In 17th Century Hungary, the elderly and recently widowed Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy (Ingrid Pitt) discovers she can temporarily restore her youth and libido by bathing in the blood of young virginal women.
Initially, her secret is only known to her castellan Captain Dobi (Nigel Green, a familiar face from such classics as Zulu and Jason & The Argonauts), who has loved the countess from afar for two decades and sees the death of her husband as making way for him, and her brainwashed nurse, Julie (Patience Collier).
At the reading of her husband's will, the Countess finds herself attracted to a new arrival, Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Elès, who has an air of Jonathan Rhys Meyers about him), the son of her husband's wartime colleague and heir to the Count's stables and collection of valuable horses.
Unfortunately, the will divides the late Count's estate between the Countess and their daughter, Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down, of North and South, and Dallas), who has yet to arrive back from a stay of many years in Vienna.
Thus, the Countess instructs Dobi to kidnap Ilona on her return to the area, and she is bundled off as a prisoner of mute woodsman Janco (Peter May), who's not the sharpest tool in the box but still manages to thwart her multiple escape attempts.
In the absence of the real Ilona, the de-aged Countess assumes the role of her daughter and seduces cavalry officer Toth.
However, because her dark magic never lasts longer than about 48 hours, the Countess finds herself switching between the 'characters' she plays in the castle, while also charging Dobi with finding her fresh victims.
The wise old librarian Grand Master Fabio (Maurice Denham) quickly becomes suspicious and starts to investigate the goings-on in the castle, but this comes at a cost.
However, his downfall opens the eyes of Toth, just as the castle is forced into "lockdown" by the Chief Bailiff, Captain Balogh (Peter Jeffrey), who concludes that the person responsible for the recent spate of murders could be among the Countess's staff.
Blackmailed into staying, Toth is forced to go through with the planned wedding to the fake Ilona, but the Countess needs another bath of blood to maintain her looks and energy for the honeymoon.
With no visitors coming to the castle, the jealous Dobi has to retrieve a virgin for exsanguination so his unrequited love can find some kind of happiness with a younger man.
Guess who he brings back?
A solid, if ultimately unremarkable, slice of Hammer Horror fare, with music from Harry Robertson of Hawk The Slayer fame, this is a creative compression of the legend of the real Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a real 16th Century serial killer said to have bathed in the blood of her victims.
Of course, the Countess isn't a classic cinematic vampire - there are no fangs on display, and she doesn't drink the blood, but rather uses it as skin cream - so the title Countess Dracula (shoehorned into the dialogue right at the last moment) is a slight misnomer.
I went into Countess Dracula pretty certain I'd seen it before, but as the tale unfolded, the more convinced I became that it was actually 'new' to me and I'd simply conflated it with the many other 'boobs and blood' vampire films I've sought out over the years.
- Countess Dracula was on the Horror Channel this week.
FILMS WATCHED: 18
NEW TO ME: 14