Thursday, October 22, 2015

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971)

THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971) 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 97 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Bob Kelljan
Cast: Edward Walsh, Mariette Hartley, Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Yvonne Wilder


Synopsis: When the overlord of the damned rises again to prowl the shadows, who will stand against The Return Of Count Yorga? Robert Quarry is back as one of the most dapper vampires to ever set up shop in California in this thrilling sequel that really raises the stakes. Revived by the well-known supernatural properties of the Santa Ana winds, our undead leading man takes to the streets with an unquenchable thirst. In search of new blood, Yorga moves next door to an orphanage. But when he crosses paths with a beautiful young woman, the Count's thoughts turn to love. Has the ruler of the night finally found the girl with whom he can share eternity?

Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) returns after his demise in the first film, resurrected by the supernatural forces of the Santa Ana winds of Northern California. This time Count Yorga taking up residence in a very fine manor conveniently located right next to an orphanage for children, which promises a steady flow of fresh blood for some time for himself and his vampire-brides. 

Yorga and his brides are introduced during a great intro scene of a young boy named Tommy finds himself in a most unfortunate place, a forgotten cemetery after dark. As we all know nothing good can happen after dark at a cemetery, Yorga's vampire brides rise up from their graves and Tommy becomes a victim to Yorga, becoming one of his evil minions. Later that evening Yorga attends a Halloween masquerade ball at the orphanage where he meets Tommy's older sister Cynthia Nelson (Mariette Hartley, TV's Law and Order: SVU), and the vampre become instantly infatuated with the young woman, hoping to make her one of his undead vampire-brides. 

Something that separated Robert Quarry from the Hammer-Cushing movies was that he played the undead Count as a suave and dapper gentleman, a well spoken and elegant man out of time draped in his cape and vintage clothing in a contemporary setting, at the masquerade ball it is assumed he is in costume. The way that Quarry goes from smooth to baring his fangs for some pumped up frightful moments can be a lot of fun, but they are few and far between. His sinister brides comes across as more zombie than blood-sucking vamps, but the sight of them appearing in a group does provide some old school fun, just prepare yourself for a bit of a slow-burn, it can be slow going but the movie is punctuiated by some fun moments of fright and humor. 


A lot of the humor comes by way of a pair of inept police detectives played by Craig T. Nelson (Poltergesit) and Rudy De Luca (Transylvania 6-5000), who are vampire-scoffers but who soon enough find themselves on the run from the horde of vampire-brides at Yorga's manor, fighting off not just the blood-sucking brides but Yorg's disfigured  henchman Brudda (Edward Walsh). Of course, every vampire movie needs a Van Helsing type character, and here we have one by way of the elderly Professor Rightstat (George Macready). 

Count Yorga was one of the first vampire franchises to place a vampire in a contemporary setting that I can remmeber, followed by Blacula with William Marshall a few years later, it's old hat these days but  at the time it was something pretty original. The Northern California coastal location makes for a great setting for the movie, a contemporary movie but with a hint of the Gothic originas in the architecture of the orphanage and Yorga's manor, it creates a nice atmosphere of creepiness.

The movie is a little campy in hindsight but very straight-faced, a slow-burn punctuated with some fun moments, including numerous scenes of blood-draining and the horde of vampire brides descending upon a home i a way that echoes the Manson murders. There's also a fun scene of a priest being humorously lured to his death by Yorga into a pit of quicksand. I grew up with the Yorga movies on TV so I have a lot of nostalgia for them, I'd been keen to know what a younger audience makes of it, if they can appreciate it the series for retro-charms and loads atmosphere, or if it comes across as cheesy and slow. 

Audio/Video: The Return of Count Yorga arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a very nice 1080P HD widescreen presentation, in the original widescreen aspect ratio with a pleasing amount of clarity. The vintage colors are strong and robust with solid blacks and shadow detail. This is a nice upgrade from the MGM Midnight Movies release from a few years back , a much crisper presentation than I would have imagined. The English DTS-HD MA Mono audio is nicely balanced with the dialogue, Bill Marx score, and special effects coming through clean and crisp, with optional English subtitles for those like myself who often watch movies in a house full of noisey kids. 

Onto the extras we have a brand new Audio Commentary With Film Historian Steve Haberman And Actor Rudy De Luca with Haberman taking the lead with a wealth of information about the production of the franchise, the cast and crew, and American International Pictures. The remainder of the extras include a trailer, a TV spot, some radio spots and a gallery of posters and promotional images used to advertise the movie. There's also a cool vintage sleeve of reversible artwork, always a nice bonus

Special Features
- Audio Commentary With Film Historian Steve Haberman And Actor Rudy De Luca
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 
- TV Spot (1 Mins) 
- Radio Spots (2 Mins) HD 
- Photo Gallery (3 Mins) 

I love the Yorga movies, I think the movie might be a little slow for a modern youth audience but for us old timers who can enjoy a proper slow-burn with a decent payoff there's a lot to love here, and Scream Factory have done a fine job bringing it to Blu-ray, that while not loaded with bonus features does offer an excellent A/V presentation. For those who might have hoped for a double feature with Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) on Blu-ray, while we didn't get it, the original movie is now on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as stand alone release. 3/5 

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