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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine

We continue Digression Week with more comedy from the mid-60s with a nominal claim to being sci-fi. American International Pictures' Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (DGBM) is a spoof on the Bond film, beach films and even AIP's own Poe films. The sci-fi component is secondary, consisting mostly of gizmos used by Goldfoot. DGBM stars Vincent Price and Frankie Avalon, and features a dozen or so 20-somethings in gold bikinis. As odd as DGBM might seem to modern audiences, it was successful enough in its day to spawn a sequel.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Diane (Susan Hart) is a robot, sent to schmooze rich-guy Todd Anderson. But, she mistakes Craig (Frankie Avalon) for Todd and charms him. Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) corrects the programming error, so Diane abruptly leaves. This sets Craig onto a quest to find her. He is a lowly agent (double-o and a half) with the Security Intelligence Command. Diane finds Todd and flirts him into agreeing to marry her. After an uneventful wedding night, she convinces Todd to sign over his stocks and bonds. She goes shopping. Craig sees her, but she doesn't remember him. Goldfoot arrives to extract Diane, but in the tug-o-war, her hand comes off. She's a robot! Craig's boss (and uncle) does not believe the robot story. Goldfoot's plan is to manufacture the babe robots (in gold bikinis) and program them to marry rich men who will sign over their wealth to Goldfoot. Craig sneaks into Goldfoot's lab and hears all this. His uncle still does not believe him. Goldfoot's assistant, Igor, is a comic bungler. Craig tells Todd all about it. The two hatch a plot to catch Diane and/or Goldfoot. This plot is undone by the two of them drinking too much. They sneak back into Goldfoot's lab, but are captured. Todd is put in a pit-and-the-pendulum ordeal. Through Igor's bungling, Craig and Todd escape. An elaborate comic chase scene ensues with Goldfoot and Igor pursuing Todd and Craig. This is first in a motorcycle and sidecar chasing a '54 Cadillac, then two sports cars. Then two street cars, a minibike, a boat on a trailer and a jeep. Todd and Craig trick Igor into driving off a cliff, so the boys think they've won. They treat themselves to a vacation in Paris. En route, Diane is the stewardess. Goldfoot and Igor laugh from the cockpit. The End. (Amid the end credits, you get several of the girls dancing 60s style to the theme song by The Supremes.)

Why is this movie fun?
Most of the jokes are sophomoric, but some are mildly amusing. For instance, Craig ( who works for the Strategic Intelligence Command, S.I.C.) is trying to convince Todd that Diane is a robot. To sound official. Craig says, "You have to believe me, I'm a SIC man." Todd. "You don't got to tell ME.". (bar-um-tish) Vincent Price is the real star, overacting his character in campy style. After all his serious horror roles, he seems to be having fun.

Cultural Connection
DGBM is a multi-target spoof, but its spoof value relied heavily on its contemporary context. The Bond film, Goldfinger had been out only a year earlier and was a blockbuster hit, so a prime candidate for a spoof. The beach party movies were a cultural phenomenon of the mid-60s. (more on that below) so easy spoof targets. There was even spoof of AIP's own Poe Cycle of horror films. Since AIP's horror and beach movies have since faded from cultural memory, and Goldfinger a mild ancestor of later "Spectacular" Bond films, DGBM's spoofery will have lost most of it's punch for 21st century viewers.

Spoof of Bond -- The third film in the Bond series, Goldfinger, was very successful at the box-office. This was also the Bond film that popularized the many gadgets. Both Bond and the gadgets get spoofed. Craig's agent number is, "double-O, and a half." Goldfoot has many little remote controls that do whatever the plot required, with no real logic or explanation. And, of course, there are all the beautiful girls in gold.

Spoof of Beaches -- AIP popularized the beach party genre (even if they didn't exactly invent it), with several formula films from 1963 to '66. Many of the girl-bots had played background beach girls in the films. Of course, DGBM co-starred Frankie Avalon, a beach movie standard. In the torture chamber, there is brief cameo for Eric Von Zipper -- the recurring comic relief biker in AIP's beach films -- and a glimpse of Annette Funicello (frequent co-star with Avalon) in the stocks. AIP's each movies appealed to the juvenile male, but in the context of the last vestiges of 50's social decorum. The dawning of the hippy era of sex, drugs and rock n' roll, and "free love" supplanted the old ways. The modest swimwear and mild social mores of DGBM would seem stodgy in just a couple years.

Spoof of Poe -- AIP had great success with their Roger Corman "Poe Cycle" of horror films based on Poe stories. These were an early 60s phenomenon. Vincent Price starred in their 1961 film, The Pit and the Pendulum. This would hardly have been lost on the audiences of 1965. The props used in DGBM may even have been the same.

Simple Humor -- Most of the jokes in the script seem to have been aimed at the juvenile male -- the demographic drawn to movies promising lots of young women in bikinis. For example: when Diane has arranged a flat tire to get Todd to stop and help, she says, "Oh dear, I seem to have gone completely flat." Todd glances at her ample chest and says, "I wouldn't say that." (barr-um-tish).

Bottom line? DGBM has very little sci-fi to it, beyond a machine that "produces" sexy "robots" and Goldfoot's many remote control gadgets. The humor is slapstick and basic. As long as you go into it thinking Three Stooges, it is easier to take. For fans of serious sci-fi, there is almost nothing of interest. Fans of the beach movie genre can have a nostalgic smile.


Randall Landers said...

I can tolerate this one, but only barely. The sequel, however, may be one of the worst things I've ever seen...

Nightowl said...

I agree. Goldfoot is marginal. I also agree about the sequel, which followed the usual arc of sequels in being pretty bad. The girl-bots blowing themselves up to kill off important men, seems like it would have been questionable humor even in the 60s, but in today's world of suicide bombers, it seems especially un-funny. I'm highly inclined to skip the sequel as part of this study.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Sounds like a hoot!
- Maurice Mitchell
The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
@thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

RayRay said...

Yeah, the sequel, while it sounds intriguing to see Mario Bava direct Vincent Price in a non-horror film, it's largely a vehicle for Italian comedy duo Franco & Ciccio. I found them woefully insufferable. There's not enough Price and precious little of the charm found in the original.