Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)
Directed by: Norman Taurog
Written by: Elwood Ullman, James H. Nicholson, Louis M. Heyward, Robert Kaufman
Starring: Dwayne Hickman, Frankie Avalon, Susan Hart, Vincent Price
ON BLU-RAY AND DVD: NOW, from 101 FILMS
RUNNING TIME: 82 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Secret Intelligence Command agent Craig Gamble meets Diane. Despite her bizarre behaviour, Craig is smitten, but Diane is actually an extremely realistic cyborg, only one of the mad Dr. Goldfoot’s army of robot sexpots. He has built them to seduce very specific rich and famous husbands-to-be, get them to marry them, and have them sign over all their worldly goods, all of which will make Dr. Goldfoot rich enough to take over the world. Because of a mistake by Goldfoot’s bumbling assistant Igor, Diane had gone for the wrong man. Goldfoot recalls her and sends her to her real target; self-made millionaire Tood Armstrong. However, the smitten Craig is on her trail….
This bonkers movie melds 60’s teen movies, 60’s slapstick comedies, 60’s screwball movies, Bond-style spy movies, and the Edgar Allan Poe/Roger Corman pictures to pretty entertaining effect. It seems to be generally considered to be a bad movie, and it is often extremely stupid, while the low budget really hampers matters at times, but the main thing I ask of a comedy is: “Did it make me laugh”? As a fan of stuff like the Naked Gun and Pink Panther pictures, I laughed rather a lot, even if some of the gags didn’t really come off and I was chuckling principally because of their stupidity. However, the fact was, that I was still chuckling. Of course humour, perhaps more than anything else, is an acquired taste, but if you find, for example, the idea of – somebody closing a draw on a cabinet, the action causing another draw to open higher up and knock the other guy in the room on the head, then the second guy closing said draw, but this now causing the first draw to open and and knock the first guy on the head also – funny, then you should have a pretty good time with this movie even if you’re not too familiar with the types of films it’s spoofing. It’s also a pretty cool time capsule of the 60’s, was undoubtedly one of the main inspirations for the first Austin Powers movie, and features Vincent Price, actually the main reason I wanted to see this movie as I’m a huge fan of his, hamming it up in glorious fashion as only he can. What’s not to like?
The original idea for this motion picture came from James H. Nicholson, the President of American International Pictures. Though credited as James Hartford, he wrote the story and hired Robert Kaufman to write the first draft. Willim Asher was going to direct, but he was replaced by Norman Taurog, who hired Elwood Ullman to do a rewrite of what was for a while called Dr Goldfoot And The Sex Machine. The biggest budgeted film that AIP ever made so far, it was planned as a musical, but somewhere along the line the songs were discarded. Sources seem to vary as to whether all the songs were cut at script stage or actually filmed and then removed, but it does seem that a big number where Price sings about the bikini machine was filmed and then cut, to Price’s disappointment, while it’s possible that some deleted footage turned up in The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot, a half hour TV special promoting the film in which Price and co-stars Frankie Avalon and Susan Hart appeared. Shot on location in San Francisco and several MGM studio lots, the film not only utilised some footage from The Pit And The Pendulum but made uses some shots of model warships which was actually AIP-shot footage edited into Godzilla Vs The Thing, the US version of Mothra Vs Godzilla. Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine made money, but wasn’t the huge hit expected except in Italy. It was re-titled Dr G. and the Bikini Machine in England because there were two doctors in the country actually called Doctor Goldfoot!
The opening titles really get one into the mood with some weird claymation animation of things like the heads of cast members in gold shoes, and the Supremes title song which is quite catchy but seems to be sung slightly off key. After some POV footage of a car going down some of those famous San Francisco hills followed by an offscreen explosion – a scene that by the way is never explained – we get a daft bit where a sexy young woman, Diane, is crashed into by a car and shot at by bank robbers but is unharmed. Now I must say right now that this movie really objectifies women – they are nothing more than sex objects here – and this may make some right-on PC types uncomfortable, but that kind of thing rarely bothers me, at least in older movies. Attitudes were different in the 60’s and considering the goofiness of the whole movie you can’t really take even this aspect seriously. Anyway, we then meet the first of our two heroes, and I must admit that, aside from Grease, I’d never seen a Frankie Avalon picture prior to this one. The popular 60’s teen star has a likeable screen presence and good comic timing, and I was immediately on the side of his character when his date is ungrateful for the cheese sandwich he’s bought her and smashes a tray over his head. It’s no surprise really when he immediately falls for Diane, despite his first sight of her being her drinking a glass of glass and spitting out the contents from holes in her body like a fountain.
Of course this strange woman is actually a robot and is supposed to be seducing somebody else, only her master’s dumb assistant Igor [no hunchback though] made a mistake. Some of the funniest bits in the film for me are the scenes between Price’s Dr Goldfoot, the actor really having fun sending up his image, and Jack Mullanay’s Igor, whose utterly idiotic character reminded me in places of Father Dougal McGuire from Father Ted. Goldfoot has created a bevy of robot women which he intends to send to lots of rich men so they can get their assets, but he’s reckoned without the perseverance of Craig, who is amazingly a secret agent. Well, if Inspector Clouseau can either keep his job or keep getting his job back throughout several films, then it’s no real surprise that a bumbling buffoon like Craig, who works for a company with the abbreviation SIC just so someone can say: “You’re a sick man” to him [yep, that’s the level of much of the film’s humour, but surely I can’t be the only one who would rather sit through lots of bad puns rather than the gross, mean spirited so-called ‘comedy’ in many movies aimed at teenagers today], can be a secret agent. He soon teams up with rich bachelor Todd Armstrong, Diane’s real target, and they set out to save the day, a quest that takes them to Goldfoot’s mansion, a place which seems to largely comprise of suspiciously familiar bits and pieces from the Corman/Poe pictures and even, in an especially nice touch, some paintings of Goldfoot’s ancestors which are actually portraits of other Price movie characters. The humour gets slightly more ghoulish and we even get a recreating of The Pit And The Pendulum’s memorable climax.
The film’s real ending is a lengthy chase utilising a variety of vehicles which is often inventive but features some back projection even Alfred Hitchcock would have would turned down, though you can’t really say that it especially harms a film as silly as this. More detrimental to its overall quality is that its plot seems randomly thrown together – at one point our two heroes just show up at Goldfoot’s house for no apparent reason – and isn’t really developed in any interesting way. The girls barely feature in the final third! Not enough is done with many of its ideas, right down to when some cool death gimmicks – opera glasses with poisoned spikes [wouldn’t the spikes just be enough?] and explosive lipstick – don’t end up being used, but then we do get a hilarious moment involving a suitcase containing a surprise inside it. Some of the comedy does get a bit tiresome with repetition – how many times do we need to see somebody faint? – but there’s a bouncy, good natured, even innocent feel to the whole thing which I certainly found most appealing. And, while, apart from a couple of scenes which take place at a party where a band is playing, we have no songs, we still get some totally random bits like when Goldfoot’s sexbots suddenly start dancing.
The actors get into the spirit of the thing, from Fred Clark as Craig’s exasperated boss and uncle, to Susan Hart as Diane, really having fun with a succession of accents and her fem-bot role. Les Baxter’s score, if sometimes being there when it doesn’t need to be [but then I’ve rarely been a fan of music that tries to be funny] backs up the film very well, and repeats that main theme in a way that I now can’t get it out of my head. Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine is often dumb, but when a film’s supposed to make you laugh, then being dumb is not always a bad thing. You may be laughing at a few poor moments, but it’s not as if it’s like the recently reviewed [by me] 1983 Hercules which, while a complete and utter laugh riot, seems to have actually been intended as a serious film. Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine does definitely deliver in what it set out to do; provide nearly an hour and a half of simple, silly fun.
Sadly the Region ‘B’ Blu-ray from 101 Films doesn’t include the commentary that’s on the Region ‘A’ Kino Lorber disc, and appears to replicate that version’s major flaw – the image is slightly vertically stretched – with faces just a little bit too slim. It doesn’t really interfere with the entertainment quality of the movie and otherwise it looks great. It’s available on its own and also in a set called Dr Goldfoot The Complete Collection with the sequel Dr Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs and the 1961 non-comedy film Master Of The World, which also has Price trying to take over the world in an 18th century-set sci-fi adventure.