Super sexbots…built to kill!
Would you like the short review of this movie? Okay…it sucks.
Would you like to know more? Okay, then read on. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was one of a string of films Vincent Price starred in for American International Pictures, that famous producer of low-budget fare for teen audiences. The spy film farce is appallingly bad, but serves as an example of Price’s broad talents, his willingness to star in anything (caused by his fear of never working again), and the inspiration lousy movies can be for latter-day filmmakers.
Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) is a rich, eccentric scientist. He creates “fembots” to seduce rich men, who then will sign over all their worldly goods, which the bad doctor will then take possession of. That’s the plan, anyway. It’s foiled rather early when Dr. Goldfoot’s bumbling assistant Igor (Jack Mullaney, The Absent-Minded Professor, Little Big Man) accidentally programs Fembot Number 11 (Susan Hart, Pajama Party, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini) to seduce a lowly intelligence officer named Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon, too many beach movies to possibly list). Craig falls for the mecha, but she is quickly recalled and sent to her real target: self-made millionaire Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman, the eponymous star of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis). Can Todd resist the fembot’s wiles? Can Craig foil Dr. Goldfoot’s dastardly scheme? Were teenagers in the ’60s really impressed by this schlock?
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is pure cheese…not fine Wisconsin cheddar either, but rancid processed cheese byproduct. Even if it is cheese of the lowest order, it is still cheese, and therefore we can overlook many of its faults.
I approach this movie as a fan of the legendary Vincent Price. In a sense, this grew out of my fanship for director Tim Burton, who idolized Price growing up and cast him in two of his films: the short film Vincent (Burton’s directorial debut, Price narrated the short stop-motion film about a boy who dreams of being Vincent Price) and Edward Scissorhands (wherein Price plays a kindly old inventor who builds the title character). I’ve admittedly seen few of his films, but then, with someone who starred in well over 100 films, how many can one person really see? I remember him best from one of the best film noirs of the 1940s, Laura. According to Price’s daughter Victoria, who wrote his biography “Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography,” he considered it the best movie of his career.
American International Pictures was founded in the mid-1950s as a studio that made low-budget films for teens. Particularly popular were their horror films, and they were the home of Roger Corman, famous maker of grade-Z cheapies. Vincent Price was brought into the AIP fold through his work with Corman on several films based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, starting with The Fall of the House of Usher. In fact, for a time Price was under contract with AIP, and a stipulation was that the actor, famous for his horror roles, could only make horror pictures for AIP. In 1964, he signed a new contract with AIP, and it required him to make three films a year for the studio, even if his roles were relegated to voice-overs or cameos. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was one of those pictures. Price plays Dr. Goldfoot with over the top flair, as if he knows full well both the public’s view of his on-screen persona and the ridiculousness of the movie, and capitalizes on both. When he’s on screen, the movie works much better, but unfortunately he appears in maybe half the film, leaving the rest to the bumbling antics of Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, and Jack Mullaney.
One can also presume that Frankie Avalon appeared in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine due to contractual obligations. The teen heartthrob was known as a singer and for the string of beach movies he made for AIP, such as Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo. Perhaps AIP thought that with his name on the marquee and the word “Bikini” in the title, it would be a sure hit, and actually it was.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine owes at least part of his humor to its parody of spy films, specifically the James Bond films. In 1965, the Bond series was in full swing, with Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Thunderball already in theatres. Frankie Avalon’s secret agent character works for a secret agency, and has the secret title double-O-and-a-quarter. Yeah, that’s about as funny as the flick gets. The rest of the humor is also rather low concept — puns, pratfalls, and the like. But, it’s entirely possible that Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was the first spoof of the James Bond films — Casino Royale would not be released for another two years.
Did the word “fembot” ring a bell? Could it be perhaps that the makers of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery used Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine as a point of reference for everything laughable about the 1960s? It’s a pretty good bet, actually. Indeed, everything you could ask for in a bad ’60s teen flick is here: go-go dancing, pointlessly unrevealing bikinis, boppin’ fun music by Les Baxter (the AIP house composer for all their beach movies), hokey reel-to-reel computers, rampant use of rear screen projection, and the like. It’s only one step separated from the successful Disney youth-oriented movies of that era, such as The Absent-Minded Professor and The Shaggy Dog. All that’s missing is Tommy Kirk.
As for the DVD, you can probably guess that MGM didn’t exactly shower attention upon it. Considering, though, that it’s a $14.95 entry in their “Midnite Movies” line, I’m willing to drop some of the charges against them. The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a non-anamorphic transfer. Dust and scratches on the negative abound, and film grain is clearly visible. The low bitrate and edge enhancement render horizontal lines in the chase scenes as jaggy, pixelated messes. Color reproduction is excellent though, and considering the age of the material, I’ll be just a little lenient in my scoring. Audio is two-channel mono, and is passable. Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer.
Did I mention that Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is unrelentlessly stupid? And juvenile? And corny beyond all belief? Just as long as that’s clear.
Vincent Price completists may enjoy Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine as a counterpoint to his more serious roles. Fans of cheeseball flicks might also find it amusing. Austin Powers aficionados can look at it as one of the inspirations for their shagadelic hero. Anyone else who did not eat paint chips as a child can find other uses for their $15.
Oh, I forgot to mention the opening credits. Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, animated the claymation opening credits, and the title song was recorded by the Supremes. I hope the studio parked dump trucks full of money in front of Diana Ross’ house to talk her into that.
Should I bother to tell you that Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was followed by the far less successful Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs? Fortunately, MGM hasn’t released that one on DVD…yet.