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Now this is what I call a too-little-known gem. Despite being a
perpetual "student" of film and being a fan of Vincent Price, 1960s
films, and the various genres this film can be seen as, I somehow
overlooked this title for years. I can't remember anyone else I've read
or talked to who mentioned this title. Maybe that's because a film like
this is an acquired taste, one that apparently many people haven't
acquired. I must have come across it sometime, but I didn't really
notice it until I stumbled across it on Netflix recently.
Some of the descriptive terms that regularly pop up in others' reviews of this film include "silly", "ridiculous", "goofy", "insane", and "absurd". I wouldn't disagree with any of those terms. What I would disagree with is that they denote something undesirable in films, or that they denote something that deserves less respect than other descriptors. Other admirable terms that I would add include "surreal", "satirical", "madcap", occasionally "atmospheric" and "funny". Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine certainly isn't intended to be realistic, and despite popular conceptions, it's not intended to just be a laugh-out-loud comedy, either.
One could think of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine as what we now call "high concept"--"Vincent Price, in a transformative mode between his Corman-directed Poe characters and Dr. Phibes, meets Frankie Avalon in a beach film attitude meets James Bond meets 1960s 'madcap'/'screwball' comedy".
Price is Dr. Goldfoot, a satire of a Bond mad scientist, with a name that's obviously a pun on Goldfinger. He's planning on usurping the wealth of some of the world's richest men by creating a veritable army of hot robotic women in gold bikinis, appropriately enough, since they're mechanical but artificially intelligent/sentient gold-diggers. Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman) is one of the victims of the nefarious plan, and Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon), an almost secret agent, becomes involved because the robot aiming for Armstrong initially mistakes Gamble for him--they have a similar look. Gamble falls in love with her and searches for her once she disappears. This gradually leads to Armstrong and the eventual discovery of Dr. Goldfoot's scheme.
In the 1960s, filmmakers were on the upswing of increasing experimentation. The Hays Production Code, which filmmakers had started seriously challenging in the 1950s, was decreasingly influential or "enforceable", and would be abandoned before the end of the decade. In addition to broaching previously forbidden subject matter and images, filmmakers were also increasingly experimenting with the structure of films. The roots of this were the same as the roots fueling parallel revolutions in pop music, for example, and more importantly, in society, leading to the lifestyle experimentation of the hippies. For films, plots were often pushed and prodded, including some attempts to effectively abandon them. The result was a lot of sprawling and too-often-messy "madcap" comedies. In a number of famous cases, such as Casino Royale (1967), or What's New Pussycat (1965), the experimentation ended up hurting the films as much as helping. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine has the same basic attitude and sense of experimentation, but director Norman Taurog and writers Robert Kaufman, James H. Nicholson and Elwood Ullman admirably keep a relatively tight lid on their plot. It gives us the best aspects of the era's "freewheeling" sense of filmic adventure while not forgetting about the importance of a coherent story.
As a Price fan, some of my favorite moments arrived with Price satirizing his previous screen personae. Dr. Goldfoot lives in an elaborate laboratory/dungeon beneath a funeral parlor that serves as a front (this is prescient in an oblique way of Don Coscarelli's 1979 film, Phantasm), and many scenes of Dr. Goldfoot in his home environment are surprisingly atmospheric, including the chamber housing Goldfoot's razor sharp pendulum, which almost trumps the one in the Roger Corman Pit and the Pendulum (1961), which it references, or questionably "spoofs". Price is good with this kind of comedy if you like complex ambiguity, because he's so dry and his "comic" characters are so closely played to his serious characters. It's a very subtle difference.
Frankie Avalon is far less subtle, but he's no worse for that, and he's primarily done lighthearted roles anyway. Avalon's scenes often veer towards slapstick. Some of the best material in that vein arrived in his special agent office, with his boss, Donald J. Penny (Fred Clark).
Even though this is a 1960s film with one foot in the comedy genre, as a Vincent Price film you wouldn't expect the climax to be an extended, madcap chase scene. It is, and it's one of the best sequences of the film. Our heroes and villains chase each other around the streets of San Francisco (with some attendant very attractive cinematography in a mini-San Francisco travelogue) in a number of increasingly absurd vehicles and scenarios.
Insofar as Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is a James Bond spoof--and that's a prominent mode, although certainly not the only dominant one--it was obviously one of the influences on Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). But Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is also somewhat serious about its other genres, and it satirizes gold-digging, marriages and high-profile divorces in a time where they were becoming much more commonplace in the public consciousness. Of course, it's also a great excuse to watch a dozen scantily clad, beautiful women, who even go-go dance a bit for us.
Dr. Goldfoot has:
1. Vincent Price having a field day hamming it up like John Barrymore on scotch and speed!
2. Harvey Lembeck as Erich Von Zipper in a hilarious 10-second cameo!
3. The titanic teaming of Dobie Gillis and Frankie Avalon!
4. One of the finest "second bananas," the late Jack Mullaney as Price's Mad Scientist henchman, Igor!
5. Tons of young American International babes!
6. The Supremes singing the title song!
7. It's directed by Elvis' #1 Man, Norman Taurog!
8. It's written by the Three Stooges #1 Man, Ellwood Ullman!
What have you got: Only the greatest film since "Gone With The Wind," "Citizen Kane" and "The Bicycle Thief"! Okay, perhaps not - but it is a ton of zany low budget screwball fun,'60s American International-style.
I really liked it.
What can one say about this movie? It's ridiculous but iresistable. Vincent is always fun, the film has great color and location photography. A perfect time capsule of how much fun the '60s could be. The Les Baxter score and songs are great and the opening number, with the Supremes, no less, is a rockin' Baxter classic!
"Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine" is one of those campy'60s movies that are, basically, an excuse to show bikini-clad girls in a movie. Vincent Price stars as the mad scientist Dr. Goldfoot, with an insane plan to rob all the world's richest men. Frankie Avalon plays a bumbling secret agent trying to foil Dr. Goldfoot's evil scheme, and even pokes fun at his "Beach Blanket" history. This movie has a ridiculous story, but it has some good qualities. For one thing, the animated opening credit sequence is fun and eye-catching. For another, the chase scene is a good laugh. And, if nothing else, is has better production values than its sequel, "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs"!
A totally dumb, freewheeling comedy, good for some lowbrow fun. With its mad scientists, bikini-clad girls, laser guns and silly slapstick gags, this film has definite cult possibilities, but it's never really very funny (despite campy performances by Price and Frankie Avalon). Plus, the mismatch between on-location filming and rear-projection techniques in the final big chase sequence is so obvious it becomes awfully distracting. (**)
But in the kind of way people like hospital Jell-O. You take it simply
because it's there.
A friend brought this over to my humble abode for what seems to be a new tradition of "Bad Movie Nights". This pithy little nugget is quite the mound of poo, but it was so laughably bad that, well, I pretty much laughed.
Hilarity and hi-jinks ensue as Diane the multi-accented robot (and Carmen Sandiego wardrobe impersonator) rips of the wealthy in the name of Dr. Goldfoot (and does he have a bikini machine... but hey, who doesn't have one these days?). The good doctor is played by Vincent Price, and our main hero is Sonic restaurant spokesman and beach movie veteran Frankie Avalon. So for the duration of the film, we get a Motown/claymation intro/theme song, a far out and utterly random dance moment, goofy plot devices, dungeons with motorcycle riders, a dense henchman, a Scooby Doo-esque graveyard, lots of girls in bikinis, quite possibly the longest and most improbable chase scene ever, and the fabled line "stop dinging that dong!" Ah, this is high comedy, or comedy created while someone was high. I'm not sure. It was slapstick that would have made Jerry Lewis very proud indeed.
If this never made it to MST3K, then it should have. My friends and I ripped into it with sarcastic glee. All we were missing were the robots. I was stunned about how laughably bad this film was, and yet when it was all over, I actually had a good time with the thing. This is definitely a film to watch if you enjoy hurling witty insults at bad films. Everyone else, run far away, but stay for that wacky theme song.
MASTER PLAN: marry off rich bachelors to female robots and get rich. Of
all the films attempting to capture the absurdity and success of the
James Bond craze of the sixties, this one is the most ridiculous. This
one combines the weird plots of the Bonders with some elements of the
stupid beach movies and campy horror of the decade, complete with
dungeons and threat of torture (genuinely if mildly amusing). It's an
odd mix, to be sure. Then-popular teen idol Avalon, most famous for his
beach blanket bingo pics, is an agent (number 00 & 1/2) of S.I.C.
(Secret Intelligence Command), based out of my old hometown of San
Francisco - nice location long shots and a focus on the winding Lombard
street. He's a hapless dope who becomes involved with a femme fatale
robot (Hart) accidentally. She's one of several creations originating
from the warped brain of Goldfoot (Price), the mad doctor of the title.
He's somewhat typical of a Bondian villain wannabe, but Price is best
known for his mad scientist roles in typical horror films of that time,
so he's kind of a combination of both. Though a mad genius in the
comical sense, his goal is nothing more than making some bucks off his
robots, so he's actually a futuristic pimp, running a wild & crazy con
The plot is pretty amusing and Price hams it up shamelessly, mugging for the camera and even indulging in that cliché - the sinister mad chuckle. His assistant, Igor, is a complete idiot, a further parody of the mad scientist's aid from the "Frankenstein" movies, existing solely as an ego-boost for the mad scientist, to make him look even smarter - presumably why Goldfoot 'returned' him to life (see also the Luthor/Otis relationship from the "Superman" movies). How much a viewer likes any of this depends on how much patience one has for all the slapstick stunts and silly overplaying by the actors. Igor is the most extreme example, but everyone else also behaves like an idiot. The one surprise is actress Hart, who, besides being easy on the eye, proves to be quite talented, required to act with several different accents, besides other things. She virtually disappeared from the movie business soon after this, unfortunately. The entire premise of robotic babes, a commentary on male attitudes of that period, was repeated in later similar fare - "Some Girls Do" for example, not to mention the obvious "The Stepford Wives" in the seventies. Also note the use of musical sound FX in one scene from a couple of famous sci-fi pics of the fifties, "War of the Worlds" and "Forbidden Planet." Goldfoot and S.I.C. would return in the Italian "Dr.Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs" the following year. Hero:4 Villain:5 Femme Fatales:7 Henchmen:3 Fights:3 Stunts/Chases:4 Gadgets:5 Auto:4 Locations:6 Pace:5 overall:5
Diabolically hammy mad scientist Vincent Price (as Dr. Goldfoot) has a
dozen beautifully-shaped young female robots. They wear gold bikinis
for underwear and are not shy about parading around for the camera.
Lead "robot" Susan Hart (as Diane, #11) succeeds in Mr. Price's
mission, to seduce handsome millionaire Dwayne Hickman (as Todd
Armstrong). Also turned on by Ms. Hart, rival agent Frankie Avalon (as
Craig Gamble, #00 and ½) tries to foil Price's plot to mate more
millionaires with his sexy robots. The Supremes sing the title song,
but do not appear. A couple of cameos help liven up the dungeon
sequence. When compared to the infinitely better "Get Smart" TV series
created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, this spoof of "James Bond" spy
films fell flat - fortunately, the women weren't.
*** Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (11/6/65) Norman Taurog ~ Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart
My teenage son and I have been catching up on Vincent Price films
thanks to cable TV. Most have been those cheesy Poe horror flicks from
the 60s, but this one was something out of the ordinary! My son and I
laughed all the way through, and at the end he declared, "This is
probably the worst movie I've ever seen in my life!" This film gives
Vincent Price a chance to spoof his own persona and he does it with
relish. His comic timing is great, although his sidekick Jack Mullaney
is disappointingly unfunny and un-Igorish. (If you want to see Mullaney
in his creepy mode, find the BELFRY episode from the first season of
Alfred Hitchcock.) Avalon and Hickman turn in their usual likable
performances, and Susan Hart impresses with her varied accents and
The Supremes sing a horrible title song slightly off-pitch, and that theme dominates Les Baxter's jolly score. Various other beach party favorites make cameo appearances (and advertise a movie...THE GIRL IN THE GLASS BIKINI...which was never released). San Francisco looks great, with all the usual hillside chase clichés. The plot is so thin (actually full of holes) that it hardly bears thinking about.
It was also refreshing to be reminded that the standards for female beauty used to be more substantial than in our anorexic age.
The opening animated titles and the closing blackout dance sequence are also worth mentioning. All in all, a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes, if you miss the goofiness of the 1960s.
Vincent Price looks like he's having a great old time in this
preposterous film Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine. For a
classically trained actor like Price the chance to do a whole film
around a Snidely Whiplash type villain must have been impossible to
resist. Of course he got the money up front.
Dr. Goldfoot has invented an army of robots who look like cover girls in bikinis and his mad plan is to get them married to the richest people in the world and take over their money. Such a one played by Susan Hart he's targeted Dwayne Hickman with. But her programming got messed up and she goes after Frankie Avalon a would be secret agent who is the cause no doubt of his uncle spymaster Fred Clark's baldness.
Nothing wrong with seeing all these statuesque beauties, put your mind on them and you'll forget the inanities of the story. However Price and his assistant Jack Mullaney will give you a few chuckles. They remind me of Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk in The Great Race.
It's excruciatingly dumb, but also very funny.
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