I try to be as accurate as possible on this web journal, but sometimes I make mistakes. For instance, in a recent post, I wrote that the American Cinematheque would be screening COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE as part of a Yorga double bill, with actor Robert Quarry in person at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Well, that turned out to be wrong — or at least not quite correct. What unrolled on the big screen before us actually bore the title card THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA.
There had been no advance word about this, only mention that MGM-UA had been kind enough to provide a brand-new 35mm print of the film for the screening. But this was certainly something worth getting excited about: we were seeing a version of the film that had not been screened for decades — one that had, in fact, never been released in theatres or on home video.
Quick history lesson: The film released under the title COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE back in 1970 (about a vampire count from Bulgaria who moves to Los Angeles) had been filmed independently as THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA; however, when it was picked up for distribution by American International Pictures, studio executive Samuel Z. Arkoff complained that ticket buyers would not know how to pronounce the name “Iorga.” Hence, the spelling of the name was altered, and the title was changed to sound more like a horror flick instead of a soft-core porn film (which is how the film had originally been conceived).
But the title was not the only thing that changed. Some cuts were made to tone down the gore. In particular, the infamous “cat-eating” scene was trimmed down to just an indecipherable flash, so that only a later dialogue reference clarified what had happened.
In the film, one of Yorga’s first victims is Erica (Judith Lang), who after exhibiting signs of anemia is told to eat lots of steaks, as rare as she can stand them. When her boyfriend is unable to contact her by phone, he and another friend hurry to Erica’s apartment and burst in to find her holding something in her hands while blood drips from her lips. The brief glimpse of her left viewers thinking she must have been chewing on a raw steak. Only a later dialogue reference reveals what happened: When Erica’s boyfriend asks, “Why did you induce vomiting?” the doctor replies, “How would you like to wake up knowing you had parts of a cat in your stomach?”
In the version of the film shown at the Egyptian Theatre, the scene of Erica’s unsavory meal does not cut away immediately after her boyfriend barges in. Instead, the scene continues, clearly showing her holding a dead kitten in her hands, its body evicerated. It’s a disgusting moment of gore, but it does convey a nice sense of Erica’s degraded condition as her system adjusts to new hungers. It also goes a long way toward justifying her later self-disgust and loathing during a blood transfusion, as she apologizes over and over for her behavior and begs the doctor to just let her die.
It was a nice surprise to see this version of the film — even the old VHS and DVD releases presented the edited version. It’s a safe bet that MGM struck this new print in anticipation of a new DVD release (the Internet Movie Database confirms this), so think of this as a preview of the uncut home video version.
But even without the extra footage, COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE stands up better than one would expect from a low-budget horror film. The sequel, THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, also has a lot to recommend it (better production values and more humor), even if it doesn’t quite live up to the original.
In between the films, actor Robert Quarry was interviewed by co-moderators Frank Darabont (director of THE GREEN MILE) and Tim Sullivan (whose online interview with Quarry at Upcoming Horror Movies was the catalyst for the evening’s event). As expected, Quarry had several funny stories to tell. I’ll have to check the transcript to see whether there is enough new material (that wasn’t already in the Sullivan interview) to make it worth publishing here. Perhaps I can combine his comments with some from the interview I conducted with Quarry when I was working on the Vincent Price cover story for Cinefantastique magazine. Hopefully, I’ll have something posted in the next day or two.
More: Count Yorga Double Bill 2004
The Loves of Count Iorga Rating
Count Yorga, Vampire stands up better than one would expect from a low-budget horror film, and the extra footage in the uncut Loves of Count Iorga adds an extra punch.