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MGM Studios DVD presents
"Erica, my darling, I've come to offer you eternal love, to keep you with me forever. Love lasting centuries, magnificence beyond existence. This I now give to you."
DVD ReviewAlthough the concept of the vampire is firmly rooted in medieval thought, filmmakers have seldom been able to resist bringing the creatures of the night into the present day. For one thing, it makes the sets and costumes so much cheaper. For another, it gives us a heightened sense of terror, as we the viewers identify with the victims.
This updating of the legend opens with a seance held by Bulgarian Count Yorga (Robert Quarry). Donna (Donna Anders) has recently lost her mother and wants to contact her from beyond the grave. Things go badly at the seance, Donna becomes hysterical and has to be hypnotized by the Count, and the party breaks up. Paul (Michael Murphy) and Erica (Judith Lang) give the Count a ride back to his castle (in Los Angeles??). When they drop him off, they get stuck in a mysteriously appearing mudhole. Soon the Count attacks and Erica falls under his spell, as does Donna. When Erica disappears, it's up to Donna's boyfriend Michael (Michael Macready), Paul and friend Dr. James Hayes (Roger Perry in the Van Helsing role) to take on the count and his vampire brides.
Quarry makes for a very menacing vampire, one who is able to be charming at will, yet subject to fits of temper and animalistic behavior. The Count is no Bela Lugosi: he has no qualms about being bestial and violent in his quest for blood. In addition to women finding him sexually attractive, he is one of the earliest film vampires I'm aware of to place emphasis on eternal love. These points alone helps make this one of the better vampire movies of the last few decades. Refreshingly, the movie does not attempt to give an origin or a backstory of any kind to the Count. This helps keep him mysterious, even though that same tactic doesn't work well for his victims and opponents. The supporting cast is not as striking, in large part because the script doesn't give us an opportunity to get to know them. They're essentially pawns and ciphers. The doctor's girlfriend Cleo (Julie Conners) is incredibly bad, as if she's reading cue cards. At one point, she even repeats her line, with a slightly different inflection, for no good reason.
The script has some interesting twists, such as the effort of the heroes to drop in on the Count in the wee hours of the morning and attempt to keep him up past sunrise. Quarry is at his most menacing here, with a barely controlled rage bubbling under the surface of his feigned civility. A number of points, including the ending, seem to be swipes from Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). This notably includes the odd makeup of the Count's deformed henchman, here called Brudah (Edward Walsh). There are a few sizable lapses as well. Dr. Hayes insists that there must be vampires because it has never been proven that there aren't. Aside from the logical silliness of this argument, it certainly sets him up to be laughably credulous.
The film does have its moments, however. One of the most striking is the scene of Erica succumbing to vampirism in her apartment as Paul bursts in. Shot from crazy, disorienting angles, with glissandoing strings, the scene feels like a veritable descent into madness. PETA members will find much to object to in this scene. Other than this, the gore quotient isn't terribly high, certainly when compared to films from the 1980s and after. It was, however, pretty advanced for its time and needs to be seen in that light.
Obviously shot on a shoestring (the blood specialist consulted conveniently never actually appears for one reason or another), Count Yorga, Vampire still manages to pack a pretty sizeable punch. It's worth a look. The onscreen title is The Loves of Count Iorga, Vampire.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very good. There is an occasional speckle, but the source material is surprisingly fine. Black levels are very good, and colors are decent. Blood is an excellent bright red. While the color schemes are dated, the picture looks quite nice, crisp and detailed. Bit rates tend to hover around 5-6 Mbps.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono is surprisingly good with substantial depth and range. There is practically no hiss or noise and the music is undistorted. Most of the dialogue is clear, although there are a few spots that are difficult to understand. I wish MGM would return to putting English subtitles on its discs soon (as promised).
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: The only extra is an anamorphically enhanced trailer. Chaptering is decent since the movie is on the short side.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAn effective little cheap vampire movie, given a very nice transfer. At MGM's bargain list price, it's worth owning for any horror fan.
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