Meinster is being kept chained in his room by his appalling mother the Baroness (Hammer regular Freda Jackson) and, from first impression, looks to be the victim in all this. But, of course, he isn't: instead he's a member of what Van Helsing tells us is the Cult of the Undead, a "survival of one of the ancient pagan religions in their struggle against Christianity." (So, vampirism is the 19th century version of "Islamofascism"?) After turning his mother into a vampire (Oedipus Alert!), the freed Meinster escapes to start picking off local villagers and the faculty of a local girls' school.
Enter our hero Van Helsing, who's been called to the area by a concerned priest. Cushing is his usual stalwart British self: in his most memorable moment, he himself is bitten by the decadent Meinster and staves off vampiric infection by burning the bites with a hot branding iron and some holy water. Pretty strong stuff for 1960. His showdown with Meinster and the "brides" in a deserted old windmill isn't as rousing as his first climactic battle with Lee's Dracula (when he finally kills the bloodsucking blackguard, it's from a distance, so we don't even get to see any cool close-ups of Meinster's body disintegrating), but it's still reasonably action-packed. (Has anybody done anything on the influence of Hammer's fight scenes on early James Bond flicks?)
"What about the 'brides'?" I hear you ask. Well, their primary function is to stand side-by-side, looking darkly photogenic. The studio wouldn't really start pushing the sex-and-vampirism angle until 1970's Countess Dracula and The Vampire Lovers. Meinster's lady minions (Andree Melly and Marie Devereux) were still hot enough to stoke the fires of many an early adolescent horror fan when he saw their pics in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland or Castle of Frankenstein, however.
Christopher Lee's Dracula would return to the studio in Dracula: Prince of Darkness five years later, only this time Cushing's Van Helsing was M.I.A. This less than satisfying follow-up currently exists in the U.S. as an out-of-print Anchor Bay two-fer, alongside Lee's Drac swansong, Satanic Rites of Dracula. Some days, being a fannish completist can be a real [read this last in a Gene Rayburn voice] pain in the ______.