Dracula '72 was Hammer's 2nd to last attempt at ushering the thoroughly mined vampire movie into the modern age. Though I haven't seen all of the Christopher Lee Dracula movies, I can say with confidence that you won't find a more entertaining one than this. Hammer purists would likely disagree with me as it's not their standard period-piece sleeping pill but then… most Hammer purists are extremely old and their opinions = no longer valid.
The opening sequence is a flashback from the previous film Tasting the Blood of Dracula. Drac and Van Helsing (obviously Peter Cushing) are in the midst of a fight to the death on a stagecoach. As we all know, these two can't stand each other. Van Helsing gets the upper hand and Drac is disposed of by a wooden spoke in the heart, never to be heard from again. At least not for another half hour.
For the next 15 minutes, the viewer gets to groove along with a bunch of partying hippies who haven't yet been told that the 60's ended. While a live band gets down and funky, we're introduced to some British hipsters that deliver dialogue that I could never say with a straight face, such as "don't get your knickers in a twist, it was just a gag, man!" We meet the lovely Jessica Van Helsing as well as Johnny Alucard, the cooler-than-cool ringleader. Johnny is the kind of guy you'd see today at an Interpol concert - standing in the back, arms folded, looking detached. He convinces his herd to take part in an unholy ceremony with the sole intention of bringing Dracula back to life. Why not, it'll be a gas! With all the requirements for a successful satanic ritual in place (a castle, cloaks, candles, goblets, fog, weird powder and most importantly - bloodletting), the ceremony commences. Johnny's black magic is a raging success and Christopher Lee awakens from the grave. When the proud Johnny Alucard proclaims "I summoned you!", Lee immediately dismisses him with "It was MY will." He then officially announces his rebirth by feeding on a fair young lass, killing her.*
Van Helsing's grandson (also played by Cushing) learns that his daughter Jessica was privy to the murder and takes it upon himself to track down Dracula... again.
Dracula '72 boasts impressive sets, funny characters and a final showdown that delivers. While the battle itself is somehwhat underwhelming, the look in Lee & Cushing's eyes when the last dance begins is more potent than anything Freddy & Jason could do to each other.
Appendix: Van Helsing solves the riddle of Johnny Alucard's true nature using this spectacular formula:
*Dracula kills his victims when he bites them. But then Johnny is "given the power" of the vampire when he's bitten so who the hell knows how this thing really works.