As in the earlier Dracula, Cushing's Van Helsing may be an intellectual, but he is also a man of action. He is not afraid to physically confront vampires--given the proper weapons--even though he knows they possess superior strength. In Brides, Van Helsing's zeal gets the better of him and he winds with teeth marks on his neck. The result is a marvelous scene in which he demonstrates what to do when bitten by a vampire.
Though Cushing's performance centers the film, Peel exudes evil as Meinster. His vampire may not be as physically imposing as Lee's Dracula, but he comes across as almost more threatening because he is devious and intelligent. Let's face it: the idea of spreading vampirism by means of a girls' boarding school is pretty crafty (i.e., when each girl goes home, she infects others). Meinster is also incredibily cruel--heck, he bites his own mother (marvelously played as a reluctant vampire by Hunt).