Count Yorga, Vampire / The Return of Count Yorga
Count Yorga and its sequel were an American attempt to ape the Hammer Horror aesthetic. On the surface, they more-or-less succeed in that goal; but dig deeper and you’ll find none of the style or depth that made their British counterparts legendary.
When I say the Yorga films look like those from Hammer; I don’t mean the great Hammer films, but the later ones that take place in the ’70s, like The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Hammer, of course, was at its best when it was doing period pieces. The studio mastered the art of Gothic horror, and typically stumbled when it reached into the future; because characters like Dracula and Frankenstein are Gothic in origin, and that’s where they fit best.
But I’m supposed to be talking about Yorga, or Iorga, as the title card reads. Yorga is Dracula. I don’t know why they didn’t just call him that. Maybe there was a competing film at the time, or maybe they just wanted something they could trademark; either way, there’s nothing unique to set Yorga apart from the other count. Actually, there’s nothing defining about Yorga at all. He doesn’t seem to have any larger goals beyond sucking off a few women. He’s boring, with a stilted speech pattern and no visible emotion. He mentions that he’s from Bulgaria, but we don’t see his homeland, nor are we told how or why he came to America.
Most of the story in the first Yorga movie is lifted directly from Dracula. Yorga is a mysterious foreigner who installs himself in society and targets its ladies one by one. One of the women is slowly drained over the course of the movie (just like Lucy Westenra), complete with in-home blood transfusion and a doctor who hazards the word ‘vampire’ and is scoffed at.
The second movie is a little better. According to the film trivia, this one was supposed to have a lot of nudity, but the star, Robert Quarry said no. It’s still the same set-up. Yorga arrives at an orphanage, and installs himself in its society (the staff and clergy). But then, Yorga creates a small army of vampire ladies and one brainwashed boy to do his bidding (whatever that is; he still doesn’t have a purpose in life). The extra help leaves Yorga time to sit around watching TV (no, really). Ironically, what he watches is The Vampire Lovers, a Hammer Horror film which is far better than Yorga’s outings. It seems gives the film a meta-fictional element; where neither the star, nor the audience is particularly interested in what’s going on in the film.
The Count Yorga films capture the superficial elements of Hammer Horror; but leave behind everything that makes them great. Yorga himself is a painfully dull character. He does virtually nothing, and yet Quarry still finds a way to over-act the part. The plots are equally shallow, with no real direction or reason.