Saturday, 22 May 2010

Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

Spy spoof movies enjoyed a huge vogue in the 60s and the title of Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine suggests that you’re going to get a movie belonging to that genre. But it isn’t really. In fact it’s an attempt to combine the beach party, spy spoof, mad scientist, diabolical criminal mastermind and gothic horror genres. And if you think that such a mixture is likely to turn out as a shambolic mess, you’d be dead right.

Most spy spoof movies tried to combine a tongue-in-cheek approach with at least a vague attempt at a spy thriller plot. But Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is played as pure comedy. And that’s the problem. If you’re going to take that approach you really need to make sure that the comedy is going to work. Far too often in this one there’s an elaborate setup for a gag, but the punchline just isn’t worth the wait.

The visual comedy is pure slapstick, and slapstick is a style of comedy I’ve always disliked. If you do enjoy this type of humour then you’ll probably like this movie a lot more than I did.

Dr Goldfoot (Vincent Price) is a mad scientist who is creating an army of bikini-clad robot girls. But his plans for world domination don’t involve using his robot girls as soldiers. Instead they’re to be programmed to be the ideal matches for some of the world’s richest men. Once the men have married them the robots will persuade their unfortunate husbands to sign over all their wealth to Dr Goldfoot.

Dr Goldfoot’s latest target is millionaire playboy Tod Amstrong (Dwayne Hickman, best known for playing the title role in the long-running early 60s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis). But a mistake by Dr Goldfoot’s incompetent assistant Igor sends Robot Number Eleven after government secret agent Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon) instead. Gamble and Armstrong eventually team up to try to foil Dr Goldfoot’s dastardly schemes. And that’s really about it as far as plot is concerned. The movie ends with an overly long chase sequence that is supposed to be zany fun but is actually rather tedious.

But despite its many flaws this movie is not without its charms. Vincent Price is at his hammiest, but that’s what the script calls for and he handles the comedy with his usual assurance. Dwayne Hickman manages not to be annoying. Sadly Frankie Avalon dies become annoying, and he does so very quickly. Fred Clark is even more irritating as his uncle and spymaster boss. Susan Hart isn’t called upon to do much more than look glamorous as Robot #11. There’s a brief cameo by Annette Funicello, or at least I’m told there is although I managed to miss it completely.

The claymation opening sequence is quite nifty and it also features the movie’s theme sung, performed by The Supremes. It wasn’t one of their big hits but it’s an amusing little ditty. Apparently several other songs were written for the movie but all except one were later cut, which in retrospect is probably a pity. The opening sequence is probably the cleverest thing in the film.

AIP spent quite a bit of money on this film (quite a bit of money by AIP’s standards anyway). Dr Goldfoot’s secret laboratory is moderately impressive but on the whole it’s difficult to see where the money went to.

For contemporary drive-in audiences the big attraction, aside from Vincent Price, was obviously the bevy of bikini-clad girlbots. Gold lamé bikinis are of course a classic look.

If you can get yourself into the right frame of mind there’s a certain amount of fun to be had here. It’s not quite my cup of tea, but it does feature go-go dancing and I can forgive almost anything in a movie if there’s go-go dancing. In fact the film’s biggest weakness is that it should have had more go-go dancing and more songs. It’s a movie that tries very hard to be fun but just doesn’t quite deliver.

The MGM DVD looks great but as usual for this company there’s a serious lack of extras.

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