Kino Lorber has released both of the outrageously campy Dr. Goldfoot movies from American-International pictures on blu ray. Vincent Price plays Goldfoot with an enthusiastic flourish in two movies that attempted a series after the popular beach movies were played out.
The beach series began in 1963 with the film “Beach Party” in which younger actors like Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello played off old veterans like Bob Cummings, Dorothy Malone and Morey Amsterdam. The film was so popular it spawned a series of popular sequels, including “Beach Blanket Bingo,” “Pajama Party,” Ski Party,” and “How To Stuff a Wild Bikini.” The timing was perfect. The raucous post-war teen culture of mid-to-late 1950s of James Dean, Elvis Presley, and rock and roll had changed pretty drastically by the early 60s. Elvis was making lightweight musicals after a stint in the army, Chuck Berry was in prison, Jerry Lee Lewis was banned, Little Richard entered a monastery, James Dean, and Buddy Holly were dead. The Beach Boys, Paul Anka, Connie Francis, and Frankie Avalon now represented teenagers.
However, by 1965, the culture changed again. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Motown sound offered a different perspective to teen audiences, and the Beach series seemed out of date. American International spent a few years trying to maintain some interest in the films, adding science fiction and horror elements to the lightweight comedy. The Dr. Goldfoot movies were among those experiments.
The first, “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine” (1965) features Avalon and TV’s Dobie Gillis, Dwayne Hickman (who had also appeared in “Ski Party” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini”). Vincent Price camps it up with gusto in the title role, as a wacked-out scientist who has created an army of bikini clad girl robots who are programmed to attract rich young men and steal their assets. Avalon and Hickman play hapless victims lured by robot 11 (Susan Hart). It is quite obviously a spoof “Goldfinger,” the James Bond hit from the year before, and the cast does try to have some cheeky fun. For instance, Avalon and Hickman play the same characters they played in “Ski Party,” but switch names.
With a screenplay co-written by Ellwood Ullman, who wrote many Three Stooges and Bowery Boys comedies, and direction by Norman Taurog, whose career dated back to silent comedy, the lightweight slapstick, corny dialog, and general air of silliness are calculated and quite amusing in a campy way. A concluding comic auto chase scene is impressively funny, considering its context.
Surprisingly, the critics understood the campy humor the movie was trying to convey, and gave it remarkably positive reviews. Moviegoers, however, had grown tired of the series, and the film barely made its costs back from its United States and Canadian distribution combined. It was, however, popular in Italy, so a sequel was made in Italy retaining only Vincent Price from the original cast.
“Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs” (1966) parodies the James Bond film “Thunderball” the way the previous effort parodied “Goldfinger.” It isn’t as good.
One of the things that makes “Bikini Machine” so delightful is the welcome appearance of Avalon, Hickman, and a supporting cast that includes Fred Clark, Jack Mullaney, and cameos by Annette Funicello, Harvey Lembeck, Deborah Walley, and Aron Kincaid. In the sequel, Price is great, and it is fun to see Fabian, but Italian comedians Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia are somewhat less amusing than their predecessors. Vincent Price agreed to the sequel because he has so much fun on “Bikini Machine,” but he called “Girl Bombs,” “the most dreadful movie I’ve ever been in. Just about everything that could go wrong, did.” Director Mario Bava, master of Italian horror films, couldn’t save it, and wanted to get out of the project, but was contractually tied to see it through completion.
Both films are now available on blu ray, and while “Girl Bombs” is a disappointment, it is still interesting. “Bikini Machine,” however, is delightfully silly in the tradition of the Beach movie series, and its pure early-60s camp is irresistible. Both films on blu ray have sharp picture, vibrant color, and strong sound. For fans of the Austin Powers comedies, this is where they got their inspiration, quite obviously.