Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Franco Castellano, Franco Dal Cer, Giuseppe Moccia, James H. Nicholson, Louis M. Heyward, Robert Kaufman
Starring: Ciccio Ingrassia, Fabian, Franco Franchi, Vincent Price
AKA LE SPIE VENGOLO DAL SEMIFREDDO, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE SEMI-COLD
AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND DVD: NOW, from 101 FILMS
RUNNING TIME: 81 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
NATO generals are being killed off one by one when they are kissed by pretty young women who blow up at the point of lips touching. Who’s behind this? Of course it’s Dr. Goldfoot again! CID agent Bill Dexter has been suspended for his womanising, but, upon recognising Goldfoot, decides to investigate what he’s up to, only to be mistaken for a Chinese spy by two bumbling doormen Franco and Ciccio and kidnapped by them. Goldfoot plans to impersonate an American general who looks just like at a NATO summit to aid him in starting a war between the US and the USSR. When he messes around with a computer designed to pick the best secret agents to maintain security around the summit, Franco and Ciccio are accidentally made spies….
I will admit that I was more interested in seeing Dr Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs than its predecessor Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine because it was directed by Mario Bava, a filmmaker whose work you probably know I have great love for if you often read the reviews I write for this website, even if this seems to be regarded as one of his worst films. I haven’t quite seen all of Bava’s other movies, but it seems to be that even in his poorer stuff the director tended to try to make things stylish and both visually and thematically interesting. Sadly, this is not something that I can really say for Dr Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs, which doesn’t really have that Bava touch at all and feels like it could almost have been directed by anyone. It’s therefore probably easier to enjoy the film if you’re not into your Bava, though it doesn’t even work too well as a sequel to Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine, primarily because it’s not nearly as funny and lacks the some of the cheerfulness of that film. It still passes muster as a piece of silly 60’s kitsch, but overall doesn’t really come off and ends up being just irritating for some of the time. I defended the oft-criticised first film because, even if I did find much of it to be stupid, I also found myself laughing a hell of a lot, but I can’t really say the same for the sequel.
It was originally intended as a sequel to a film called Due mafiosi contro Goldginger [Two Mafiosi Against Goldfinger], a Bond spoof which starred Italian comedians Franco Castellano and Ciccio Ingrassia. AIP agreed to co-finance, provided it could be turned into a sequel to Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, which had been a huge hit in Italy, and provided that the director would only have final cut of the Italian version. Bava actually tried to pull out, but he was under contract. Frankie Avalon was originally going to star, but he left due to the impending birth of his third child and his part ended up being taken by singer Fabian, causing script rewrites of what was called both Dr Goldfoot and the Love Bomb and Dr Goldfoot and the S Bomb at different points. Bava himself rewrote Franco Castellano and Guiseppe Moccia’s screenplay, and difficulties satisfying the Italian and American backers ensured that some different scenes were shot for each country, including emphasising brunettes in the Italian version and blondes in the American version! After completion, the Rome-shot film was totally re-assembled and even re-written by Louis M. Heywood and Robert Kaufman for its US release. Much footage of Franco and Ciccio was cut and extra material featuring Vincent Price and Fabian, plus a new title sequence and score, were added. At some point the soundtrack of part of the final chase was lost, so it was turned into a silent film-type sequence replete with title cards. The Italian version of Dr Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs was Bava’s biggest hit in Italy, but did poor business elsewhere. 101 Films have released the American cut, so that’s the one that is being primarily reviewed here.
The film’s opening makes little sense, as the credits occur while Goldfoot is narrating a brief summary of events from the previous film, replete with footage from it, except that he refers to some characters from this one and we even see them on the screen, in shots taken from later on in the film! This haphazardly put together beginning got me wishing that I was watching the original Italian cut. I expected that the Blu-ray may be of the US version before I even begun to watch it and resigned myself to being disappointed. Most films are best appreciated in their original versions and Bava’s film often suffered from alterations for the American market. I guess that one day I’m going to have to bite the bullet and hunt down the Italian cut. However, I soon became rather pleased that it was the US cut I was watching. The reason? Two words. Franco and Ciccio. These so-called comedians were hugely popular in Italy for many years and starred in over a hundred films, but their endless gurning and mugging quickly became tiresome to my eyes, and I can’t imagine how hearing them speaking in their original language, rather than being dubbed with silly voices, would be an improvement. Thank God their scenes were cut back in the US version, though they’re still in it far too much!
The nominal hero is Bill Dexter, and it’s obvious that he was originally intended to be Frankie Avalon’s character from the first film when he accidently bumps into Goldfoot and recognises him from somewhere, though Fabian is distinctly lacking in charisma. At least this sequel gets into the action almost immediately with lots of scenes of our fem-bots in action, though it’s basically the story of the first movie all over again, with our heroes ending up at Goldfoot’s lair and eventually engaging in an extremely long chase. Along the way there are a few chuckles, like a man in a wig appearing amongst Goldfoot’s bevy of beauties and the good doctor saying; “That’s the day I forgot to oil the machine”, or Goldfoot using a ludicrously obvious periscope to spy on the NATO chiefs and have a general spill some tobacco from his cigar into the lense and therefore into his eye, but many of the jokes are closer to the ‘funny peculiar’ rather than ‘funny ha ha’ variety, like a armless statue still managing to give our heroes directions in Rome. When the robots die, they leap all the place in speeded-up film before collapsing in pieces. Then there’s also rehashes of American comedy scenes, like a truly badly done – not once are the two participants in synch – reprise of the famous mirror sketch from the Marx Bros’ Duck Soup.
What with much of the comedy, much of the story, and much of the acting not coming off, one would have thought that Bava would have still provided some directorial style, but his hand isn’t really evident at all. The plot contains some of his favoured themes, notably the deceptive nature of appearances, doubles, and people being like mannequins, but he doesn’t even seem to care about some of the technical aspects very much. The budget was obviously larger than that for Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine, allowing for some more expansive sets, and this one does have a slightly lusher look to it than the first one, but the obviously ran out of money towards the end, with Bava’s ability to create something half decent out of almost nothing going totally awry during the climactic action aboard a balloon and a plane, where terrible looking stock footage, laughably unconvincing set design and, for God’s sake, rain that doesn’t even fall on the actors just makes the whole sequence painful to watch.
Laura Antonelli is good as Bill’s uptight love interest, but it really comes down to Price to try to save the day, and he does his best. Apparently he didn’t get on very well with Bava [unlike when Bava worked with Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee], but you wouldn’t know it from watching his performance. The actor seems to relish the opportunity to make the most of a role which allows him to speak to the camera, stutter, and dress up as a nun, and camps it up with lip smacking relish so entertainingly that he’s just a joy to watch. Composer Les Baxter again does a solid job with the score, which helps keep the movie bouncing along in an inoffensive fashion. There’s nothing to really hate about this film, and my pretty stupid funny bone was sometimes tickled – which is always a good thing in my book – but it’s just not very well conceived and executed for the most part. It’s a good example of an inferior sequel made to cash in on a superior previous effort without much thought or care and with little more than money in mind, while as a Bava film it’s only really interesting as a partial dry run for his highly inventive, fun romp Diabolik.
Dr Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs is available on its own and also in a set called Dr Goldfoot The Complete Collection withDr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine 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.