This movie was intended to be another Dracula sequel without Dracula (or Christopher Lee) as in Brides of Dracula but eventually the film just evolved into a strange and dark tale of decadent vampires preying on the weak.
The story starts with a funeral. A distraught Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) stands by and after the coffin has been lowered he drives a shovel through the top of the coffin and into the body below. Blood oozes out all over the coffin.
Later recently married couple Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne (Jennifer Daniel) Harcourt are traveling through the countryside in one of those new fangled motorized vehicles that one hears so much about. They unfortunately run out of gas and this being the early 1900’s there isn’t gas stations around at all. They find themselves stranded in a small village in Bavaria. They find a place to stay and then are invited for supper at the wealthy and powerful Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman)
Dr. Ravna introduces the couple to his “family”. Brooding son Carl (Barry Warren) and daughter Sabena (Jacquie Wallis) welcome the couple and Marianne is suddenly infatuated by Carl, almost hypnotized by him. The next night they are invited to a masquerade ball at Dr. Ravna’s estate. Gerald is drugged at the party by Sabena and when he comes to he finds Dr. Ravna and company hostile to him and Marianne missing. In fact everyone in town informs him that he was never married and he arrived in town alone. Professor Zimmer decides to help Gerald save Marriane before she’s turned into a vampire. It seems Dr. Ravna and everyone associated with him are vampires, a cult of vampires!
Hammer started playing loose with vampire lore here and the vampires here can kind of walk out in daylight unlike a certain count. The ending was originally intended for Brides of Dracula but Peter Cushing objected to it. Without spoiling it the idea is really cool, the primitive Hammer budget sadly lessens the impact that it could have had. A rubber bat looks like a rubber bat no matter how it’s filmed.
Still despite the bad effects at the end this is still one of Hammer’s best vampire movies. As the years went by and the studio struggled to stay relevant some of their later vampire movies left a lot to be desired.