In 1970 after Peter Sasdy's wonderful TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (which for the first time in the series placed Dracula in his literary origins of Victorian England) Hammer followed up with the shoddy SCARS OF DRACULA. Looking to amp up the blood & gore content (unfortunately on what would seem to be laughably small budget), SCARS was a huge letdown after the atmospheric TASTE THE BLOOD (which is my favorite in the series after the original) and its relative failure at the box office was probably another inducement for Hammer to try something different.
Opening with a marvelous sequence that has Lee and Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing battling aboard a runaway coach in 1872 England (which oddly places the action 13 years before the 1958 DRACULA's 1885 time frame) whereupon the coach crashes and Dracula is impaled by one of splintered wheels. Before he himself dies Van Helsing jams one of the spokes into Dracula's heart causing him to dissolve away, but not before a minion of Dracula (Christopher Neame from GHOSTBUSTERS II) scoops up the ashes and buries them in a lonely corner of a cemetery. Flash forward 100 years (which is accomplished by a pretty nifty panning shot of the graveyard to a passing jet airliner) to 1972 London and we're introduced to "Johnny Alucard" (a relative of Dracula's minion again played by Neame) and his group of hedonistic young swingers. His friends include Gaynor (future Mick Jagger girlfriend Marsha Hunt), Laura (Caroline Munro THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD & AT THE EARTHS CORE) along with the "good girl" of the gang Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beachum SUPER BITCH & THE NIGHTCOMERS) who happens to be the granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing (again Cushing - who is the great great grandson of the original Prof. Van Helsing from the film's 1872 prologue).
Looking for some bigger thrills Johnny talks the group at a deserted church (which happens to be the one where Dracula was buried in the prologue) and by bringing along the ashes his ancestor procured seems to intent on resurrecting the vampire. In one of the films better sequences Laura is chosen as the centerpiece of the ritual and with ominous music being played in the background, she is laid out on an altar table and drenched with blood across her chest (which being Caroline Munro's chest makes it one of the highlights of the film). During the course of the ceremony Laura is killed by Dracula and when her body is later found it brings in the police. Upon his resurrection Dracula enlists the help of Johnny to locate the Van Helsings to exact revenge upon them. For some strange reason the movie has all the female victims of Lee and the by now vampire Johnny Alucard killed outright without turning into vampires, while the male victim does. It's seems a bit odd to have a Hammer vampire movie devoid of female vampires ??
Caroline Munro was a model/cover girl and was the only actress ever signed to a contract by Hammer Studios. She turned down offers from Playboy and always refused to do nudity in any of her roles (which although disappointing, I always admired her for) which caused her to lose out roles in Hammer's DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971) and their unrealized VAMPERILLA project. Also for Hammer she appeared in the criminally underrated CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER from 1974.