Sunday, October 19, 2008


A decent modern (as in, not set in the creaky past) vampire movie, and maybe an important transitional one from the old-fashioned one-dimensional Bela Lugosi type to the more romantic Frank Langella/Brad Pitt version. In current-day (70's) Los Angeles, the Bulgarian Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) holds a séance with Donna and her friends so she can contact the spirit of her dead mother, who had recently been hanging out with Yorga. Donna becomes hysterical and while calming her, Yorga secretly puts her under his supernatural powers. Donna's pals Erica and Paul wind up with their van stuck overnight in the mud on Yorga's property; after a long make-out session, Yorga attacks, putting the bite on Erica who soon begins eating live cats. Yep, Yorga is a vampire and Donna and Erica are on their way to similar fates unless their boyfriends, with the help of a Van Helsing-ish doctor, can help. As in the Stoker and Lugosi Dracula narratives, the men go about their "wild work"; one woman (Erica) becomes a full-fledged vampire and can only be saved by the stake and the cross, while the other (Donna), being drained more slowly, might be saved before her full transformation. This B-film doesn't look very good, but the plot and some of the actors make the proceedings tolerable. Quarry is fine as the mysterious count, alternately vicious and seductive; Michael Murphy, a Robert Altman regular, is good as Paul, and familiar TV face Roger Perry is OK as the doctor. The women seemed to have been hired more for their looks; there is a much-repeated rumor that this film was originally intended to be a soft-core porn movie and the filmmakers changed focus along the way, but I've also heard that's just a Hollywood urban legend, though there is a seemingly truncated scene involving some woman-on-woman action between a couple of Yorga's vampire "brides" which is sometimes cited as evidence of the porn story. 40's and 50's character actor George Macready (the bad guy in GILDA) provides some opening narration. [TCM]

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