Here’s another installment featuring Joe Dante’s reviews from his stint as a critic for Film Bulletin circa 1969-1974. Our thanks to Video Watchdog and Tim Lucas for his editorial embellishments!
The fangy Count returns to give evil its finest hour in a stylishly chilling horror spoof that should prove a big winner for drive‑in, ballyhoo markets. Rating: GP.
Last year’s COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE managed to rise above its mini‑budget limitations through sheer imagination and became a minor hit. Now, the same talents behind that film have been given the opportunity to make the movie they initially envisioned and the resulting AIP release is a virtual remake of the earlier picture, but it is so superior in terms of performance, production and directorial accomplishment that even fans of the earlier movie will not mind the similarities.
In fact, THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA is one of the year’s more delightful surprises in the horror genre and, bolstered by what is certain to be enthusiastic word‑of‑mouth, it should register uncommonly good grosses in those ballyhoo and drive‑in markets where a vampire on the bill is a marquee asset. While the basic mood is comedic, director Bob Kelljan also manages to provide more raw horror than is customarily found in the most blatantly sadistic of horror thrillers. The station wagon murders of the earlier film now take place on a gently rocking houseboat, with the slayings eerily reflected in rippling waters.
Kelljan and Yvonne Wilder are responsible for the screenplay, in which the values of good and evil are so perverted that audiences find themselves rooting for the deadly Count and his Yorga girls (a motley harem of giggling vampirettes). Yorga becomes enamored of Mariette Hartley, an incredibly sweet young thing who hangs about the local orphanage because she believes it keeps her close to purity. Alas, the Yorga domicile is next door. The friendly Count wants to put a little bite into her life, but he is too gentlemanly to initiate the girl without her consent and she is too dimwitted to realize the situation she is in.
This thoroughly unsympathetic creature procrastinates so long that the gentle Count fails to make her his bride and she suffers a fate far worse. Robert Quarry is again the engaging bloodsucker and scene-stealer extraordinaire, Roger Perry is his rival in love, and outstanding in a generally excellent supporting cast are Miss Wilder, David Lampson and, in a hilarious cameo, George Macready. The economical production by Michael Macready is slick and completely professional, boasting very good camerawork by Bill Butler, appropriate background music by Bill Marx and nice Movielab Color.
1972. AIP. Movielab Color. 97 minutes. Robert Quarry, Mariette Hartley. Produced by Michael Macready. Directed by Bob Kelljan.