Continuing the Dracula saga is Hammer's first official Dracula sequel to Horror of Dracula which was released eight years earlier. The reason for the delay is said to be due to a variety of reasons, but it was most likely Christopher Lee's fear of being typecast, which hindered him from returning to the role of the famed Prince of Darkness. But within that eight year period Lee had become a staple in the Hammer franchise, starring not only in many of Hammer's other horror reboots but also some of their thriller and adventure films, therefore he felt comfortable returning to the role of Dracula.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness takes a different approach from the first film (and the semi-sequel The Brides of Dracula) in the sense that Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing is missing from the storyline. The new protagonist is a monk named Father Shandor, who during his travels meets two couples from England traveling the country on vacation. When they mention to him they are on their way to Carlsbad, Shandor warns them to stay away from the castle. They receive a similar type warning from their carriage driver, who ends up dropping them off on the outskirts of the city refusing to travel any further at night, stating he'll return in the morning to take them the rest of the way, if they're still there when he returns.
Planning to spend the night in a small abandon cabin near where they weren't dumped off a strange driver-less carriage appears from the forest and stops right in front of the vacationers. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth they procure the carriage with the goal of continuing their journey to Carlsbad, although the horses have a different destination, and they take the group right up to the castle. They're invited to stay by a an old servant named Klove, who states that the master of the castle is dead, but his final wish was to continue offering hospitality to any weary traveler. The travelers decide to stay, but will soon discover that they are more than guests. One will be the blood sacrifice that resurrects Dracula, and the others will be his feast!
Dracula: Prince of Darkness is the second and last teaming of Terence Fisher and Jimmy Sangster, two men who were credited with the creating Hammer's style for the Dracula series. Sangster wasn't too pleased with the overall outcome of the picture and actually had himself credited as John Sansom, maybe out of fear or embarrassment of being associated with the film. But many fans and critics look at this as the last interesting Hammer Dracula picture.
For me there's not much difference between this and the prior two Dracula / vampire films. While there's definitely certain unique aspects to all of them, they all seem to end exactly the same. All three films start off extremely well and then begin to lose steam halfway through eventually becoming quite tiresome. The conclusion of Dracula: Prince of Darkness also seems to be simply a variation of the first film, with Dracula traveling off his castle grounds to retrieve his soon to be bride, only to be chased back and disposed of. And Dracula's death by drowning didn't make any sense, it appears another way to kill a vampire is by running water!?! That's a new one to me. As for Christopher Lee, once again his screen time is limited, and in this film he has absolutely no lines, which supposedly was at his own request in an effort to make Dracula appear more like a wild beast than part human.
Overall, Dracula: Prince of Darkness is worth checking out if you were a fan of the first two Hammer vampire films, personally they've all been at the same level of entertainment for me and I can't say I've liked one anymore than the other, but they're still decent Dracula films. I have a feeling I'll probably enjoy the later ones which the critics claim as being "uninteresting", since some of Hammer's cornier horror films seem to be more to my liking.