Following Dracula AD 1972 came Hammer’s modern dress entry in the Dracula series.
The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a science fiction/horror/thriller hybrid lacking in Hammer’s usual Gothic flavour and bursting with new ideas, viewed by some as a cross between Dracula and The Avengers; it’s well-paced but suffers from Alan Gibson’s careless direction and cross-cutting.
The script, by Doctor Who scribe Don Houghton creates an amusing allegory between capitalism and vampirism. Christopher Lee desired to put the character behind him and his wish was granted, providing him with the most dialogue he ever delivered as Dracula.
The serene Peter Cushing produces his customary excellent performance as a descendant of the original Van Helsing. Joanna Lumley takes one of her final ingénue film roles as Helsing’s red-headed granddaughter before moving into television and finding fame in The New Avengers.
A top-secret government department is investigating a group of esteemed VIPs; General Freeborne (Lockwood West), John Porter MP (Richard Matthews), Lord Carradine (Patrick Barr), Professor Julian Keeley (Freddie Jones) and an unknown fifth man, who visit Pelham House, home to the Physic Examination Research Group (PERG).
When one of their undercover agent’s returns battered, bruised and barely alive – and with his dying words gives a hint that the group are meddling in the occult – department heads Peter Torrence (William Franklyn) and Colonel Matthews (Richard Vernon) recruit Scotland Yard’s Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) and occult expert Professor Van Helsing (Cushing) to investigate the organisation.
As Keeley is a former friend, this is Van Helsing’s first port of call. He finds Keeley a nervous wreck and discovers he has been experimenting with an accelerated new strain of bubonic plague – but before he can reveal who commissioned the experiment, a PERG hitman murders Keeley.
Meanwhile, Murray and Torrence visit Pelham House via the front entrance, whilst Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica (Joanna Lumley) creeps in at the rear of the building. They discover a cluster of female vampires in the cellar and are chased from the building by motorbike henchmen.
It transpires that the fifth member of the organisation and the financial donor is property tycoon recluse, D.D Denham (Christopher Lee), aka Count Dracula.
The St Bartolph’s churchyard where the original Van Helsing killed Dracula has since been redeveloped and is now home to the Denham Group skyscraper, and when Professor Van Helsing visits he is greeted by the person he expected: Count Dracula.
Torrence and Col Matthews are killed by Dracula’s henchman, whilst Van Helsing and Murray are taken prisoner at Pelham House to see the legendary Count destroy the human race with a new strain of bubonic plague and take a new wife: Jessica.
General Sir Arthur Freeborne
Barbara Yu Ling
Jessica Van Helsing
Professor Julian Keeley
Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing
John Porter MP
Valerie Van Ost