Retro Film Report #3: Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

Count Yorga came on TV when I was little and it literally scared the bejesus out of me (I'm not quite sure where my parental guidance was during this period - perhaps I had a babysitter). Upon rewatching the film some thirty odd years later, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the movie is. It serves as a great postcard of the very end of the 1960s. So, here's the play-by-play on the 1970 horror classic, Count Yorga, Vampire. (Beware of spoilers!)

The film begins with a pickup truck passing through some 1970 urban sprawl carrying a mysterious coffin shaped cargo. I half expected this old jalopy to arrive at Fred Sanford's junkyard, but (alas, it was not driven by Lamont) instead it veers to a country estate.

Now keep in mind it's 1970, the height of hexploitation - a time when Rosemary's Baby was still the talk of the town and the novel The Exorcist was only a year away. So, if you're a horror movie worth your salt, you need to inject a little occult action. Thus, the film begins with a seance led by Count Yorga. I don't think I have to tell you that things go horribly awry.

Donna starts to become possessed by her deceased mother, but Yorga steps in and saves the day. Donna and friends laugh it off. Ha,ha,ha - isn't the occult hilarious!

Well, nothing kills a party better than possession by the undead, so Erica, Paul and Yorga split in a groovy VW bus. Somehow the idea of an aristocratic vampire riding shotgun in a VW mini bus seems a bit strange.

As the VW makes its way through the countryside, it becomes apparent to the viewer that this is going to be a very dark movie. Not dark as in "ominous and foreboding" but dark as in "poorly lit". I found this quote from Robert Quarry, the guy who plays Yorga, which explains it all:
"But it was hard work. We had just four crew members -- that's it. They were all happy on plum wine and grass! There was one make-up man and a few guys with little arc lights. You say the film was 'dark and mysterious' -- the film was dark and mysterious because we didn't have enough lights!”

After dropping off Yorga, their third wheel, Paul and Erica discover that the VW bus isn't much of an off-road vehicle, and get stuck in the mud.

I guess Paul was feeling a bit threatened by the dashing Yorga, and snaps at Erica -"You might get your fat ass out of the car and see if you can be of some help!"

"It is not a fat ass!" yells Erica.

"It is too. It's huge," he replies... That's the way to win her back, Paul.

Apparently it works, because it isn't long before Paul and Erica are makin' sweet love in the back of the mini bus. I think the primary function of a VW mini bus was to provide lovemaking space and a pleasant environment to smoke weed... being a means of transportation was only secondary.

Shortly after the lovemaking, Yorga storms the bus and goes medieval on Paul's ass and sinks his fangs into the lovely Erica. Days later, Erica can't remember what happened and she's acting a bit strange... well, if you call eating your pet cat for dinner strange.

The cat eating scene is what got this movie in trouble with the MPAA. They wanted to give it an X or R rating, whereas AIP wanted it given a GP rating (that's not a typo - it was called GP). In order to get it, AIP cut the cat eating scene. I could have lived without watching it myself - go ahead and kill people all you want in movies, but for some reason a little kitty covered in ketchup is too much for me to take.

Anyway, good ol' Paul agrees to help give Erica a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, it doesn't do a damn bit of good. Yorga is back to once again sink his teeth into Erica, whose only too happy to let him.

Count Yorga was initially planned as a soft core porn, but Roger Quarry said he wanted no part of that, and so the movie was played straight and legit. I'm glad he did. One result was that it allowed some of the actors to shine, namely Michael Murphy (Paul) who would go on to great acclaim, perhaps most notably in Roger Altman films.

Paul gets whacked by Yorga, and shortly thereafter Donna (remember her from the beginning?) and Erica's physician, Dr. Hayes, pay a visit to the Count. BTW: Dr. Hayes is played by the damn fine actor, Roger Perry, who was married to Laugh-In's Jo Anne Worely from 1975 to 2000.

Anyway, the doctor suspects Yorga is some kind of vampire. So, he stages an exit on the pretense of needing a drink in order to spy on the Count. Not surprisingly, the studly Yorga wastes no time in getting to "know" the lovely Donna better.

That night, Yorga has Donna abducted. In response, her boyfriend Michael and Dr. Hayes arm themselves with crosses, garlic, and wooden stakes to take on the vampire who keeps stealing their women. Dr. Hayes doesn't fare to well - he gets stuck in the basement with all of Yorga's vampire brides. Of course, there's probably worse ways to die...

In the final few scenes, Michael manages to single-handedly rescue Donna and put a stake through the heart of Yorga, who withers to dust. And just when you think the film is over, there's a couple of twists which I'll let you discover when you watch it.

The annoying narrator returns at the very end with a sarcastic "Superstition?" before erupting into a maniacal Dr. Evil laugh. "Mua-ha-ha-ha, mua-ha-ha-ha!"


  1. Hey Gil -

    I think you may recall that I put the lovely harem of vampire honeys from this film at my #10 spot on my HOTTEST VAMPIRE BABES OF ALL TIME LIST. Needless to say, I LOVE THIS MOVIE! You and I are the same age and I caught this baby in 2nd grade (which was what 76-7'?) and it scared the bejeesus outta me too! Can't tell you how much I love this film. The actress that played Donna always reminded me a little bit of my beloved Natalie Wood (something in her eyes and facial expressions). How timely your post it as Robert Quarry JUST DIED like a week or two ago. Sad. Why don't you do a post on the equally awesome sequel - Return of County Yorga which is very scary (the scene where the priest gets swallowed by the quick-sand always bothered me when I was younger) but is also pretty hilarious (intentionally so) with the cops playing it for laughs in the mansion (Craig T. Nelson is very funny). Cheers!

  2. Man, I love that movie! I used to watch a horror show called The Phantom of 13 (out of Rockford, IL) Count Yorga was on. I've watched it a few times since, and it's definitely a favorite. It's soooo 70's, how could you not love it?! I'm going to have to get the DVD, I've been pretty happy with the other Midnight Matinee DVD's.

  3. Chick - I do recall very well actually since I think it was the first comment I ever put on a blog post. Yes, I finally got tired of silently stalking blogs with your vampire babe post and now I won't shut up. You've created a monster!

    Now that you mention it, Donna looks very much like Natalie Wood. However, I'm a sucker for Erica.

    Atom Kid- Yes, it is sooooo very 70s, and unlike a lot of 70s horror films which were gritty and depressing, this one was also a lot of fun. This is a B-movie that should've had awful acting and poor direction... what a pleasant surprise when you find it has neither!

  4. Oh my gosh. I'd forgotten this one, but now I remember watching it (and all the other crazy movies I saw as a kid) at The Texas Theatre in downtown Raymondville, TX. Those were the days.

    And that quote from the actor who played Yorga really does explain it all.

  5. Hey Gil. Wow! Cool post. I really enjoyed this one. I haven't seen this movie in ages. I really loved it as a kid. Great shots from the movie. It was neat to be reminded of how awesome this movie was. I definitely wouldn't mind checking it out again real soon. Cheers!

  6. Regrettably, Robert Quarry passed away just a few months ago.

  7. What a seriously great movie! And your commentary was excellent!

  8. Why is it that vampires always have 3 wives??

  9. Keith and Lidian - Thanks so much for the positve comments!

    dguzman- I love the quote too - especially the part about plum wine and weed!

    buzz- so I hear; oddly enough, I had no idea when I posted this. He was quite a good actor and should have gone on to bigger and better things.

    Joe - I don't know why that is - I don't think they're Mormon.

  10. I have been meaning to see this again so thanks for the reminder. It is certainly a film that reflects the time it was made in. I do remember it scared me as well but I think now it will appear dated and plodding, but that is okay too.


  11. Robert Quarry was tragically under-employed by the Hollywood dumbass establishment, an actor of great ability. "Count Yorga" was his best, of course, a great film turned out in a couple of weeks with a tiny budget, a great script, and good cinematography in true AIP style. For anyone interested in the details, there was an interview with Quarry in Filmfax a few years ago.

  12. So much Juicy goodness in this blog. I'll have to try to track this movie down...

  13. Yep this movie scared the crap outta me too! I love the effects of this movie, where the victim looks down the hallway and sees Count Yorga running towards him/her. And that final scene you mentioned?? It literally made me jump out of my seat in the theater. Yes literally!!!! Great flick.
    I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Quarry in New Jersey a few years ago at the Chiller Theatre Convention. Sad that he passed away. Or has he.............?

  14. AnonymousMay 22, 2011

    I saw this movie at the theater (Count Yorga) at age nine, and back then people actually screamed and cried at the Theater in my town. This movie had them Screaming and squirming in there seats, I was! And the scene when the girl is Eating the kittens was the shocker for me! This movie would not be what it was without showing that. Lot's of screams on that scene! Great Movie. Oh and I saw Horrer House with this movie, Double feature. (they showed two back then you got alot of screams for a dollar.) Horror House got me uncomfortable gripping the arm rest Hard too! Rudy Ft. Lauderdale