Bob Kelljan, 1971
Starring: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Mariette Hartley, Yvonne Wilder
Count Yorga inexplicably returns in this follow up to Count Yorga, Vampire and falls for Cynthia, a young woman who teaches at a nearby orphanage. One of her charges, Tommy, finds his way to the local cemetery and becomes Yorga’s minion, though his original servant, Brudah, has also returned. Yorga recreates his harem of undead brides, but they don’t come back quite right and seem more like zombies than vampires. Yorga and the brides leave the cemetery and move into a mansion next to the orphanage, hoping to use the children as prey.
Still obsessed with Cynthia, Yorga has the brides kill her entire family, though she believes they died in a car crash. He hopes that she will fall in love with him of her own accord and does not want to turn her into a vampire. Meanwhile, the police become involved and Cynthia’s boyfriend is suspicious about her disappearance. He soon believes that a vampire is responsible and seeks out a local Reverend and the police officers to help him get to the bottom of things.
While I found Return of Count Yorga nearly as enjoyable as the first film, there are definitely some flaws, namely its refusal to make a lot of sense and the numerous plot holes. Yorga’s return isn’t really explained - he was turned to dust at the end of the first film - though there’s some loose suggestion that the evil Santa Anna winds have revived him and his servant Brudah, though Brudah is human. Yorga’s obsession with Cynthia seems arbitrary and his decision to kill her family with the hope that she will fall in love with him is simply ridiculous. Why do the vampire brides look and act more like ghouls or zombies? Why is there a voodoo priestess in Yorga’s basement? And so on.
On occasion the plot drags and the writers could have waited a bit longer before introducing Yorga and making his intentions known. There is the inclusion of some very odd and out of place comedy through the two police officer characters, which reminded me of Universal’s unfortunate reliance on this in their horror films of the late ‘30s and ‘40s. One successfully humorous scene involves Yorga watching Hammer horror film The Vampire Lovers on TV, so there are a few moments where it does work.
Despite these issues, it is far bleaker and more nihilistic than the first film. By the conclusion nearly everyone dies and the attack sequences are much more violent. The film benefits from a larger budget and the sense of Gothic gloom is more pronounced than in the first film, thanks to some lovely set pieces. Count Yorga, Vampire’s director Bob Kelljan returned to direct and co-wrote the film with actress Yvonne Wilder, who I believe was his wife at the time.
Robert Quarry is again very compelling as Yorga and carries the film. There’s a decent performance from Mariette Hartley (Mystery in Dracula’s Castle) as Cynthia. Roger Perry returns from Count Yorga, Vampire in a different, though similar role. Karen Ericson (Night of the Demons), Craig T. Nelson (Poltergeist), and Yvonne Wilder (co-writer of the film) are also enjoyable. The Return of Count Yorga was supposed to be followed by a third film that allegedly involved the Count living in the sewers, turning the homeless into an army of the undead. Instead, Quarry starred in another, unrelated vampire film, The Deathmaster.
Also known as The Curse of Count Yorga or The Abominable Count Yorga, Return of Count Yorga can be found on DVD from MGM’s Midnite Movies series alongside Count Yorga, Vampire, though sadly this has fallen out of print and used copies have become rather expensive. Hopefully they will be released on Blu-ray sometime soon.