Release Date(s)1970 (October 13, 2015)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Twilight Time)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
Count Yorga, Vampire, released in 1970, wasn’t the first vampire horror movie that moved out of the normal Victorian, gothic setting, which was a staple of Hammer Productions and American International Pictures, but it was the first to take place during the 1970’s. Robert Quarry stars in the title role as a vampire posing as a medium who moves into town and begins drinking the blood of his customers. It also stars Michael Murphy and features opening narration by George Macready.
Count Yorga, Vampire actually began its life as a softcore porno, and was even being shot with that in mind. There was apparently some titillating footage shot that was ultimately cut out. Somewhere during the production, they decided that the movie itself was strong enough to be a straight up horror film instead. At the time of the film’s inception, Robert Quarry was sort of being groomed to take the place of Vincent Price at A.I.P. It never really came to full fruition, however, due to there not really being many projects for him to work on as A.I.P. was into its twilight years as a studio at that time.
The film is also unusual in other ways as well. Besides the aforementioned softcore porno elements, which gave the film highly sexual undertones, it also changed the nature of what a vampire could be. For instance, instead of a simple set of fangs, the vampires in this film have great rows of teeth. Quite often they bite their victims on the face repeatedly rather than sinking them into their necks as is done traditionally. It gave the vampires a bit more of an edge and made them a little more primordial. It also wasn’t a story about vampires seducing women or finding true love centuries later. Yorga was different in that he was simply out for blood and not much else. At once, his character is both sophisticated and deadly, and is one of the more effective vampire figures out there as far as horror films go.
Count Yorga, Vampire was originally titled The Loves of Count Iorga, Vampire, particularly when it was still being made as a softcore porno, but when it was distributed in the U.S., A.I.P. changed the title to make it simpler. It worked as the film was a big hit in the drive-in circuit, and was purportedly the third-highest grossing movie for A.I.P. in 1970. It has a very retro 1970’s feel, not unlike Dracula A.D. 1972, which came later, but it’s also an effective horror movie with good performances.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray transfer of Count Yorga, Vampire features a very clean presentation. According to Tim Sullivan in the audio commentary, this print was sourced from a very recently struck print of the movie that was paid for by Frank Darabont. It’s quite obvious too, as this is a top-notch presentation. It’s a sharp transfer of an otherwise soft-looking film, but it has a very even and organic grain structure throughout. There are some very good textures on display, especially in close-ups, with excellent color reproduction and nice skin tones. Blacks are not always deep as they sometimes carry heavy grain, and there’s also some intended, or perhaps unintended, crush when it comes to shadow details. Contrast and brightness levels are quite acceptable, as well. The image is slightly unstable towards the beginning of the film, but eventually it evens out. There are no signs of digital enhancement or tweaking, but there are some very minor film artifacts left behind, including some black and white specks. However, the most glaring artifacts are some very apparent streaks running through the center of the frame in one shot during the latter half of the film, which lasts not much more than a few seconds. All told, this is the best this film has ever looked on home video, by far. For the audio presentation, a single audio track is available, which is an English mono DTS-HD track. It’s a good-sounding track, overall, with clean dialogue and a vibrant score. Because of its one channel nature, it’s a little flat overall, but appropriate for the presentation at hand. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them.
As for the extras, you get a very nice array of material. There’s Twilight Time’s usual isolated score audio track; another great audio commentary with film historians David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan; My Dinner with Yorga: The Robert Quarry “Rue Morgue” Interview – a Reading by David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan; a Fangirl Radio Tribute to Robert Quarry with Tim Sullivan; a still gallery from the MGM archives; a still gallery from the Tim Sullivan archives; the original theatrical trailer; an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer; a scoll-through of Twilight Time’s current catalogue; and a 6-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo.
Count Yorga, Vampire isn’t held up as a horror classic quite in the same way as some of the other notable vampire movies of the era are, but it’s still got plenty of unique and memorable ideas to make it worth your time. If you haven’t seen it, this is the best possible way to do so, at home at least. With a terrific presentation and great extras, this is another Twilight Time release worth investing in.
- Tim Salmons