Friday, December 4, 2009

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

Directed by Norman Taurog
Starring Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Susan Hart
Rated G

"What's a rotten girl like you doing in a nice place like this?

Goldfinger meets Muscle Beach in this fizzy spoof of the 60's superspy cycle starring everybody's favorite mad scientist, Vincent Price. Goldfoot (the doc wears gold shoes, hence the name) was directed by Norman Taurog (very RIP), Jackie Cooper's uncle and one of silent cinema's most prolific writers/directors. Taurog also made more films with Elvis Presley than any other director and is responsible for some of the King's most well-known flicks, including GI Blues (1960), Blue Hawaii (1961), and Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962). Taurog was smack in the middle of his Elvis cycle when he made this, which means the singer must have been asked to star at some point. What was Elvis so busy with in 1965? Anyway, on to the show.

After a very snazzy claymation credits sequence by Art "Gumby" Clokey and a groovy theme song by the Supremes, we journey to mid 60's San Francisco, where a dramatic looking brunette(Susan Hart, Pajama Party) in a gumshoe get-up wanders the streets. She appears to be indestructible: she gets hit by a car, and it doesn't leave a scratch; two panicky bank robbers shoot her point blank in the tits, and she remains unfazed.

Meanwhile, Craig Gable (Frankie Avalon) is striking out with his dame (Deborah Walley, star of Gidget Goes Hawaiian) at a local cafeteria. It seems she is not impressed with the lunch he bought for her - a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk - so she bails on him. Just then, in walks indestructible girl, who snatches Craig's glass of milk and glugs it down. Unfortunately, the milk spills out of all the bulletholes. So that's embarrassing.

The two get acquainted. She's a southern belle named Diane, he's a secret agent named Craig.
Good enough. She suggests they smooch, and then she invites herself to his place. When they get there, she slips out of her raincoat to reveal that she's wearing a gold bikini underneath. Craig is flustered by this odd turn of events, and tries to get her to put her clothes back on. Lord knows why. She just wants to bone, so the two roll around on the floor in a sexual tug of war.

This whole tawdry event is being monitored, via futuristic video technology, by one Igor (Jack Mullaney, RIP) in an underground, mad scientist-y bunker. He's pretty impressed with his work until his boss, Dr Goldfoot (Vincent Price) storms in. Goldfoot is wearing a spiffy gold paisley smoking jacket and one of those Col Sanders ties, but he's in no mood to party. It seems as though Igor sent the doctor's fembot - for that is what Diane is - to molest the wrong dude.

The good doctor reprograms Diane. She starts speaking in a German accent and shoves Frankie into a closet. Goldfoot locates her intended target, bazillionaire Todd Armstrong (Dobie Gillis himself, Dwayne Hickman) and takes over his car, making it drive crazily down the street in reverse, until he screeches to a halt in front of Diane, who's pretending to have car trouble.
"Thank heavens you came along, darling," she coos. "I'm completely flat."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," quips the new rube.

Turns out, incidentally, that Diane is merely fembot #11. Goldfoot's got ten more in the bunker.

His nefarious plan has each girl assigned to a different millionaire. He uses some high-tech gizmo to download pertinent info into each girl - for the girl who's assigned to a doctor, for example, he implants vast medical knowledge into her cyborg brain. This way, they'll all appear perfect to their unsuspecting targets. Then, once they're in the rich bastard's graces, they can funnel all that sweet cash back to Goldfoot. Seems like a solid plan.

Diane and the dude go to a club where a band dressed up like the Flinstones flail away, while a chick in a white dress go-go dances furiously in front of them. It's pretty awesome. Anyway, all of her nuzzling works, because, after a two-hour whirlwind romance, he proposes to the robot. And she accepts.

Fast forward to some time later. Craig stops at a newsstand and is shocked to find Diane - who he is still pining over - has married some rich jerk. The happy couple are on the cover of Day magazine. So that's a bummer.

Meanwhile, things are up and down over at Goldfoot's. Emboldened by Number 11's success, he sends out another three girls. But his latest creation, Number 12, comes out all wrong. She speaks in a husky male voice and karate chops Igor. She's going to need some additional work.

Across town, Todd is quickly learning that Diane may not be the perfect match for him. For one, she refused to sleep with him on their wedding night ("My battery wasn't charged," she tells him). Also, she demands his stocks for a wedding present. He gives them to her, figuring it'll get him laid, but instead she tells him to get dressed and make her some more money. This is not a good way to start a lasting marriage.

One afternoon while Diane is out spending Todd's money, Craig spots her and tries to drag her into his car. Somebody should tell him that's kidnapping. Goldfoot shows up to save her, and in the ensuing struggle, Craig pulls her hand off. And then he faints. As you probably would, given the circumstances. When he comes to, he calls his uncle/boss and to tell him what happened, and to ask for his opinion on it all.
"Alright," says the agitated uncle. "I'll give you my opinion. You're nuts!"

Undaunted, Craig - who is a secret agent, after all - follows Diane's trail to Dr Goldfoot's lab. He spies on the doctor as he activates his new improved Number 12. He is suitably impressed with the doctor's work. Then he sees what the dastardly deviant has done to poor Diane. As punishment for not stealing enough of Todd's assets, she's strapped into an electric chair and shocked. Yikes!

Craig escapes - barely - and high-tails it over to Todd's place. The two get loaded, and Craig gives him the sad news that his wife is actually a robot. after a well-time spit-take, Todd recovers from this shocking news, and the two drunks devise a plan to nab Diane. When she gets home, Todd is supposed to wait until she asks for him to sign away another stock or piece of property, and then Craig will swoop in to arrest her. I guess he can do that. However, when she does get home, she puts on a slinky negligee and makes out with Todd first. By the time she ends up asking him to sign on the dotted line, he's too horny to care. He signs the paper, but gives Craig the Power of Attorney, making it impossible for Goldfoot to profit from it. Good thinking.

Todd and Craig decide to visit Goldfoot's place again. I'm not sure why, but I reckon they had their reasons. While they're snooping around outside, Goldfoot pushes a button and they fall through a trap door into his laboratory. Panicking, they try to escape, but every exit is booby-trapped. Goldfoot asks the fellas to join him for dinner, and when they sit down at the table, their legs are shackled. Diane is at the table as well, and when Todd tries to talk to her, he finds out that Goldfoot reprogrammed her; now she only speaks Japanese. So that's not helpful.

After dinner, he shows them his torture chamber, complete with a talking skeleton in an iron maiden.

Bonus: Annette Funicello, who is sorely missing from this bikini-clad romp, is locked in one of Goldfoot's stockades!

Double Bonus: Eric Von Zipper is trapped in the chamber as well!

Goldfoot threatens to torture the men unless Todd signs his property over to him. He refuses, and the movie suddenly switches to a Pit and the Pendulum homage, with Price recreating his role from the Corman movie. The only difference is, this time Frankie Avalon shows up to save the day.
The fellas tear ass out of there. They are almost killed by the fembots and their laser shooting lipsticks on the way out, but they manage to make it safely outside. They steal Goldfoot's hearse and zip off to find some cops or something. Goldfoot and Igor chase after them in a motorcycle with a sidecar. Sidecars are always good for a few laughs. They end up crashing - comically, of course -into a trolley car. And so they get on the trolley to continue chasing Craig and Todd, who are now on a motorcycle. Etc.

So how does it all end? In a bloodbath, how else?

Goldfoot was originally planned as a musical, but somewhere along the way, all the musical numbers were cut out. They later surfaced in a 1965 episode of Shindig. I'm not sure if a little singin' and dancin' would have put Goldfoot over the top, but it is certainly missing something. Nobody seems to be having as much fun as they should, and for a film that features "Bikini" in the title, there just isn't enough of 'em to satisfy. One of the many Beach Party offshoots that were churned out throughout the 60's, Dr Goldfoot is still worth a look for it's kooky cast and the great SF scenery, but it sorely lacks the exuberance and gyrating girl-flesh of the Beach Party movies.

Goldfoot did well enough in the box office to merit a sequel: 1966's Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. Girl Bombs was produced in Italy and directed by horror auteur Mario Bava. Vincent Price returned as the sinister doctor, and teen idol Fabian stood in for Frankie Avalon. Unlike the original, which still enjoys a robust cult following, Girl Bombs is rarely seen, hard to find, and is often considered amongst Bava's worst films. This will not dissuade me from scouring the Earth for a copy, however.

Three decades after its release, Goldfoot's fembots were resurrected for the Austin Powers franchise.

- Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. You can buy Girl Bombs under the title SPIE VENGONO DAL SEMIFREDDO at Super Strange Video dot com..


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