It stars Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, along with Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley, Patrick Troughton, and Michael Gwynn. Although disparaged by some critics, the film does restore a few elements of Bram Stoker's original character: the Count is introduced as an "icily charming host;" he has command over nature; and he is seen scaling the walls of his castle. It also gives Lee more to do and say than any other Hammer Dracula film except its first, 1958's Dracula.
This film breaks the continuity maintained through the previous entries in the Hammer Dracula series: whereas at the end of the preceding film, Taste the Blood of Dracula, the Count met his end in a disused church near London, this film opens with a resurrection scene set in Dracula's castle in Transylvania, with no explanation of how his ashes got there. The British Film group EMI took over distribution of the film after Warner Bros. and other American studios refused to distribute it in the U.S. It was also the first of several Hammer films to get an 'R' rating.
In the opening scene, Dracula's remains are seen lying on a stone plinth in a chamber in his Castle, having been defeated in the previous entry. The chamber can be accessed only through the window, set high in his Castle wall. It is not explained why his remains are there or how he came to die there. Suddenly, a large bat flies in and hovers over the plinth, regurgitating blood onto the vampire's remains. Almost immediately, the remains start to interact and bond with the dripped blood. Within seconds, Count Dracula is once more resurrected...
Soon afterwards, the local villagers are enraged that yet another young woman has been murdered by the Count. With a priest's blessing, they rise up and set fire to Castle Dracula. However, the Count is safely asleep in his solid stone chamber, When the villagers return home, they find that every single woman and child in the village has been slaughtered in the church by bats.
Falsely accused of rape by the burgomasters's spurned daughter, libertine Paul Carlson flees the Kleinenberg authorities by jumping into a nearby coach which, though driverless, heads off at great speed. He is deposited near Count Dracula's mountaintop castle. Initially he is welcomed by the Count and a beautiful woman named Tania, who later reveals herself to be imprisoned by Dracula as his mistress. Paul later has a liaison with Tania, who concludes their lovemaking by trying to bite his neck. Dracula enters and, casually throwing off Paul's efforts to stop him, savagely stabs Tania to death with a dagger for betraying him. The vampire's servant Klove dismembers her body and dissolves the pieces in a bath of acid. Locked in the room high in the castle, Paul uses tied-together bed curtains to climb down to a lower window, but the line is withdrawn by Klove, and he finds himself in the Count's chamber.
Paul's more sober brother Simon Carlson, and Simon's fiancee Sarah Framsen, come searching for him. A maid at the tavern directs them to the castle and they investigate. Dracula immediately has designs on the lovely Sarah, but Klove, who has fallen in love with the young woman after seeing her photograph amongst Paul's possessions, helps the young couple escape by refusing to do Dracula's bidding and remove Sarah's crucifix. The servant pays a terrible price for his disobedience as he is sadistically burnt by Dracula with a red-hot cutlass.
Simon, having enlisted the help of the village priest, goes back to the castle to look for his brother. However, the priest is attacked and killed by a large bat, and Simon is betrayed by Klove, ending up in the same locked room as his brother. Opening the coffin in the middle of the room, Simon discovers the sleeping Dracula, but the vampire's power reaches through his closed eyelids, causing the young man to collapse before he can take action against the Count.
When Simon recovers, the vampire has vanished. Investigating the room further, he is horrified to find his brother's drained corpse on a spike. Looking out of the window, he is amazed to see the Count running up the wall outside like an insect. With a rope let down by Klove, Simon climbs up the sheer outer wall to go after Sarah, knowing that Dracula may use her as his new mistress.
Sarah, meanwhile, has made her way back to the castle battlements as a storm approaches. Suddenly, she is confronted by Dracula, who this time uses his bat familiar to remove her crucifix. Just then, Klove arrives on the battlements and attacks the Count with the dagger the vampire used to murder Tania, but the servant is hopelessly outmatched by the vampire's inhuman strength and is thrown over the side of the castle.
Simon arrives and throws a heavy iron spike at Dracula with the intention of staking him in the heart. The spike pierces the Count, but on the wrong side of the chest. Unharmed, Dracula raises the spike to impale Simon, but the spike is struck by lightning and Dracula is immediately engulfed in flames. Staggering in agony, the Count collapses and topples over the castle's battlements, falling to the ground far below, where his corpse continues to burn fiercely...
A character called Klove had previously appeared in Dracula: Prince of Darkness as played by Philip Latham, in which he served Dracula as a butler. In that film, Klove was shot in the chest by Charles Kent (Francis Matthews) using priest Father Sandor (Andrew Keir)'s hunting rifle. It is never established that the character Klove in this film is meant to be the same character as in the previous film.Christopher Lee as Count Dracula
Dennis Waterman as Simon Carlson
Jenny Hanley as Sarah Framsen
Christopher Matthews as Paul Carlson
Michael Gwynn as The Priest
Michael Ripper as Landlord
Patrick Troughton as Klove
Anouska Hempel as Tania
Wendy Hamilton as Julie
Bob Todd as Burgomaster
The film was released theatrically by EMI Films and American Continental Films Inc. in Great Britain and the United States respectively.
It was released in some markets on a double feature with The Horror of Frankenstein.
The film was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2004. This version is currently out of production. It has since been released as part of "The Ultimate Hammer Collection" DVD range. The disc also features a running commentary, with Christopher Lee and director Roy Ward Baker hosted by Marcus Hearn (co-author of The Hammer Story) . Also revealing are Baker's anecdotes of his arguments with BBFC executive of that time - John Trevelyan. The running time has long been erroneously stated as being up to 96 minutes, usually 95 in most books including the book The Hammer Story. It is in fact short of 92 minutes listed on the Thorn EMI PAL VHS release of the 1980s. Anchor Bay's release has it correctly at 91 minutes.
The film received mixed to positive reviews upon its release and holds a four star rating (6.2/10) on IMDb.