where they are attacked. We see the assailant is Yorga, now pale and bearing fangs, but Paul doesn’t get a glimpse at him and Erica doesn’t remember anything. All she knows is that she has lost a lot of blood and bears two strange puncture wounds on her neck. Nobody apparently having heard of vampires, Erica’s physician, Dr. Jim Hayes (Roger Perry), advises her to eat a lot of steaks.

Only after Paul and his friend Mike (Macready, whose character actor father George contributed the opening narration) walk in on Erica chowing down on her pet cat instead of a juicy steak do they start to believe a vampire may be in their midst. Yorga, who has already taken Erica’s late mother (softcore actress Marsha Jordan) as one of his undead brides, kidnaps the weakened Erica as another, leaving it up to Mike and Jim to storm the Bulgarian count’s mansion on a rescue mission.

Quarry is excellent as Count Yorga — perhaps too good, as the bland but likable Perry, a reliable television actor, and his co-stars are not believable as formidable opponents, either physically or mentally. Placing an old-fashioned vampire story, usually told in a Gothic setting, in modern-day Los Angeles was a novelty at the time COUNT YORGA was released, and Quarry does a nice job straddling the contemporary and the Old World.

Spurred by the success of COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE, AIP not only commissioned a quick sequel, THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, but also a pair of films about Blacula, an African vampire played by William Marshall. Quarry also played a vampire in DEATHMASTER, and co-starred with AIP star Vincent Price (the two actors disliked one another) in two horror movies. Quarry died in 2009.

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