It is the biggest blockbuster of the year. And fans of the movie will be pleased to know that Mill Hill is in some way responsible for its success.

Batman Begins, which is released today, was mostly shot at Shepperton studios and at various places in London and Chicago.

And one of its locations is The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), in The Ridgeway, Mill Hill.

The imposing Art Deco building is used as the Arkham Asylum in Gotham City where crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) is incarcerated by corrupt Gotham psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Crane to make Falcone appear insane at his impending trial.

The building looks a hundred miles away from its everyday use as a centre for research into disease.

Seen on a number of occasions in the film, it is shot from all angles and dramatically lit with searchlights.

Black Gotham City police SWAT vans pull up into the courtyard looking for Batman (Christian Bale) who sneaks into the building. Katie Holmes plays Rachel Dawes, Gotham's City's upstanding assistant district attourney and childhood friend of Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne.

Fans of the Dawson's Creek star and latest squeeze of Tom Cruise will be happy to know that she also shot scenes here.

"We really looked at a massive number of buildings," said British director Christopher Nolan. "It is a very imposing building and very, very out of place up there in Mill Hill. We had a fantastic location manager, Ben Rimmer, and he looked high and low for an Arkham Asylum. We had very specific requirements because we needed the sort of front courtyard, but that building up in Mill Hill, with its triangular courtyards and all the rest, is very unique and it was wonderful. The people of Mill Hill made us feel very welcome."

The NIMR, which was completed in 1950, is described by the architecture expert Nikolaus Pevsner rather insultingly as a bulky, brown brick colossus'.

But many disagree.

"It is an extremely unusual building, particularly the design," said an NIMR source. "It is quite austere and I suppose that suits a certain genre of film. It's got that 1920s feel about it and people either like it a lot or hate it."