A man named Weller (Roy Kinnear) is thrown from his carriage in Eastern Europe and is knocked out. He awakens in the night and hears a scream. Terrified, he runs and falls and sees a caped figure impaled on a crucifix. The figure dies and disintegrates into dust. He examines the remains and finds a ring, a cape, and a brooch bearing the name of Dracula. Three men—William Hargood (Geoffrey Keene), Samuel Paxton (Peter Sallis), and Jonathan Secker (John Carson)—have set up a charity to help prostitutes, but it’s really a brothel. There, they meet Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), who had been disinherited by his father for celebrating a black mass.
He takes them to the Café Royal and promises them something amazing if they purchase from Weller the ring, cloak, and blood of Dracula. Courtley mixes his own blood with Dracula’s in an abandoned church and offers it to them to drink. They refuse, but he does it himself, screams, and falls to the ground. Horrified, they beat him to death and flee. His abandoned body transforms into Dracula, who vows vengeance on them for killing his servant.
First, he takes control of Hargood’s daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) and she kills her father with a shovel. The police are unable to find her, but she attracts the attention of Lucy (Isla Blair), Paxton’s son’s lover, telling her to meet her at night. Alice introduces her to a dark figure, who turns her into a vampire.
Hargood is dead and Alice and Lucy missing, so Paxton fears he is next. With Secker, he visits the abandoned church looking for Courtley’s corpse and finds Lucy asleep in a coffin. Secker tries to stake her but Paxton shoots him in the arm. Paxton weeps over his daughter’s body, but by the time he decides to stake her, she awakes and Dracula appears. Alice pins him down and Lucy stakes him to death instead. Lucy then meets with her fiancé, young Secker, and enslaves him to Dracula, and Jeremy stabs his father to death.
Lucy begs for Dracula’s approval, but he drains her dry. Alice escapes because the cock crows and Dracula has to return to his coffin. Jeremy is arrested for killing his father. He has vampire-slaying instructions from Secker, but the police are not impressed. Paul finds Lucy’s body floating in a lake and goes to the church, baring the door with a cross and removing the black mass paraphernalia from the altar. He confronts Dracula with a cross but Alice disarms him. Still, Dracula cannot escape the re-sanctified church and dissolves into dust. Paul and Alice leave together.
The film was directed by Peter Sasdy from a script by Anthony Hinds, the fourth with Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Originally, Dracula was not supposed to be in it, but Hammer Studio’s American distributor refused to promote the film without him and they convinced Lee to do one more. The brothel scenes were heavily edited but restored for DVD. It was actually one of the few R-rated Hammer films. A review said that Lee could do Dracula in his sleep and seems to have done so, but he was highly praised by other critics. Anthony Higgins was a Nazi officer in Raiders of the Lost Arc and Isla Blair was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I was impressed by the story, frankly, which was more complex and character-driven than the average Hammer production.