GoatGonzo’s review published on Letterboxd:
I really want to like this one more than I do. I dig Hammer's whole aesthetic and style and I keep waiting to see the movie that elevates it beyond "fun matinee" and into "awesome movie". I love Lee's animalistic, sexual, raw Dracula. Its such a stark contrast from Lugosi's nobleman or even Gary Oldman's Dracula who is kind of all over the place but very romantic and forlorn. Lee's feels like a Dracula who isn't putting on airs and isn't wallowing in self pity but is just being Dracula. I dig Cushing's Van Helsing as more of an action star and leading man than the old professor. I don't mind them reinterpreting the story at all and actually I never really liked Jonathan so I kind of like giving him more of a role and then getting him out of the way. So why doesn't it all come together?
Maybe because Lee/Dracula disappears for 40 minutes of the film?
It seems really hard for me to imagine. I have to assume they thought Cushing was THE star and wanted it to be his film and maybe thought Lee would be more powerful in small doses and with a long delay. But seriously, there's 40 minutes between his scenes and that's honestly being generous because those two bookmarked scenes are just him laying in a coffin. Its even longer between scenes of him doing stuff and being awesome.
I like Cushing and I like it when he springs into action. But he spends the entire film on an investigation. While I don't mind the rewriting of the story it really feels like the rewrites hurt the story. For one, giving Jonathan a vampire hunter role theoretically robs Cushing/Van Helsing of some of his action. And removing Renfield from the film takes away Dracula's henchman who honestly could have really been useful if we were determined in holding Dracula off until the finale.
It sucks because there's a movie here between Lee and Cushing I so badly want to see. And I know there's a million of these Draculas and Lee/Cushing teamups so maybe I will still see it. But it feels like a huge missed opportunity whether they had two great legends of horror in two iconic roles with so much potential and the script and director simply didn't make the most of either. Very disappointing.
Its still a fine, totally watchable film, with a great opener and closer and some strong parts in between. But there is that lag in the middle where unless you're really invested in watching Peter Cushing follow up on leads and ask people questions its just kind of there.