James Bond debuted in theatres in 1962, with Dr. No. It didn’t take very long for spy spoofs to start showing up; in fact, after the release of Goldfinger in 1965, there was a veritable explosion of spoofs and knockoffs, from the Dean Martin Matt Helm series of films to the classic TV series Get Smart. American International Pictures, known for B-grade horror movies and their series of truly insipid beach party movies (this’ll prove important) got into the act with 1965’s Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. You can just feel the intelligence dripping off that title, can’t you? (Or is that your brains leaking out your ears?) I had a suspicion, I have no idea why, that this might not be a very good film. But it stars Vincent Price in the title role, and I was morbidly curious, so I decided to give it a chance.
That’s the hazard of being curious about how bad a movie can be. You tend to get an answer.
Dr. Goldfoot is a mad scientist bent on achieving supreme wealth through having millionaire playboys the world over sign over their fortunes to him. He plans to achieve this through having them marry his robot girls, girls created through his “bikini machine”, which custom designs attractive, programmable women to do his bidding.
There is nothing exploitative about this picture.
With the help, or more usually hindrance, of his resurrected assistant Igor (Jack Mullaney), Dr. Goldfoot initiates his diabolical plan by sending girl #11, Diane (Susan Hart) out to seduce and wed local millionaire Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman). While there isn’t a whole lot of room in the script to allow for good acting, I do have to praise Susan Hart here for at least being amusing as she goes through a variety of wildly-overacted accents during the course of the film. However, due to Igor’s bungling, Diane is initially targeted instead on Craig Gamble (played by Frankie Avalon, who usually starred in those aforementioned beach movies, along with Hickman).
It’s an understandable mistake. After all, A.I.P. regularly mistook these guys for actors.
Craig Gamble is Agent 00¼ of Secret Intelligence Command; as the movie is fond of reminding us, he’s a SIC man. Though he’s such an incompetent that he nearly gets fired by his own uncle (Fred Clark), he still manages to get into a position to warn Todd of what’s going on, and eventually disrupt Dr. Goldfoot’s plans.
The film is moderately entertaining, but ultimately disappointing. Vincent Price isn’t on screen quite enough to give it his hammy best, and the rest of the actors can’t carry it on their own. As a spy movie, it’s either too ridiculous, or too self-aware of its ridiculousness, I’m not sure which; and as a spoof, it’s just not quite funny enough throughout. There are a few laughs here and there, but not as many as the scriptwriter was clearly trying for. Even the chase scene, which was ludicrous enough that it had tremendous comedic potential, had a pretty big gap between “funny in concept” and “funny in execution”.
When you have a trolley car chasing a moped on the open highway, I ought to laugh more than once.
There is a sequel, and I’ll probably give it a shot out of the same morbid curiosity. But I’m not expecting great success out of it, either. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was a movie that didn’t quite manage to be good enough to laugh at intentionally, nor quite bad enough to laugh at unintentionally.