DHRFG marked the first Hammer Dracula film not to be directed by Terence Fisher, and it shows in the final product. Not that Francis isn't a fine director, but Fisher had that magic Hammer touch that seemed to turn every film he touched into pure horrific gold. He was also key in giving his films some sense of continuity. When he made a sequel to one of his own movies, the sets looked the same and the action seamed in flawlessly with the events of the previous picture.
The most jarring flaw of DHRFG is the fact that Dracula, who was frozen in ice at the end of the last picture in the Hammer franchise, is now suddenly frozen in a totally different location by his castle at the beginning of this film. His castle also looks dramatically different -- it isn't even remotely the same set. For the casual viewer, these little discrepancies won't matter. But for the cult fan, they do matter. They matter a lot.
The film picks up during the events of "Dracula: Prince of Darkness." The vampire's reign of terror in that film apparently included a female victim we didn't see in that movie. Not satisfied with just sucking her blood, Dracula also hung her body upside in the bell of a church steeple – just his way of giving the finger to the local clergy. That corpse is discovered at the beginning of this film. A year later, Dracula has long since been destroyed and the 18th century town is only just getting to the idea that they can walk around at night safe from vampirism. But they're not going to church. The reason is that the shadow of Dracula's castle touches the town church. When a bishop decides to head up to the castle to exorcise it, taking along the wimpy local priest who's undergoing a crisis of faith, Dracula is resurrected when blood spills on his frozen, ice-trapped body.
Soon, he's back at bloodsucking again. But the third film in Hammer's Dracula franchise (fourth, if you consider "Brides of Dracula" part of it), introduces a new ripple to the storyline that would carry on in the series, and ultimately diminish its value: revenge. Enraged that someone put a crucifix on the door of his castle, Dracula decides to target the family of the bishop that exorcised his home. This cheap revenge device would be introduced again and again in later sequels. It's always better when Dracula is motivated by something mightier, like raw sexual attraction or simply the desire for blood.
Still, DHRFG has a lot going for it, including memorable scenes of the main damsel in distress (Carlson) sneaking by rooftop across buildings in her city, a cockney bartenderess' masochistic relationship with the Count, and the storyline of a faithless priest who finds himself under Dracula's power. It's still a very solid Hammer Dracula film, but the slow, downward spiral away from quality would continue with the next entry in the series -- "Taste the Blood of Dracula" -- another quality Dracula film to be sure, but still worse than this one.