Count Yorga, Vampire is a retelling of Dracula, modernizing it to the then-contemporary 1970 and changing the locale to Los Angeles. It’s also incredibly low budget–not so low budget it has bad acting (its acting is actually the strong-point)–but it has blacked out windows on houses and cars (so night scenes can be shot at day), obviously day-lighted shots in cars standing in for shots at night, really boring and unbelievable sets (the final showdown takes place in what appears to be an under-decorated hotel hallway). The best is when two of the characters go for a walk and talk and talk. It’s two guys touring L.A., having a five minute conversation, in about fifteen locations with the camera never getting close enough to “reveal” their dialogue’s been dubbed over. Oddly, besides that conversation, it’s never poorly done. The sets are lame, but reasonably excusable.
I didn’t know Yorga was intended to be a straight Dracula retelling until after I’d started watching it. The opening scene is actually the worst, with only the vampire, played by Robert Quarry, turning in a good performance initially. Michael Murphy’s in it, which is why I watched it, and he’s fine–likable and everything, but his role’s obviously light since it’s a low budget vampire movie. It isn’t until Roger Perry, as the doctor who knows the truth about vampires, shows up the film really gets going. Perry and Quarry have a couple fantastic scenes together and those alone might make it worth watching. Quarry’s a great vampire, certainly the best vampire performance I can think of. He’s thrilled to be a vampire and the performance is playful and entertaining, even though he’s obviously, you know, a bad guy.
The rest of the cast is fine, but totally uninspired. According to IMDb, one of the actors used to star in commercials, which makes sense. She delivers lines and exhibits some emotion, but she’s flat, just like a commercial. The director, Bob Kelljan, occasionally makes some good directorial decisions–though it’s obvious he didn’t do them intentionally. Low budget film making can encourage some really innovative work. Kelljan isn’t innovative at all, but the effect of doing this shot or doing that shot does sometimes work itself into something nice, especially during conversation scenes. Mostly, though, the film’s all about Quarry and Perry. It’s just too bad there’s so little (comparatively) Quarry, not to mention it taking forever for Perry to show up.
Oh, and I should say something about the narration, I suppose. It’s really stupid.
Written and directed by Bob Kelljan; director of photography, Arch Archambault; edited by Tony de Zarraga; music by Bill Marx; produced by Kelljan and Michael Macready; released by American International Pictures.
Starring Robert Quarry (Count Yorga), Roger Perry (Jim), Michael Murphy (Paul), Michael Macready (Mike), D.J. Anderson (Donna), Judy Lang (Erica) and Edward Walsh (Brudah).