Following on nicely from the end of Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, this film starts with a man named Weller (Roy Kinnear) stumbling across a scene in which Dracula is dying. Weller takes some souvenirs away from this grisly tableaux, as you would, and goes on his merry way. Some time later, three men (William Hargood, played by Geoffrey Keen, Samuel Paxton, played by Peter Sallis, and Jonathon Secker, played by John Carson) meet a younger man (Lord Courtley, played by Ralph Bates) who shares their particular interests. All of these men have a fondness for exploring the darker side of life and giving in to their base desires, so when Courtley brings up a plan to buy the items that belonged to Dracula and to use them in an unholy ceremony. Well, that sounds like a jolly good time so the men agree and go along, only to lose courage when it comes to actually finishing the ceremony. They attack Courtley and flee, unaware that Dracula has risen from the dead and now aims to destroy those who would treat his servant so badly.
Peter Sasdy is the director of this one, and Anthony Hinds is the writer, and both men are working a few levels below their best. In fact, it's only the presence of Lee in his most famous role that saves this from being a complete stinker. The rest of the cast aren't bad, they're just not all that memorable either. Roy Kinnear doesn't have a lot of screen-time, and neither does Ralph Bates, so viewers are stuck with Keen, Sallis and Carson as the main characters. Linda Hayden plays the daughter of Geoffrey Keen's character and is, of course, quite lovely, as is Isla Blair (playing Lucy Paxton), but the aforementioned actors, plus Anthony Higgins, all seem pretty interchangeable.
Sadly, even the death scenes aren't that entertaining, although I enjoyed them more this time around than I did during past viewings, and the grand finale is, in my opinion, the absolute worst of any Hammer Dracula film. There's a nice element of seediness running through the whole thing, with both the content that's front and centre and also a few things that are implied, but even that isn't enough to put this above average.
Of course, opinions vary with any movie and even more so with Hammer movies. I've quickly learned that every single instalment in the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy series of movies that the studio produced will have one person who rates it as their very best and this film is no exception. There will be one or two people reading this who will absolutely love this film and I will never understand why.