White Elephant Blogathon: The Return of Count Yorga (1971)

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Synopsis: The safety of the children and teachers of the Westwood Orphanage is put into jeopardy when deadly vampire Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) moves in next door. Taking a shine to the lovely Cynthia (Mariette Hartley), Yorga sends his bevy of undead brides to make her his next victim — by killing off her entire family and convincing her that she is recovering from a car accident and must stay in Yorga’s mansion while she gets well.

 This film was assigned to me by another sadistic participant in the White Elephant Blogathon, hosted by Silly Hats Only. Now in its sixth year, the WE seeks to showcase “cinema’s widows and orphans – notorious stinkers, cult favorites, so-bad-they’re-great classics, and movies that time almost forgot.” Check out Silly Hats for the contributions, including a review of the film I submitted, 1978’s movie musical adaptation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, starring Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, and the Bee Gees.

What, you thought I could get actually get something done on a deadline? APRIL FOOLS! Haha, but seriously, I’m terrible.

I was actually quite pleased this year when I saw that my White Elephant assignment was from the 1970s. Even though I hate the ’70s, at least a film of this era is more fitting to my blog’s M.O. than last year’s atrocious faux-meaningful 2003 Chinese drama Feeding Boys (Aye Carumba!). So, after quickly skimming the film to make sure it didn’t have any horribly unnecessary sexual violence (which I find is sadly a common motif in 1970s horror and something I refuse to put myself through on principle), I dove head-first into The Return of Count Yorga, knowing nothing of the previous film to which I assume it is a sequel and with my hands at the ready in case of any really scary parts.

Well, suffice it to say, I didn’t have any problems, so far as scariness goes.

The legendary Bob Kelljan (what, you haven’t heard of him?!?), who helmed the original Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and would later go on to direct such classics as Scream Blacula Scream (1973) and the delightfully-titled Rape Squad (1974) which I’m sure is like totally empowering and not at all exploitative and cringe-inducing, returns to the Count Yorga legend with the very-accurately-titled Return of Count Yorga. Also returning to Return is Robert Quarry (I never knew Christopher Lee and Liberace had a baby!) as the titular Count. Despite the movie’s totally bitchin’ poster, he’s just basically your standard dime-store vampire, and does not sport any awesome green monster hands with eyes or a single giant taloned raptor foot like that one owl Pokémon. False advertising indeed!

“This is me and my sisters before we started using Proactiv/Pantene Pro-V/Invisalign.”

The film is troubled right off the bat by its very premise, which is the inexplicable return of a character who was supposedly killed at the end of the first movie. But the movie doesn’t waste any time in explaining how Yorga got his groove back. In fact, this movie really doesn’t waste any time in explaining anything. It’s set in an orphanage and there are some people having a costume party in a gymnasium for some reason; I don’t know who they are or why they are there. So it’s really hard to care when some of them start getting killed off by Yorga’s excruciatingly-slow-moving vampire brides. Seriously, if you’ve ever been frustrated at films that show perfectly healthy, normal adults who cannot seem to escape lurching, mindless, snail-paced zombies, this one will make you tear your hair out.

The only ghoul who really makes an effort here is Count Yorga himself, whose main tactical offense is to pop out at the ends of hallways and run REALLY REALLY FAST at his victims with his arms outstretched, until he reaches them and – strangles them. Yes. In 500+ years of being a vampire, this is the best attack he can come up with. There’s a reason why you haven’t heard much about Count Yorga; he is the vampire family’s greatest embarrassment. They have family reunions and “forget” to send his invitation.

It’s like he’s rushing to get the last donut in the break room.

There’s also a little boy running around who’s somehow under Yorga’s control, and a mute housekeeper who’s the only one who knows what’s really going on but is being gaslighted by everyone around her. In the middle of it all is some lady who Yorga’s trying to get to be his bride, and somehow I’m supposed to not want that to happen even though he’s already got about a dozen other brides and I’m really given no reason to value this lady’s mortality over anyone else’s because WHO IS SHE AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?!?

It’s… not a very good film, is what I’m trying to say. The page on which I took notes for my review includes such gems as: “What’s happening and why?”; “What are we even investigating?”; “Not so much a movie as a collection of scenes”; “THIS SUCKS” in huge letters; and notes on what we planned to order for dinner that night at the bottom of the page.

I didn’t like it. Half a star, and that’s generous.

The Return of Count Yorga (1971) – 0.5/5 stars