A gloomy wood is seen as a voice is heard, narrating:
Transylvania, land of dark forests, dread mountains and black unfathomable lakes. Still the home of magic and devilry as the nineteenth century draws to its close. Count Dracula, monarch of all vampires is dead. But his disciples live on to spread the cult and corrupt the world...
Marianne Danielle, a young French schoolteacher en route to take up a position in Transylvania, is abandoned at a village inn by her coach driver. Ignoring the warnings of the locals, she accepts the offer of Baroness Meinster to spend the night at her castle. There, she sees the Baroness's handsome son, whom she is told is insane and kept confined. When she sneaks into his quarters to meet him, she is shocked to find him chained by his leg to the wall, and when he tells her that his mother has usurped his rightful lands and pleads for her help, she agrees to steal the key to his chain from the Baroness' bedroom. Discovering this, the Baroness is horrified; yet when her son appears, she obeys him and accompanies him back to his room. Later, Marianne discovers the Baroness' servant Greta, who has also taken care of the Baron since he was a baby, in hysterics: She shows Marianne the Baroness' corpse, and the puncture marks in her throat. Marianne flees into the night upon seeing this, while Greta chastises the Baroness for raising her son on cruelty and cavorting with bad company in the past, which lead to one such being (Dracula) turning him into a vampire and the Baroness having to chain him in his room (while feeding him any girls that she lured to the castle). Despite knowing the evil he intends to the village, Greta remains loyal to the Baron.
Marianne is later found, exhausted, by Dr. Van Helsing the following morning. She doesn't remember all that has happened, nor is she familiar when asked about the words "undead" or "vampirism." He escorts her to the school where she's to be employed.
When Van Helsing reaches the village inn, he finds there is a funeral in progress. A young girl has been found dead in the woods with wounds upon her throat. He contacts Father Stepnik, who had requested Van Helsing's presence, having suspicions about the castle and the Baroness. He tries to dissuade the girl's father from burying her, but he doesn't listen, allowing more time for her transformation to be completed. Indeed, Stepnik's fears are confirmed when Helsing (and later Stepnik himself) goes to the cemetery that night in hopes of stopping the transformation, only to find Greta already there; Greta aides the newly vampirised village girl to rise from her grave. The men try to stop her, but Greta holds them off and allows the girl to flee. Van Helsing goes to the castle and discovers the Baroness, now risen as a vampire herself, as well as the Baron. After a brief scuffle, the Baron flees on a coach driven by the village girl, abandoning his mother, who is full of self-loathing and guilt over her actions with her son. Knowing that the Baron has no interest in controlling her — and that the transformation was his revenge on her for locking him up — Helsing takes pity on her and, after sunrise the next morning, kills her with a wooden stake as she slumbers.
The Baron, meanwhile, visits Marianne at the school and asks her to marry him. She accepts, much to the good-natured envy of her roommate Gina. However, once Gina is alone, Baron Meinster appears in her room, hypnotizes her and drains Gina of her blood. When Van Helsing visits the next day, he finds the school in a small uproar over Gina's death. After inspecting Gina's body and finding bite wounds on her neck, Helsing orders that her body be placed in a horse stables with people watching it until he returns. That night, Marianne relieves the headmaster's wife of her watch. Initially she is with the stable keeper, Severin, when, in a scene derived from M. R. James' "Count Magnus," one of the padlocks on the coffin falls off without unlocking. Severin goes outside to fetch another lock, but is killed by a vampire bat (presumably the Baron or the village girl from earlier) while inside the last lock falls from the coffin. The coffin lid is pushed opened and Gina rises, now a vampire, and smiles her newly formed fangs at Marianne. She approaches Marianne, asking forgiveness for letting the Baron "love her". She also reveals the whereabouts of the Baron, who is hiding at the old mill, and tries to convince Marianne to come with her so "they can both love him".
Van Helsing discovers the body of Severin and rushes into the stables. Seeing him and likely knowing his vampire hunter status from her connection with the Baron, Gina flees while Van Helsing attends to Marianne who has fainted from the events. Van Helsing takes Marianne back to the school to calm her down. Marianne doesn't want to believe that Gina or the Baron are vampires, but Van Helsing confirms that they are, stating that the Gina she once knew is indeed dead and has been resurrected as the Baron's newest vampire bride, now evil and completely under his control. If not stopped, neither the Baron nor she will have qualms attacking school under his commands and adding to their undead ranks. Reluctantly, Marianne tells Van Helsing what Gina told her. The vampire hunter goes to the old mill and manages to find the Baron's coffin, but is soon confronted by both of Meinster's "Brides" as well as Greta, who commands Gina and the village girl to obey their master's commands and kill Helsing. Helsing wards the brides off with his cross, but Greta, who is human and unaffected, manages to wrestle it away from him only to trip and plummet from the rafters, dying in the fall. However the cross falls into the well below the mill and is now out of Van Helsing's reach as the Baron arrives, brandishing a length of chain. In the fight that follows, the Baron manages to subdue Van Helsing and bites him, inflicting him with vampirism before leaving while having Gina and the village girl keep watch over Helsing. When Van Helsing wakes, he realizes what has happened. He heats a metal tool in a brazier until it is red hot, then cauterises his throat wound and pours holy water on it to purify it. The wounds disappear as Gina and the village girl watch from the rafters, shocked that Van Helsing overcame a vampire bite and saved himself from vampirisim.
Baron Meinster, meanwhile, abducts Marianne from the school and brings her to the mill, intending to vampirise her in front of Van Helsing. As Meinster attempts to hypnotise her, to make her compliant to his will, Van Helsing seizes a canteen of holy water that dropped in their earlier fight. Gina and the Village Girl try to hiss a warning to their master, but Van Helsing manages to throw its contents into the Baron's face, which sears him like acid. Meinster kicks over the brazier of hot coals, starting a fire. The Baron runs outside and his brides make their escape into the night. Van Helsing takes Marianne up into the mill, then out via the huge sails, which he moves to form the shadow of a gigantic cross over Meinster. Van Helsing goes to ground level to make sure he's dead, then comforts Marianne as the mill burns (What happens to Gina and the village girl is never stated and it's assumed they're still at large in the village).Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing
Martita Hunt as Baroness Meinster
Yvonne Monlaur as Marianne
Freda Jackson as Greta
David Peel as Baron Meinster
Miles Malleson as Dr. Tobler
Henry Oscar as Herr Lang
Mona Washbourne as Frau Lang
Andree Melly as Gina
Victor Brooks as Hans
Fred Johnson as Cure
Michael Ripper as the Coachman
Norman Pierce as the Landlord
Vera Cook as the Landlord's wife
Marie Devereux as the Village girl
Michael Mulcaster (uncredited) as Latour
Henry Scott (uncredited) as Severin
Brides of Dracula holds a score of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. The famous Spanish cult film director Jesus Franco credits this film as the one that inspired him to enter the horror film genre in 1961, resulting in his highly acclaimed The Awful Dr. Orloff.
A paperback novelization of the film by Dean Owen was published by Monarch Books in 1960, and features:an entire subplot about a character named Latour, a townsman who serves the Meinster estate;
a subplot where Van Helsing and Marianne fall in love and have sex;
the climax features a "black magic" ceremony where Dr. Van Helsing summons a swarm of vampire bats to destroy Baron Meinster for violating "the vampire code"...drinking the blood of his own mother and turning her into a vampire. This ending was not used in the film but it was used as the climax of the 1962 Hammer horror classic, "Kiss of the Vampire". In its climax, Professor Zimmer (played by Clifford Evans) performs the ceremony and the bats attack Castle Ravna and the vampires that are there.
A region 1 DVD edition of the film (in a two double-sided disc box set, along with seven other Hammer classics originally distributed by Universal International) was released on 6 September 2005. This set was re-released on Blu-ray on 13 September 2016.
A region 2 DVD edition of the film was released on 15 October 2007.
A region B Blu-ray/DVD Double Play was released on 26 August 2013. This release was somewhat controversial among fans as the original aspect ratio was overcropped from 1.66 to 2.0.