OCTOBER 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA
Just a year after being impaled in the heart and turning to dust, the undead Romanian vampire came back in American International Pictures’ THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, a largely superior sequel to 1970’s COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE. Strangely, no effort is made by the filmmakers (including returning director Bob Kelljan, who co-wrote the follow-up with actress Yvonne Wilder) to explain just how Yorga (Robert Quarry again in his most famous role) actually returns to life; ditto, his ugly valet Brudah (Edward Walsh), who we last saw being stabbed to death in his master’s mansion. In RETURN, they just show up for this second go-round of cultured vampire shenanigans.
The previous film’s Van Helsing stand-in, actor Roger Perry—who we previously witnessed getting drained by Yorga’s hungry brides—also turns up again, but at least as a different character (a psychiatrist, as opposed to the first film’s doctor, and now sporting a goatee), though he serves the same function as before—a desperate vampire slayer wannabe. (It would have made more sense to make this a prequel, but I suppose U.S. studios didn’t think that way in those days. The Hammer Draculas, by contrast, made a point of showing how the Count could be reanimated after his memorable demises in preceding films.)
So Yorga’s back and now ensconced in an antique-laden mansion situated next door to a large orphanage. After he attacks a young boy and his chick posse dig themselves out of their graves NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-style, Yorga crashes a costume party at the orphanage. He takes an immediate shine to Cynthia (Mariette Hartley, former Spock squeeze and TV pitchwoman), who’s engaged to Dr. Baldwin (Perry). In a scene that echoes the then-timely Manson murders in its viciousness, the vampiresses slaughter Cynthia’s family during a home invasion and kidnap her for their lovesick master. In his abode, Yorga puts Cynthia under a hypnotic spell, while the slayings at the neighbors’ place have been conveniently covered up. The shrink suspects something fishy, however, and brings in a couple of incredulous detectives (Rudy De Luca and POLTERGEIST/COACH star Craig T. Nelson in his movie debut), and before long, the humans penetrate the fiend’s lair for a staking jamboree—just like in the first YORGA film, only bigger.
Mirroring today’s overproduced tentpole franchises, everything about this better-produced YORGA sequel is bigger: a bigger cast, more locations, more action and more bloodletting. Kelljan keeps the story bouncing along to a livelier beat than the previous film, while DP Bill Butler (of JAWS fame) lenses several atmospheric death scenes and off-kilter point-of-view shots (one looking up from the ocean floor as Yorga goes in for the kill on a dock). I also love the eerie scenes with Yorga racing down hallways in slow motion, cape flowing, arms outstretched and teeth bared.
RETURN boasts some welcome humor (at the costume bash, a nosy lady asks Yorga where he keeps his fangs, and a Dracula getup wins first place). I’ll bet De Luca ad-libbed some of his funny lines; the actor later graduated to Emmy-winning comedy writing for the likes of Carol Burnett and Mel Brooks (he also co-wrote Brooks’ HIGH ANXIETY—in which he played the strangler with braces—SILENT MOVIE and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT, and scripted and directed the sorry spoof TRANSYLVANIA 6-5000). Michael Pataki, who played the daddy bloodsucker in 1974’s GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (scripted by THE SOPRANOS’ David Chase!), falls prey to Yorga here. And George Macready, who provided the ripe narration in the first movie, earns a cameo for producer son Michael on the sequel, portraying an addled professor who confuses Yorga with yoga! And just like the first movie, RETURN OF COUNT YORGA throws in the requisite California travelogue footage (another exhausting walk by talkative strollers), with San Francisco (cable cars and all) delighting the local tourist board.
To THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA’S detriment, the movie hews just a little too closely to the 1970 film in its final act, with one of our intrepid heroes trying to distract the suspicious vampire while the others go snooping around his dusty digs. The surprise ending also echoes the first film’s to a T. Still, this is a fun vampfest, and fang fans will find lots to enjoy in both Yorga films. Too bad they didn’t make more of these. Some consider Ray Danton’s 1972 hippie vampire movie DEATHMASTER—in which Quarry played a bloodsucking guru (what other kind?) named Khorda—as an unofficial Yorga movie. AIP reportedly considered pitting Yorga against Vincent Price’s maniac medico in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (what a film that would have been!), but instead cast Quarry in the campy 1972 film as the eternal-life seeking Dr. Bierderbeck. After a few further lackluster horror stints (SUGAR HILL, MADHOUSE), Quarry’s career stalled in the late ’70s. Eventually, exploitation filmmaker and Quarry buff Fred Olen Ray kept the actor busy in his direct-to-video mill in the ’80s and ’90s (CYCLONE, HAUNTING FEAR, INNER SANCTUM 2, etc.), and the two even fooled around with the idea of doing a third YORGA film. The project never materialized, sadly, and Quarry died in February 2009 at age 83.
OCTOBER 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA
If you should find yourself one day in London when the sky hangs an inch above the trees and the fog has the chill of the crypt, pull on a warm sweater and make your way to Highgate Village. At the lane next to the dairy - the little lane with the high brick wall on either side - follow the hippies and the delegations from socialist countries as they troop downhill to inspect the grave of Karl Marx (which, sure enough, looks just as it did in "Georgy Girl").
When they turn left into the new section of the cemetery, where Marx is buried, wait a moment until no one is looking and then turn right. Hurry past the crumbling gatehouse and then enter the gloom of the old section. There is no Marx or George Eliot or Herbert Spencer to attract the tourists here; the graves run toward the bodies of civil servants who were shipped home from Burma or Rhodesia a hundred years ago. The only notable buried in the old section is Radclyffe Hall, who lies in a crypt beneath the church at the top of the hill.
The cemetery is in a state of disrepair. The groundskeepers were called up during the Battle of Britain, and not for 30 years has the grass been cut or the shrubbery fought back into the appearance of decorum. Now the trees meet overhead and the stones are buried with vines, and deer and rabbit and fox hurry over the graves.
I go on at such length not merely because I have a column to fill (although that has something to do with it) but because I'm convinced we're taking vampires, ghouls and zombies much too casually these days. Reflect that they live here, among these crumbling stones, and that, as cold-blooded creatures, they must be as stiff as snakes all winter. And that even when the summertime comes, they're locked inside (for the gates close at 5 p.m.) with little to do except make rubbings of Victorian headstones. The sheer desperation...
Well, to make a long story short, vampires must surely be the most put upon minority group on Earth. And although other minority groups are gradually winning better portrayals in the movies, vampires are still the stereotyped objects of easy laughs. "The Return of Count Yorga," for example, had everyone in the audience howling with laughter the other night. Was there no advocate for the count's point of view?
Consider his feelings as a man, after 200 years without a woman. Is it any wonder he yearns for the lovely Cynthia? Is it any wonder that she finds him mysteriously attractive? How to improve upon a man who has spent two centuries on his back? As his fangs approach her lovely, innocent neck, and....
But all everybody did was laugh. The kiddies in the audience squealed and kicked their tiny feet against the seats, and the adults were condescending to this most star-crossed love. Romeo and Juliet only DIED in a tomb; consider the grief they avoided.
"The Return of Count Yorga," then, is perhaps the first humanistic (one almost says humanitarian) vampire movie - the story of the exquisite pain of love which stirs even within the breast of he who men call monster. Yorga would offer the innocent Cynthia an opportunity to taste emotions denied to seven generations. Then who comes storming up the stairs with two cops at his back but young Dr. David Baldwin, who wants to "save" her? And how did the philistines in the audience respond? They cheered! Cheered! As Yorga hurtled from the parapet, foiled again. Who dares say tragedy is dead? Be sure to get out of the cemetery before 5, by the way.
OCTOBER 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA
This sequel to COUNTY YORGA, VAMPIRE benefits from a slightly bigger budget and a considerably glossier look to the cinematography. Other than that, it recreates the formula of the first film, transplanted to the San Francisco Bay area, while emphasizing the campy humor and adding a love story.
Despite its title, the script does not’ bother to explain the return of the Count (or of his henchman Brudha either, both of whom were dispatched at the end of the previous film). Yorga simply shows up, taking residence in an old house near an orphanage on the isolated outskirts of San Francisco. At a costume party (where Yorga loses the “most convincing costume” award to someone in a goofy vampire outfit), Yorga becomes smitten by Cynthia Nelson (Mariette Hartley), who works at the orphanage. The Count dispatches his decaying vampire brides to kidnap her, slaughtering her family in the process (a sequence that evokes both NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the Tate-LaBianca murders). Her memory blanked out by shock, Cynthia is kept prisoner in Yorga’s mansion while the Count tries to win her love. Meanwhile, Dr. David Baldwin (Roger Perry, returning from COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE!) suspects Yorga is responsible for Cynthia’s disappearance. He enlists the aid of a couple of bumbling police officers (Rudy De Luca and Craig T. Nelson), who raid Yorga’s mansion but fall prey to the various dangers that lurk within (not only the vampire women but also a young boy named Tommy, who has fallen under the vampire’s spell). Baldwin is apparently dispatched but mysteriously re-appears, pursuing Yorga as he tries to escape with Cynthia. Regaining her memory, Cynthia buries an ax in Yorga’s chest, expecting to be happily reunited with Baldwin, but…
The second YORGA film suffers slightly from a been-there-done-that feeling (even a variation on the original film’s twist ending is reprised). Like before, the story takes place in an isolated location that undermines the sense of an immortal being walking the streets of a modern metropolis. To give some sense of the Bay Area setting, director Robert Kelljan once again offers up a dialogue scene that consists voice-overs laid on top of a montage of location shooting (this time in San Francisco, of course). Fortunately, he also includes a brief sequence wherein Yorga stalks a victim in a local nightspot, pursuing them to a small yacht docked on a peer.
The story has an interesting premise, with Yorga actually falling in love with a potential victim, but the pacing also suffers once Cynthia has been imprisoned. She wanders around a bit, looking confused and distraught, but the vampire’s attempts to win her over (as opposed to forcibly taking her) never really materialize.
On the plus side, there are a handful of interesting ideas. Yorga’s subtle disdain seen in COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE here becomes outright put-downs. The seductive vampire women of the first film are replaced by decayed female vamps who more resemble zombies. Little Tommy makes a pretty good impression as a “Bad Seed” whose innocent appearance belies the alliance with the Count (an alliance that is implied but never shown; we only guess it from Tommy’s sometimes murderous actions). There’s also an unexplained old crone, apparently a witch, whom Yorga consults about his plans for Cynthia; in typically oracular fashion, she mocks his plan and warns that it will lead to her doom.
The horror scenes still work (Yorga’s attack on the dock is nicely visualized, with the camera peering up at the Count from beneath the rippling surface of the water), but the humor is emphasized more heavily. In fact, RETURN OF COUNT YORGA mutates into outright comedy once the police officers make the mistake of accosting the undead vampire-zombies in Yorga’s mansion and trying to read them their rights. The subsequent panic and frenzied escape attempt suggests an Abbott and Costello movie, but the film uses the laughs to set up the next shock, as both officers meet a bloody demise.
Overall, THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA is not quite a match for its predecessor, but it is a decent follow-up. The supporting cast (especially Hartley as the love interest-victim) is stronger this time out, and the production values are a bit more polished, adding a nice atmospheric sheen to the proceedings. Still, the smooth gloss somewhat diminishes the rough texture that gave COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE its memorable edge.
At the costume party, someone asks Yorga (who is dressed in evening clothes and a cape), “Where are your fangs?” Yorga replies, “Where are your manners?” In the same scene, the Count watches with distaste as a young, would-be musician pounds away loudly on a piano. When the aspiring rocker asks whether Yorga likes this kind of music, the Count responds, “Only when it’s played well.”
Both YORGA films were produced by Michael Macready (who co-stars in the first). Macready is the son of character actor George Macready (co-star of the 1946 classic GILDA), who supplied the voice over narration in the first film. Here, George Macready has a brief humorous cameo as a senile vampire expert, who is also hard of hearing. (Asked for help defeating Yorga, the old man replies, “Yoga? What does yoga have to do with vampires? You haven’t read my book!”)
Actor Roger Perry, who played Yorga’s nemesis in COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE, returns in a similar role here, again playing a doctor who comes to realize that the Count is a vampire.
Rudy DeLuca, who plays a police detective here, is more well known as a comic actor and writer. Although he initially plays the role straight, his penchant for humor emerges with a vengeance when he and his partner (played by Craig T. Nelson, who went on to star in POLTERGEIST) encounter the living dead.
Robert Quarry reprises his role as Count Yorga. On the strength of COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE, which was picked up for distribution by American International Pictures, the actor landed a contract with AIP, which produced this sequel and also cast him opposite Vincent Price in DR PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1971) and MADHOUSE (1973). Quarry was being groomed to replace Price as AIP’s in-house horror star; unfortunately for him, the horror cycle died out soon thereafter, as AIP moved into making blaxploitation films instead of horror.
Quarry also executive produced and starred in a third vampire film called THE DEATHMASTER, about a Manson-like vampire guru named Khorda. Although technically a different character from Yorga, American International Pictures confused the issue by using the tagline “The Deathmaster is back from the Grave” in their poster art for RETURN OF COUNT YORGA.
There was talk of a third YORGA film, which never materialized. (In an interview in “Monsters of the Movies” magazine, Quarry said there was even some talk of making Yorga a character in DR PHIBES RISES AGAIN.) Many years later, Quarry said the third Yorga was scuttled by producer Michael Macready, who refused to relinquish the rights and insisted on directing any future sequel.
THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA(1971). Directed by Bob Kelljan. Written by Kelljan & Yvonne Wilder. Cast: Robert Quarry, Mariette Hartley, Roger Perry, Yvonne Wilder, Tom Toner, Rudy De Luca, Philip Frame, George Macready, Walter Brooke, Edward Walsh, Craig T. Nelson.
OCTOBER 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971)
As I mentioned in my review for the first Yorga film, my buddy Chris was always hounding me to watch it, and when I finally did he told me that Return To Count Yorga was better. Luckily, the 3rd film never happened, and as luck would have it I was going to meet him for dinner tonight, so I was happy knowing he couldn’t bitch at me for not seeing it anymore. But then I found out that HE had never seen The Thing or The Fly! What a goon!
He’s right though, this one’s a lot better. Actually you might as well just skip the first one if you’ve seen a bunch of Dracula movies, since it’s a pretty close ripoff. This one has more of its own personality (it also ignores the first film; Yorga is alive with no explanation whatsoever), and it repeats the original stuff to boot – it’s sort of like Evil Dead 2 in that regard. Of course, this means that they bring back the scene halfway through the film where two guys walk around town and summarize the plot of the movie up to that point, but I actually find that kind of charming. A Yorga tradition!
But it also brings back the humor, which I greatly appreciated. Early on, Yorga crashes the lamest costume party in history, and someone asks him “Where are your fangs?” to which he replies “Where are you manners?”. And it’s kind of amusing that the guy who spends the bulk of the movie trying to figure stuff out is dressed as Sherlock Holmes in this sequence. There’s also a terrific bit where Yorga watches some Hammer vampire movie on TV, an early example of meta-humor. And I LOVED the scene where an old deaf dude ponders why they are asking him about "yoga" ("I tried it years ago, got stuck in a lotus position!").
And it’s scary! There are at least two instances of Yorga gnashing his teeth, making his eyes real big, and running at an intended victim that will likely freak anyone out if they were young and/or still scared by horror movies. As with the original, it’s sort of a kid friendly horror movie; it was re-rated R but was PG on its original release. I can’t think of anything particularly gruesome – I’d say the TV Salem’s Lot was way harsher, and when I reviewed that I was taken to task for not finding it very scary, mainly by folks who saw it as a kid.
Plus, as if the movie needed MORE entertainment value, it features the first theatrical turn by none other than Craig T. Nelson. At first I thought he was just going to be some glorified extra, since he plays his first two scenes without saying a word (he’s a cop investigating the murders/disappearances, but the other cops take more of an active role in the proceedings). But he eventually starts talking and is one of the two main heroes during the climax, since the actual hero (the Sherlock Holmes guy) disappears for the bulk of it. Him and his partner get kind of goofy, running away from danger and such, but it’s amusing. I’ll take it over the two cops from Halloween 5, at any rate.
The pacing is a bit sluggish at times though. Yorga makes his presence and his intentions known pretty quickly, and there are TWO scenes of a mute woman trying to convince the cops that there’s something fishy going on, only to be thwarted by this hateful little bastard kid who is under Yorga’s control. One was enough, and I say this as someone who loves to see hateful children in movies. It’s also a bit too dark at times, particularly during the climax, where I had trouble even seeing who was in the shot. The Netflix transfer was probably no help, but it definitely needed another light to begin with. Otherwise, it’s visually interesting as well; I particularly liked the murder by the dock that we watch from under the water. I also think Yorga breaks the record for vampire mistresses in a single movie; he’s got like 9 of them doing his bidding by the time the final reel comes.
Oh and he kills a priest via quicksand. Awesome.
As with many 70s MGM titles, the two films are available together on one DVD, the purchase of which is highly recommended. Like I said earlier, the original is sort of a rough draft for this more interesting/polished Yorga adventure, but Robert Quarry’s laid-back performance is quite great, and it’s a shame that the 3rd film (in which he’d be living in the sewer and commanding transients, which sounds like Theatre of Blood) never happened (especially since this one has no end credits or even a “the end” on screen – we get no closure whatsoever with this franchise!). Also, I’m unfamiliar with Quarry – can someone recommend any other horror films he starred in? Thanks.
What say you?
OCTOBER 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971)
Sequel time! Something I don’t do a whole lot of. There are just too many films to watch. And I am down to just over 35 films left, but I really enjoyed the campy Robert Quarry running down a hallway with his arms open attacking people in the original film. Also, I am lazy and Netflix Instant recommended this film.
Quarry is back as Count Yorga, resurrected for no apparent reason. Well, there is some nonsense about the Santa Anna winds, “They’re world famous” quips Yorga early on. And everyone in the film seems overly concerned with talking about the wind so it must be the winds that resurrected him. That makes this the best horror film ever involving the wind doing something. Keeping in mind The Happening is the competition the only competition. Anyway, Yorga pops out of his grave, summons his vampire zombie brides, acquires a mansion, hypnotizes a kid, attends a costume contest, and drains the blood of a chick – all in the first 10 mins. The guy is on a schedule.
Earlier I said this was like a sequel. I lied. It’s more like a remake or reimagining since the two films have no logical connection. Simply put, Yorga just needed to get his kill on again and this movie was made. And since the filmmakers had no interest in making things match up, Yorga has decided to move from L.A. to San Fran for this movie. I’m reminded of the band And They Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Dude is just honing his kill skills up highway 1.
After murdering a bunch of people that all worked for an orphanage, people, as they do, begin to suspect the new guy of being a vampire. It was the thing to do in the ‘70s. They did a lot of LSD in those days. Also, there were way more vampires living in mansions back then.
Quarry is as funny as ever with his random quick wit, at one point telling a kid playing Beethoven that he only likes the music, “when played well.” But my favorite part about Count Yorga is that, unlike almost every villain ever, he seems to have no real purpose. He isn’t exacting revenge or anything, he just likes to collect brides and mess with bumbling police and authority figures.
Yorga is a guy with a lot of time on his hands and likes to see how things play out. If you know me then you know this is my absolute favorite kind of villain. In this sense I can see exactly why Yorga was considered as an adversary to Dr. Phibes. Though, Phibes would destroy Yorga in a second – the amount of planning that guy does is beyond maddening.
Another fun flick, I can say that I am quite happy that this crazy project introduced me to the Count. Fans of classic vampires should undoubtedly get familiar with Quarry as Yorga.
Also, this film is staggeringly important as it features Craig T. Nelson’s (Poltergiest, Coach) first on screen appearance.
Snore Factory: ZZZ
OCTOBER 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971)
Ugh. Look, I realize the movies are, first and foremost, a business, and with them as with any other business, the bottom line is the bottom line. But they are, in some sense, an art form too, and for that reason, I really wish producers would have a little patience when it comes to making sequels. Some folks oppose sequels as a matter of principle, so pleasing them is obviously impossible. Most of us, though, just want our sequels to be worthy of the original film. This can be pretty tough under the best of circumstances, but when the man with the checkbook says, “Look, here’s some more money; I want you to make another movie like that last one right away,” it becomes damn near impossible. You have to give the creative team some time to get a good idea and figure out exactly how to turn that idea into a worthwhile flick. Otherwise, no amount of studio money is going to have any effect. Case in point: The Return of Count Yorga cost nearly twice as much as its predecessor, but looks much cheaper and never comes anywhere close to meeting the artistic or entertainment standards set by Count Yorga, Vampire.
For one thing, when you go around bringing back characters who were unambiguously killed the last time around, you’d goddamn well better have some kind of explanation to offer. The Return of Count Yorga does not. When a young orphan named Tommy (Philip Frame) runs into Count Yorga (Robert Quarry again) and his half-dozen vampire girlfriends while playing in a graveyard at sunset, we in the audience are apparently just supposed to forget about that stake that got driven through the Bulgarian vampire’s heart at the end of the last movie.
I really wish I could say whether the huge adobe mansion where Count Yorga is living is supposed to be the same pad he occupied in the previous film, but I’m afraid I just don’t know. It kind of looks the same, especially on the inside, but it also kind of looks different, and in any event, there sure as hell wasn’t an orphanage operating out of a big-ass Victorian on the lot next door in the original Count Yorga, Vampire. There is now, though, and Yorga puts in an appearance there on the night of the orphanage’s annual fundraising talent show and costume party. (Why do I get the feeling the costume party is a holdover from an earlier draft of the script?) Yorga makes quite an impression on orphanage manager Reverend Thomas (Tom Toner) and his staff, most of whom are members of a single large family, the Nelsons. Cynthia Nelson (Mariette Hartley, from Marooned and Mystery in Dracula’s Castle) is especially taken with the mysterious stranger who claims to have moved in recently to the place next door. But her friend (or maybe boyfriend— the fact that I’m not sure is symptomatic of a more general problem with this movie), Dr. David Baldwin (Roger Perry, from Count Yorga, Vampire, who is theoretically playing a different character this time, though the role is functionally the same) thinks Yorga is kind of a nut, especially when he starts talking about how he not only believes in vampires, but has actually seen one. (This odd conversation begins when a man dressed as Count Dracula wins the costume contest.)
Yeah, well, a few hours from now, Yorga won’t be the only one. After the party breaks up and the Nelsons (who seem to live in the orphanage building) are getting ready to go to bed, Yorga’s harem stops by to give them the Night of the Living Dead treatment in the living room. The older members of the family are merely killed, while the young and good-looking Cynthia and Ellen (Karen Ericson, from The Boston Strangler and Night of the Demons) are hauled back to Yorga’s place to be turned into vampires. The only member of the family who was not present at the time of the attack, the deaf-mute Jennifer (Yvonne Wilder), is the first on the scene the next morning, and it falls to her to get help.
Unfortunately, that help ends up not being very helpful, because by the time detectives Lieutenant Madden (Rudy De Luca) and Sergeant O’Connor (Craig T. Nelson, from Poltergeist, who also provided the voice of the big rubber monster in Flesh Gordon) arrive, along with Dr. Baldwin and Ellen’s fiance, Jason (David Lampson), Yorga’s servant, Bruda (still Edward Walsh) has already been by to clean up the mess and destroy all the evidence. With nothing concrete to go on, the detectives go back to the station, leaving Baldwin and Jason to puzzle out the situation by themselves.
Meanwhile, Count Yorga has hypnotized Cynthia into forgetting all about last night, and believing that she got into an auto wreck on the way to visit him. And just for good measure, he also has her believing that she and the count are close friends. Obviously, this is because Yorga wants her to fall in love with him, to be the only member of his harem who came to him willingly (in which case it seems to me that the whole hypnosis thing constitutes some serious cheating). The count has Cynthia stay at his place for the next several days, while she “recovers from her accident,” and he does his damnedest to charm the pants off the girl, at least within the constraints dictated by his nocturnal lifestyle. But the plan isn’t working (as indeed the vampire voodoo priestess [!] Yorga keeps in his basement had warned), and the undead boyar gradually comes to realize that he’s just going to have to do this the old-fashioned way.
Of course, a vampire has to eat, so all the while that Yorga’s been keeping Cynthia stashed away, he’s been going out on the town and snacking on strangers. And because David Baldwin works as a medical examiner (or at any rate, that’s the only explanation I can think of for his close relationship with the cops, and his presence at the scene of every one of Yorga’s crimes), he is in a position to notice certain similarities among the victims— the pair of puncture wounds on all of their throats, especially. I’d like to be able to say that it is this pattern of evidence that convinces David that a vampire is on the loose in San Francisco, but the fact of the matter is, he’d already reached that rather drastic conclusion long before he had any reason even to suspect it. Not only that, he’d also fingered Count Yorga as the vampire just as prematurely. So in the great vampire-movie tradition, Baldwin sets about trying to convince Reverend Thomas, Jason, Madden, and O’Connor that his whacked-out theory is correct, while these men go along with him every step of the way despite their constant protests that what they’re being asked to do and believe is ridiculous. Eventually, everybody ends up at Yorga’s place, and damned near everybody ends up dead. And of course, there’s a twist ending, mainly because the original Count Yorga, Vampire had one too.
I swear, just once, I’d like to see the good guys in a vampire movie come around to accepting the existence of their undead foes in a gradual, believable manner. The abruptness with which Dr. Hayes convinced himself that vampires were real was the thing that bothered me the most about the first Count Yorga movie, but that was nothing compared to the headlong leap into credulity carried out by David Baldwin in The Return of Count Yorga. And the worst part about it is, there was a perfectly logical way to sell us on Baldwin’s belief right at the filmmakers’ fingertips. After all, the man’s (apparently) a medical examiner. As such, he ought to know that there are a few pathological types running around who believe themselves to be vampires, and that from time to time, one of these people will turn to serial murder to slake their thirst for blood. It would have been the most reasonable thing in the world to have Baldwin go into his investigation of Count Yorga thinking he was one such madman, only to be presented with increasingly weighty evidence that the count was, in fact, the real thing. And failing that, it would have made just as much sense to have the doctor pretend that’s what he thought when he was making his case to the detectives. But no— instead it’s, “Hey, Madden, I’m pretty sure we’ve got a vampire in the city, and I think I know who he is.” And Madden, for all his scoffing, acts as though he believes Dr. Baldwin’s story from the very beginning!
Along with all the ill-justified plot developments and the total failure to provide an excuse for the vampire’s survival from the previous movie, another clear sign of the filmmakers’ desperation is the multitude of half-developed curlicues hanging off the main story. I grant you, it’s a pretty cool idea that Yorga would have an undead voodoo priestess living in his basement, but where in God’s name did she come from?! Why are the older female vampires of Yorga’s harem so decayed and pustulent this time around— isn’t freedom from bodily corruption part and parcel of that whole “immortality” thing? Why does Yorga treat his infatuation with Cynthia as something he’s never had to deal with in all his long unlife when the first movie was so upfront in portraying his vampirism as a sort of lechery gone bad? And just what is the nature of Yorga’s relationship with Tommy after their meeting in the cemetery? The kid can’t be a vampire, because he walks around during the day, but he definitely serves as one of the count’s agents, even to the extent of killing some of Baldwin’s vampire-hunters during the final confrontation in Yorga’s mansion. There are some decent ideas lying buried in the muddle of this movie’s script, but in their mad rush to get a Count Yorga sequel made, AIP didn’t allow their creative team an honest chance to make any of them work.