|I was there!|
I tend to remember it as a bigger, more mainstream film than it actually was - probably because it carried the AIP imprimatur; on renewed acquaintance, I see it's really a very early example of the kind of 1970s film Stephen Thrower herds together in his magisterial volume NIGHTMARE U.S.A.; that is, a DIY independent horror picture with rough edges and moments of dated silliness, but also some startling moments of grace, that uses the known clichés of the horror genre against its knowing audience, resulting in new kinds of tensions and shocks. When Yorga responds to a handmade crucifix being wielded in his direction with mocking laughter, I remember the bottom of my 15 year old stomach dropping out and a new feeling of terrible exposure to monstrous evil. It was what the atheism subplot of DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE hinted at, but didn't have the courage to enact.
|"May I?" asks Robert Quarry.|
Producer Michael Macready’s humorless, hunch-over-and-stare acting remains one of the film's few demerits; it’s a shame when he outlives the more capable actors, presumably for financial reasons - another reason why Perry’s contribution is so important. What surprised me most unfavorably on renewed acquaintance is how shaky (and frankly, overlit) so much of Arch Archambault's hand-held photography is, but there are just as many impressively observed shots - like the one of Yorga's hand softly lifting the edge of a drawn window shade to see what's happening on his grounds. (Archambault subsequently shot ANGELS DIE HARD and THE JEKYLL AND HYDE PORTFOLIO.)
I felt certain that Bob Kelljan would go on to become a major new horror director, but despite fairly strong follow-up efforts THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1972) and SCREAM, BLACULA, SCREAM (1973), this didn't happen. He subsequently moved into series television, racking up eight episodes of STARSKY AND HUTCH, five CHARLIE'S ANGELS, and numerous one-shots before his premature death at age 52 in 1982. I'd like to see FLESH OF MY FLESH, the erotic film made by Kelljan and Macready prior to YORGA in 1969, to see if it holds any indications of the promise found here. Of course, as the story goes, YORGA (or IORGA, as Michael Murphy can sometimes be heard pronouncing it) was initially undertaken as an adult film until Robert Quarry persuaded the filmmakers that horror films could be commercial as well.
|Roger Perry, Michael Murphy and Donna Anders.|
(c) 2020 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.