Wednesday, October 28, 2015

COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) (BLU-RAY REVIEW)

COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) 

Region Code: Region Free (A/B/C)
Duration: 93 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Video: 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1 / Color
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Bob Kelljan
Cast: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready, Donna Anders


Centuries old vampire Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) has set-up himself in sun-drenched Southern California, where he has established himself as something Bulgarian mystic, who performs séances. We find him at the home of Donna (Donna Anders), whom has brought in Yorga in hopes of contacting her deceased mother from beyond the grave, it's a fun set-up and quickly establishes Yorga's place in contemporary California society.

At the party a young woman named Erica (Judy Lang) catches the eye of Count Yorga, a familiar vampire trope with a young woman who reminds the centuries old blood-sucker of a past love. After the seance Yorga catches a ride home with Erica and her wise-cracking boyfriend  Paul (Michael Murphy), a sort of hippie-type couple who drive a VW Bus. The image of a vampire in the backseat of a VW Bus is one you might want to ponder for a while, too funny. 

After they drop the Count off at his home the young couple become stranded on a remote stretch of road when their van becomes stuck in the mud, they choose to spend the night in the van, in the dark night they hear wolves howl, Yorga appears as his animalistic blood-sucking self and knocks Paul out, tasting the blood of Erica, infecting her with vampire-virus. 

The next day Erica visits Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry) about the strange puncture wounds on her neck, he notices she has lost a lot of blood and is fatigued but he doc cannot diagnose what the cause of her injury or illness might be. The next day Paul comes home to discover Erica with a bloody dead cat in her hands, drinking blood from the dead feline, animal overs might want to avoid this scene, it's a shocker! 

Meanwhile Donna's boyfriend, Paul and Dr. Hayes begin to discuss what could be the cause of Erica's worsening state of being, joking about vampirysm but not truly believing that something supernatural is afoot. Eventually the crazy notion becomes the most plausible explanation, when Erica goes missing the friends launch an assault on the Yorga mansion on a mission to stake the undead blood-sucker through the heart. 

I love '70s horror movies, there's always a certain amount of kitsch for me with them, the vintage clothing, tacky wallpaper, I just love to watch and enjoy them, they're slower movies usually that can take awhile to build up a head of steam, but Yorga is not too slow, it has a great pace and some good atmosphere, sure it's a drive-in cheapie but there's some good craftsmanship up on the screen, they do a lot with very little, and it shows. 

Add to that a wonderfully suave and dapper portrayal by veteran actor Robert Quarry who exudes a centuries old world charm, a very smooth vampire, one who can talk a woman right off her feet, even without having to hypnotize them, but he does that, too. The actor has mesmerizing eyes, light colored, and they set him apart from other vampires in cinema, plus he can turn from elegant to animalistic blood-thirsty vampire on a dime, when he bares his fangs he is straight-up threatening, it really is Quarry that makes the Yorga movies a success. 

Audio/Video: Count Yorga, Vampire (1971) arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited edition run of 3000 copies, the new 1080p upgrade tightens up the visuals quite a bit. The movie was an AIP cheapie and didn't have the best lighting which does negatively affect many of the darker scenes, but this far advances over the previous standard-def version I have on the shelf. The DTS-HD MA Mono audio track reproduces the audio faithfully, balancing the dialogue, audio effects and Bill Marx score very nicely. 

Onto the extras Twilight Time have packed quite a few noteworthy extras for the release, many of which seem to have found there way here thank in part to filmmaker Tim Sullivan, who is a super fan of the movie and of actor Robert Quarry. The 'My Dinner with Yorga: The Robert Quarry Rue Morgue Interview', is a recreation of an interview that Sullivan recorded with Quarry in 2003, the audio tapes were lost for the interview but the interview is recreated here through a reading by David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan, with Del Valle doing a great job channeling his inner Yorga. It's fun stuff and you can almost imagine Quarry sitting there for the interview, a fun and animated audio extra. Sullivan again appears on another audio-only extra as a guest on the Fangirl Radio Tribute to Robert Quarry, which runs 46-minutes. 

There's also an audio commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and guess who ... Tim Sullivan. A lively and informed discussion from both men who not only love horror, and love the Yorga movies but speak as men who were friends with Robery Quarry.

The disc is finished-up with two galleries, one from the MGM archives featuring various posters and behind-the-scene hots and promotional pics, then we have the Tim Sullivan archives featuring images from the 2003 Rue Morgue interview session, from screenings of the Yorga films and various pics of Sullivan and Quarry hanging out together, a few with Quarry flipping the bird. We finish up the disc extras with a trailer for the movie. 

Onto the packaging we have a clear Elite case with the very familiar artwork that was also used for the MGM Midnight Movies release of the movie, while it's not a reversible sleeve there is artwork on the reverse side of the sleeve, an illustration of Yorga baring his fangs, very cool. There's an 8 pg. collector's booklet with new writing on the movie from TT staff writer Julie Kirgo, which as per the usual is a treat to read. TT always creates new artwork fr the covers of the booklets and I loved his one, it should have been a reversible artwork option, a fantastic illustration of Yorga with a blood-red image of L.A. appearing amidst his flowing cape. 

Special Features: 
- Isolated Score Track 
- 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 (13 Mins) HD 
- Fangirl Radio Tribute to Robert Quarry with Tim Sullivan (46 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery: The MGM Archives 
- Still Gallery: The Tim Sullivan Archives 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1 Mins) 

Count Yorga, Vampire holds up forty-five years later, and not on a kitscy level either, you might read some campy humor into it but it's not onscreen, it's just in your mind, because it's a relic of the seventies and you expect it, but Quarry raises the material quite, this is just a great vampire entry. Fans of Quarry's Yorga will be thrilled to know that The Return of Count Yorga (1971) is also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, though with slightly fewer extras than this TT disc. If you're a fan of blood-sucking cinema you need this one, you need it now, you need it bad. 3.5/5

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