Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) travels to Dracula's (Christopher Lee)
castle, supposedly to become the Count's new librarian, but actually he's a
vampire hunter in disguise ...but in a moment of carelessness he is attacked by
Dracula & his vampire bride (Valerie Gaunt) & incarcerated as blood
donor. Of course he eventually manages to escape & finds Dracula & his
bride resting in their vault ... but after hav ing killed the woman he notices
the sun has already gone down, & Dracula seems to like an early start ...
later, Harker's friend & partner in crime (vampire hunting), Van Helsing
(Peter Cushing) arrives at castle Dracula to find the count already gone, only
Jonathan is left behind ... already turned into a vampire, which forces Van
Helsing to stake him ...
Again days later, Van Helsing arrives at Holmwood
manor to bring Harker's fiancée Lucy (Carol Marsh) the bad news, but finds out
he is not quite as welcomed as he thought, as Lucy's brother Arthur (Michael
Gough) thinks he has something to do with Jonathan's death & shields his
sister - who has somehow taken ill - from Van Helsing ...
Lucy suffers - as
Van Helsing has to learn from Arthur's more appreciative wife Mina (Melissa
Stribling) from severe & sudden bloodloss ... the signs of a vampire attack
of course, & Van Helsing goes out of his way to save her from being fully
vampirized, with means of garlic & cruzifixes ... but to no avail, when
Lucy sees through all this & orders servant Gerda (Olga Dickie) to remove
the stuff ... & the next day, she's dead.
Arthur Holmwood reacts -
understandably - more reserved than ever towards Van Helsing ... Until he hears
of Gerda's little daughter Tanya (Janina Faye) regularly taking nightly walks
with aunt Lucy, & when he goes to personally check the family crypt,
he finds Lucy is indeed gone ... & worse yet, he actually sees her walking
around, even attacking him, & only Van Helsing manages to save him now ...
Eventually, Arthur even agrees to letting Van Helsing stake Lucy.
& Arthur now take it upon themselves to track down & destroy the
vampire, but by & by see all the clues to Dracula's resting place disappear
... Dracula meanwhile hasn't been idle, lured Mina into a trap & is
now using her as a blood donor, with the plans of eventually turning her into
his new companion.
Of course, Van Helsing & Arthur eventually learn about
this & go out of their way to guard the house (from the outside), but little
do they know the vampire has taken residence in the manor's own cellar &
has thus direct access to Mina's bedroom ... & when Van Helsing at long
last does find out, Dracula kidnaps Mina & dashes back to his castle (which
is not all that far away).
Arthur & Van Helsing arrive at castle Dracula
just in time to prevent Dracula from burying Mina alive, & ultimately, Van
Helsing manages to kill Dracula by exposing him to the rays of the morning sun
After the unexpected runaway success of Hammer's first
gothic Curse of Frankenstein a
follow up - using largely the same cast & crew - was only logical ... &
could there be a more logical choice than an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula
? I think not.
But even if this sounds now as if Dracula was nothing
more than a quick cash-in on Curse
of Frankenstein, this does the movie little justice, it is in fact
another triumph of economic storytelling (several of the more boring passages
of Stoker's novel are delightfully stressed & unnecessary characters
omitted from the book), of stylish colour direction, and of great acting
(Christopher Lee's portrayal of Dracula would soon rival that of Bela Lugosi in
popularity, & Peter Cushing brings a restlessness & ruthlessness to his
character that make him the perfect Van Helsing [or Sherlock
Holmes, for that matter]).
As a matter of fact, Dracula did
become an even bigger success than Curse
of Frankenstein, & Hammer did eventually follow up that
movie with 8 sequels in the next 15 years, with not all of them starring both
Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (but at least one of them).
Christopher Lee did also do 2 Dracula movies away from Hammer,
Jess Franco's El Conde Dracula in 1969, and Edouard Molinaro's comedy Dracula
Père et Fils in 1976.