Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine: A Review


Sometimes you know exactly what you're going to get by the title alone, and Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine I think pretty much spells out what the film is: campy, goofy, fully aware of itself and unapologetic about it.  Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is neither clever or particularly hilarious.  However, it is perfectly aware of its own silliness, and the greatness of it is that everyone is in on the joke.  A bit dated, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is a nice slice of late 60s fun. 

Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon) is the junior member of the Secret Intelligence Command, him getting the gig almost exclusively from the fact that he's the head field agent's nephew.  Uncle Donald (guest star Fred Clark) is highly displeased by his nephew, Agent 001/2, and is at his wits' end at how to deal with his girl-crazy employee.  Craig's penchant for beautiful girls brings him into contact with Diane (Susan Hart), a beautiful girl who immediately throws herself at Craig.  Craig might be puzzled, but he certainly isn't about to reject Diane's advances.

However, Diane is really a robot created by the mad scientist Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price), who uses his bevy of beauties to seduce wealthy men and then dispose of them, once they turn over power of attorney to them.  Thanks to the bungling of Goldfoot's assistant Igor (Jack Mullaney), Diane was sent to the wrong man.  Goldfoot immediately orders Diane to pursue the real target, wealthy and naïve young millionaire Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman).  Todd is immediately besotted with Diane, whose accent has shifted to a Southern belle-type.  They quickly marry but it appears the marriage itself is never consummated, upsetting the eager Todd.

Craig, who has tracked down Goldfoot's lair and discovered this nefarious scheme, he attempts to guard Armstrong, but the two dimwits fail to get things right.  Goldfoot, now aware of the clumsy Craig, attempts to get rid of both of them in his lair, but they still manage in their ineptness to escape and now the chase is on to stop each other.  This leads to a wild chase across San Francisco, where Goldfoot and Igor appear to die.  As Craig and Todd fly off for a vacation, they are stunned to find Diane has now gotten Uncle Donald in love with her, and with two very familiar-looking pilots in the cockpit...

It is rather extraordinary to realize that Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was directed by Norman Taurog, who still holds the record for being the youngest Best Director Oscar winner for Skippy, being a right old 32.  One should give him credit in that he kept things moving quickly, the zany nature of the whole thing flowing freely without a hint of self-consciousness.  One of the highlights of the film is the San Francisco chase, which is fun and fully aware of its own camp idiocy.

I think one of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine's best qualities is that everyone is aware that the whole thing is meant to be silly, so no one need bother with even trying to play this straight.  As such, we get to see Vincent Price at his most delightfully camp.  Going against type from his usual horror roles, Price smirks and strolls in full crazy mode, over-the-top and unapologetic about it.  He essentially spoofs his own persona (a nod to his role in The Pit & The Pendulum is obvious) and while this is a guess, I think he had a lark laughing at himself.

For me, another highlight is Mullaney as the inept assistant Igor.  He too was in on the joke, and in his mix of bumbling and almost innocence he created a delightful character.  He and Price made a great double-act: Price's constant irritation with Mullaney's utter idiocy.  When Igor somehow manages to pull one of the bikini babe's panties despite not aiming to do so, Price's retorts, "You have just reached the bottom," in such a dry, droll manner that the double entendre is obvious without raising censorship or eyebrows, expect in laughter.

Hickman and Avalon too play up the camp, over-the-top nature of the two dimwitted heroes.  When Craig approaches Todd, he tells him, "I'm a SIC man," which leads to Todd replying, "I'll say".  Hart did an excellent job in playing all the aspects of the robot: both the controlled machine and the calculating 'wife' to an apparently virginal Todd.  It's clear that Austin Powers' fembots were clearly inspired by the bikini machine created girls.

I understand Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was meant to be a musical in the same vein as other American International films like Beach Blanket Bingo and Pajama Party, but for whatever reason all the songs save the title number were cut from the musical.  While I don't find the loss of the songs a great loss, I think having musical moments (maybe even, if I understand it, Vincent Price himself doing a little song-and-dance) would have made the film even more amusing in its own insanity. 

That is really what makes Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine a really fun, unapologetically gleeful film. It is fully aware of itself.  It never tries to take itself seriously and knows the audience shouldn't either.  If you watch it in the manner it was made (as goofy, camp humor) you will enjoy the film tremendously.  Granted, its only flaw now is that certain cameos will be lost on the viewer if you aren't familiar with the Beach movies or late 60s tastes (a nod to Senor Wences might leave contemporary viewers scratching their heads).   Still, this spoof of James Bond films is a lot of fun, and with the chase scene in particular being both amusing and well-made.

It isn't high art, but it is fun... 


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