Image stolen from UK Movie Posters
No film addict can survive on a steady diet of the same. You can watch Turner Classic Movies all day long but after such a marathon, you start to hunger for something different. Dare I say even something “worse”. “Worse”, of course, is subjective, so let’s say instead “ridiculous”. After a week of viewing heady and/or heavy movies, movies that made me think and feel, I was in dire need of the ridiculous. You can’t ask for more ridiculous than what is offered by the gory horror-spoof I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle.
Director Dirk Campbell, very soon a maestro of children’s television programming, got hold of a script by Mycal Miller and John Wolskel (the latter a frequent writer of English-version anime like Appleseed), rang up half the cast (and sets and even the composer) of the BBC series Boon (including title character Michael Elphick, Neil Morrissey (future voice of Bob the Builder), Amanda Noar (aka Mrs. Morrissey, at the time, anyway), and C:3PO himself, Anthony Daniels. They gathered together and said, to borrow a quote from Daniels’ Priest character, “Right. Let's go kick some bottom!”
I would say that the film’s beginning—taking place in an old churchyard while a biker in a red hood that just screams “Satanist!” is obviously up to no good—with a turf war between two bike clubs, the unnamed Satanists and the vicious rabble “The Road Toads”, occurs for no good reason, but really, reason went out the window with the title. (In fact little happens in this film for any reason, so let’s just suspend that expectation altogether, shall we?) What happens is that The Road Toads lay brutal waste to the rival gang using crossbows and jump cuts. The hooded Satanist most near the center of the frame is cut down in the prime of his incantation, and the little animated Pokemon demon summoned has to quickly find a host. Its new home is the biker’s own abused Norton 850 Commando—as good as any in a pinch and, we’re told, a “quite reliable” vehicle. In a lovely scene, the dying biker-Satanist-guy slashes his throat and bleeds into the tank.
We then meet lovable slacker rascal Nick Oddy (Morrissey)—aka “Noddy”—who purchases the bike for £1100, tells his girlfriend Kim (Noar) he only spent £600, then calls his buddy Buzzer (Daniel Peacock) to take a butcher’s at it to see what it’ll need to make it go. As a gag, Buzzer steals the bike’s gas cap. The next day, he’s found strewn about his apartment (“That’s Buzzy. I’d know his head anywhere.”) but at least the bike runs perfectly now, so long as you don’t try to take it into the sunlight. Inspector Cleaver comes ‘round to make inquiries about who would have it in enough for Buzzer to dismantle him in such a way, but Noddy honestly can’t say. Partly because he doesn’t know and partly because Cleaver’s garlic breath has him momentarily stupified.
While out for a jag, Noddy informally meets The Road Toads and the bike bucks beneath him, running several of them, including their leader, Roach (Andrew Powell, Joshua Then and Now [review coming soon]), the crossbow-wielding mad lad-cum-teddy boy what done in the Satanist biker in the first place.
Later, they have a proper funeral for Buzzer, his coffin stuffed upright in some geezer’s sidecar. No hearse for Buzzer, “He wouldn’t be caught dead in one’a them things.” Noddy and Kim stop off for a pint and in walk Roach and his Road Toads. After a protracted brawl involving the entire pub, most of the crockery and several of the mock battle weapons decorating the walls, Noddy and Kim manage to escape on the bike. Still peckish, they swing by Fu King (ordering from none-other than Inspector Clousseu’s Cato (Burt Kwouk) for some Chinese, but the minute Kim suggests “garlic prawns” the bike takes off with her still on it. Around a corner, it tosses her off and seems about to front wheel her head off when the cross around her neck gleams and makes it back off.
Noddy finds Kim but the bike has gone out into the night to exact revenge on the rest of the Road Toads. First spikes grow out of its tank in punk porcupine fashion, used as both methods of impalation and projectile, then its cracked headlamp develops a chomping action rarely seen in motorcycles of that model. That’s not even to mention its Ben-Hur-styled arrowhead wheel protrusions. Only Roach escapes, albeit with a tie-rod lodged deep in his… er, tailpipe, as it were. Its bloodlust unsated, the motorcycle has a go at a woman Jack the Ripper-style in an alley. Then, just for fun, it eats a parking maid. This bit of greed gives it away. Unable to eat the whole woman, it returns to Noddy’s dark shed and that’s where its owner finds it, sleeping and with a support-hosed leg in its headlamp.
Understanding little of anything is a natural state for Noddy, so he goes off in search of a Vicar. Unfortunately, he has to make do with a Priest.
Image stolen from Flat Pack Film Festival
Noddy: “I don’t want to confess. It’s about my motorcycle.”
Priest: “Are you sure it isn’t a garage you want?”
Noddy: “My motorcycle has turned into a vampire!”
Priest: “Pull the other one.”
Soon the Priest understands what he’s up against when, whist attempting to haul the beast out into the sunlight, the clutch handle snaps his hand and severs his fingers. Now the problem arises: unless the Priest knows what demon he’s dealing with, any exorcism performed could just make things infinitely worse. And infinitely worse is what happens. The vampire motorcycle goes on an unprescendented maraude of slaughter and vehicular homicide, eventually trapping Noddy, Kim, the Priest and garlic-breathed Cleaver inside a gym for the chronically steroidal. And dawn is a long way off. Will Birmingham ever again be safe for the god-fearing members of the C. of E.? Or, okay, fine, the Catholics as well?
“And anyone involved in this project should be proud. The script is knowing and self deprecating, plus it doesn’t mind making Morrissey, the movie’s hero, out to be a lazy male-chauvinist pig. The British predilection with toilet humour is here in full force (the ‘talking turd’ sequence [a nightmare scene in which Buzzy embodies Noddy’s bowel movement] being a particularly disgusting highlight, especially when it jumps into Noddy’s mouth) as is our obsession with having nice cups of tea to solve everything. The music is also suitably ridiculous, ranging an incidental score that sounds like it was lifted from a Carry On movie (yes, they borrowed the composer from Boon, would you believe) to pumping rock tracks, one of which is called “She Runs On Blood... She Don't Run On Gasoline” (which is included in it’s separate entirety as a special feature on the DVD). But the biggest gem in this pot of treasure is seeing Anthony Daniels – Mr C-3PO himself – as a camp gung-ho biker exorcist, complete with razor-sharp throwing-crosses.” (Eatmybrains.com)
So, well… does this not summon to mind the word aforementioned: “ridiculous”? I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle is a gleefully gory horror-spoof-slash-homage. Never once does it take itself seriously because, well and again, it’s bloody title is “I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle”. If it were “Tea and Chips with the Missus”, that’d make it something else entirely. Everyone is on board here too, ‘all in’ as ‘they say’.
Truth be told, this was was a blind rental from our late-lamented local store, Incredibly Strange Video, sold by both the title and the prospect of watching His Lord and Lady Anthony Daniels perform sans gold outerwear. While not quite as hysterical as Braindead / Dead*Alive’s Father Jon McGruder (Stuart Devenie) (“I kick arse for the Lord!”), Daniels is highly entertaining and even kicks the film’s absurdity up another notch.
Speaking of the just-mentioned Peter Jackson cult favorite, there are numerous “touches” both movies share. Aside from the Priests and the anarchy, both possess comic relief bikers and a breakneck pace. Since they were released within a few years of each other (1990 for Motorcycle and 1993 for pre-LOTR Jackson), though from different areas of the English-speaking world, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that both Jackson and Campbell hit on the same horror-spoof zeitgeist that drives both films. The biggest difference would be zombies vs. vampiric vehicles and a budget of $3 million versus whatever change was found inside the cushions in the Boon communal couch.
When you’re in need of ridiculous look no further. If ‘ridiculous is as ridiculous does’, then I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle does nicely.