Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur) is travelling from her home in Paris to Transylvania to take up a schoolteaching position there, but as she nears her destination the coach driver is increasingly determined to go as fast as possible. She nervously calls for him to slow down, but then the carriage comes to a halt because there's a log in the middle of the road. The driver gets down to remove it, but as he does a black-clad figure leaps aboard the back of the carriage unseen. When they get to the nearest village to rest, Marianne finds herself stranded when the driver realises who has been hanging onto his transport - where can she spend the night now?
Well, I wouldn't recommend the castle for a start. For the second in Hammer's Dracula series, the title character was nowhere to be seen, reputedly because the studio didn't want to pay Christopher Lee more money now he had hit a level of stardom (thanks to Hammer, of course). In place of him was a new vampire, Baron Meinster played by David Peel in his most famous role (or indeed, the only role anyone knew him for), and thanks to a rich script worked on by Peter Bryan, Edward Percy and Jimmy Sangster the Count wasn't much missed.
However, there's someone else missing for the first half hour, and that's a hero. During the initial third, we follow Marianne as she is offered a place to sleep at - gulp - the castle where the Baroness Meinster (a sinisterly regal Martita Hunt) says she can receive food and a bed. The reason for this is ostensibly because she says she's lonely, yet when Marianne settles in for the night, she notices not only a second place set for dinner, but a mystery figure lurking by a window across the courtyard. No prizes for guessing who he is, but Marianne is about to be fooled.
Around this time in British cinema there was a vogue for placing French actresses in starring roles for that Continental touch, and Monlaur was one of those actresses. She fits in better with a Hammer horror than many of her countrywomen would fit in with other genres of U.K. films and her beauty certainly adds a dash more glamour to the proceedings. Also helping out for the production's glossy sheen is Bernard Robinson's classy production design, making this one of the best looking of the colour Hammers. All it needs now is a Peter Cushing.
And when he arrives, he is a reassuringly stable presence as Van Helsing, visibly the same man of action we saw in the previous film. He finds Marianne unconscious in the local forest after she has spent the night freeing the bloodsucking baron from his chain - although if he can turn into a bat, why chain him up? And why did the Baroness invite her guest over if she wasn't intended as succour for her wayward son? So many questions, so little time as Brides of Dracula hurries along, depositing Marianne at her school for young ladies with the Baron hot on her heels. Cushing brings out the protective attitude towards the film's cast of young women, not in a "are you looking at my bird?" kind of way, more of a paternalistic manner, and the not entirely smooth plotting builds to an exciting climax with Van Helsing violently curing himself of a vampire bite and a novel way of destroying the villain. Music by Malcolm Williamson.