June 23, 2024

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The silliest film ever shot in Birmingham features a killer motorcycle


“Most good motorcycles run on gasoline”, says a husky American voice in a 1990 film trailer. “This is a bad motorcycle – it runs on blood!

Birmingham is not well represented on the big screen. Even those films that do get shot in Brum don’t make great use of our beautiful, varied city, and our “Hey, isn’t that…?” moments are few and far between.

For one of the best, and certainly the most fun, representations of Brum in cinema, we go to the wild world of B-movies. That 1990 film trailer was for I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle .

SEE MORE:The lost ‘temporary’ city flyover that lasted 28 years – but it was a precarious ride

A motorcycle gang is massacred by a cult, and a demon possesses the leader’s classic Norton Commando motorcycle. A courier buys it, only to find that his new machine has a mind of its own when it smells blood.

It’s simple, effective, turn-your-brain-off fun. And Birmingham is stamped all over its 100 or so minutes, from the accents to the locations.

The Country Girl in Selly Oak - the setting of a full-throttle fight scene.
The Country Girl in Selly Oak – the setting of a full-throttle fight scene.

Lead character Noddy and his girlfriend live in Smethwick. On Sycamore Road, in fact – at least he never had far to go to the City Hospital.

The Vampire Motorcycle gets bought in a shop on Stratford Road in Sparkbrook. “What’s all this stuff on the engine block?” says Noddy – “Looks like HP Sauce to me”, replies the dealer.

Regulars in Digbeth will recognise Trent Street as the spot where Noddy first rides the Vampire Motorcycle, passing under the railway viaduct. A fight breaks out at the Country Girl in Selly Oak when the gang recognise the bike again later in the film.

It’s those old industrial areas in Digbeth that give I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle its dark B-movie flavour. “I wanted the film to have the look of a serious horror movie, a dark gritty realistic look that used the decaying back streets of Birmingham, so there’s nothing that jumps out at you to tell you it’s a comedy”, said director Dirk Campbell in 1990.

Lead character Noddy was surely a reference to Slade’s Noddy Holder, and the Midlands accents are rife amongst the supporting cast. Real motorcycle gangs from Aston and Redditch played a part as the extras in road scenes too.

Even the bits you can’t quite place look recognisably Birmingham, given away by the black-and-white street signs. The premiere was even held at the Odeon on New Street – can’t get much more Brum than that.

Men Behaving Badly ‘s Neil Morrissey plays the lead role, and Boon ‘s Michael Elphick is the detective in charge of solving the killings. The most surprising inclusion is someone you’ve probably never seen – Anthony Daniels, the voice of Star Wars ‘ C3PO droid since 1977.

I Bought A Vampire Motorcycleis a great slice of trash comedy-horror, with a dirty sense of humour and surprisingly good special effects. If you’re looking for a “Hey, isn’t that…?” film, or just something to pass an evening, check out this Digbeth-flavoured gem.

What’s your favourite film or TV show that features Birmingham? Comment below, and join us in our Facebook nostalgia group.

See more history and nostalgia here!


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