Anaemic David Peel as Baron Meinster is a poor substitute for Lee’s more full-blooded undead Count, but that’s the only point of contention in a classic Terence Fisher-directed shocker in rich, delirious Technicolor. Fisher made a large number of films for Hammer, but this may well be his very best.
There is a slight peculiarity in that, despite the title, Count Dracula doesn’t appear and nor does the awesome Christopher Lee. But Peter Cushing is present and correct as Dr Van Helsing, this time battling an outbreak of vampirism in a school for young ladies caused by the insufficiently chained-up Baron.
The pace is headlong, the acting excellent – Martita Hunt stands out as the baron’s mother – and the visual style is simply thrilling. As ever, Cushing gives his all, taking the whole thing seriously and excelling himself towards the end when he has to face his own greatest fear.
The marvellous atmosphere drips with a lingering Gothic ghoulishness, the sexuality is remarkably upfront for its time, and the climax set in the shadow of a moonlit windmill is the stuff of fairy-tale nightmare.
Dr Van Helsing