The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a 1973 horror film directed by Alan Gibson and produced by Hammer Film Productions. It is the eighth film in Hammer's Dracula series, and the seventh and final to feature Christopher Lee as Dracula. The film was also the third film to unite Peter Cushing as Van Helsing with Lee, following Dracula (1958 film) and Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).
A Secret Service agent (Maurice O'Connell) barely escapes from an English country house, in which satanic rituals are celebrated. Before he dies of his wounds, he reveals to his superiors that four prominent members of society – a government minister, a peer, a general and a famous scientist – are involved in the cult, led by Chin Yang (Barbara Yu Ling). In order to avoid any reprisals by the minister, the secret service call in Scotland Yard's Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) to work on the case independently. Murray (who had appeared in the preceding Dracula film) suggests consulting noted occult expert Professor Lorrimar Van Helsing (Cushing).
The cult kidnaps the Secret Service secretary Jane (Valerie Van Ost), who is later bitten by Dracula (Lee).Murray, Secret Service agent Torrence (William Franklyn) and Van Helsing's granddaughter Jessica (Joanna Lumley) arrive at the country house. They split up with the former two investigating inside where they meet Chin Yang, the head of the house. Jesscia goes in through the cellar where she finds Jane, chain to a wall, who reveals she's now a vampire. The commotion awakens other vampire women who are likewise stored there and they nearly feed on Jesscia. Her screams are heard by her fellow agents who come to her rescue. In the process Murray kills Jane with a stake and the three escape the grounds.
Meanwhile, Van Helsing pays a visit to his scientist friend Julian Keeley (Freddie Jones), whom he had recognized among the four conspirators, and finds him mentally unstable and involved on bacteriological research aiming at creating a virulent strain of the bubonic plague. Van Helsing is shot unconscious by a guard. As he comes to, Keeley's dead body hangs from the ceiling while the petri dishes containing the bacteria are gone.
Keeley had referred to the 23rd of the month, which Van Helsing reveals to be the "Sabbath of the Undead". Keeley's research notes lead Van Helsing to the reclusive property developer D. D. Denham, who had funded Keeley's research. Van Helsing also suspects a reincarnated Dracula behind the plot, suggests that Dracula wants to exact revenge on humanity and speculates about a secret death wish on the Count's part. Van Helsing visits Denham in his headquarters (built on top of the church yard where Dracula died in the previous film) and finds out his true identity: Count Dracula. He tries to shoot Dracula with a silver bullet but is beaten by the Count's conspirators. Dracula decides that killing Van Helsing would be too simple and has him transferred to the country house.
Meanwhile, Jessica, Murray and Torrence, while observing the country house, are attacked by snipers. Torrence is killed, while Murray and Jessica are captured. Murray awakes in the cellar and escapes the clutches of the female vampires, and later Chin Yang, revealed to be a vampire herself, just as Dracula arrives with Van Helsing.
Dracula announces to Van Helsing and the ministers that Jessica, who is laid out on the satanic altar, will be his consort, uncorrupted by the plague that his "four horsemen" – including Van Helsing – would carry out into the world. The conspirators, who had considered the plague a mere deterrent not to be used, begin to question their master, but Dracula's hypnotic command stops them and causes the minister John Porter (Richard Mathews) to break the vial, releasing the bacteria and immediately infecting the minister, causing him horrible suffering.
Murray runs into a guard in the computer room, but overpowers him after a fight scene. The guard's metal baton smashes a computer panel and the ensuing explosion starts a fire and breaks open the ritual room. The two uninfected conspirators escape, Murray rescues Jessica, while the infected minister – and the plague bacteria – burns in the fire. Dracula attacks Van Helsing, who escapes through a window into the woods. He lures Dracula into a hawthorn bush – a symbol of good as it provided Christ with his crown of thorns – where he is entangled until Van Helsing drives a stake through his heart.
The film included much of the original cast and characters of Dracula A. D. 1972, the main change being Joanna Lumley playing a more mature version of Jessica Van Helsing, as compared to Stephanie Beacham.
Work began on what was tentatively titled Dracula is Dead and Well and Living in London in November 1972. The title was a parody of the stage and film musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, but Lee was not amused. Speaking at a press conference in 1973 to announce the film, Lee said: I'm doing it under protest... [...] I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives – fatuous, pointless, absurd. It's not a comedy, but it's got a comic title. I don't see the point. The film was eventually retitled as The Satanic Rites of Dracula. It is a mixture of horror, science fiction and a spy thriller, with a screenplay by Don Houghton, a veteran of BBC's Doctor Who. The original score was composed by television composer John Cacavas. It wrapped on 3 January 1973 – 15 years to the day since the original Hammer Dracula.
This was the final Hammer film Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing would make together together. Lee was offered the role of Dracula opposite Cushing in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires but declined it. The two stars would eventually reunite one more time in House of the Long Shadows 10 years later.
In the United States, the film was distributed as Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride.