By Jordan Mooney.
If Cat on the Wall was not so duly flooded by music promoters, gig advertisements and bands, we would likely have become a Vincent Price fanzine by now.
Vincent Price represents an entire era of horror picture, the elegant, gothic but-oh-so fiendish rogue of the genre’s most elegant forms of exploitation and heavy marketing. While none of the films that made his career so iconic are, perhaps, masterpieces, they are all wonderful tributes to that most beautiful element of style; campy, overacting pieces that form near-Shakespearian sagas of bedevilled men and their hapless pursuers.
In perhaps a different category to the Poe-penned masterpieces of his golden age, Vincent also starred as the oh-so-devious Doctor Goldfoot in 1965 – and managed to smash yet another bizarre role out of the park with swift, evil elegance unparalleled, with the utmost gusto and enjoyment.
Doctor Goldfoot & The Bikini Machine is perhaps one of the stranger of the increasingly bizarre, camp parody pictures of the time period, and many spy parodies of the modern day seem to have broken bread with this ever-eccentric, cheap and rather silly little picture.
What is it that manages to create such an entertaining romp that only gets funnier with age? The plot itself is a major assistance.
When the world-renowned evil genius, Doctor Goldfoot (in his fetching shoes), creates a machine that produces only the finest bikini-clad beauties, magnates and wealthy men from all over the world fall haplessly in love with the robotic darlings – all of which are programmed especially to appeal to them. Following marriage, the girls seek stock signovers, raw cash and shares – all of which are retrieved to their master. With this programme, Goldfoot intends to become the richest man in the world.
However, one idiotic mummy’s-boy police inspector is accidentally targeted, and falls swiftly into a puppy-dog obsession with No.11 – ‘Diane’. When Diane is then caught married to Todd Armstrong, multi-millionaire playboy, Goldfoot’s plan is unfurled before them, and, together, these two less than intelligent men go up against a very intelligent man and his significantly less intelligent assistant, Igor.
What results is over-copious injokes, bizarre cameos, terrible driving effects and high speed chases in the streets of San Francisco.
It’s a film that, in its own way, is so loveably ridiculous, ineptly stupid and chaotically comical that it becomes a champion of its own ideaThe film was originally planned to be a musical, and while the pleasure of a singing Goldfoot has sadly been removed, the tell-tale campiness and bizarre direction is all present and correct – and flawlessly rendered in 1960s Cheese-o-vision.
Colourful, overblown and taking numerous twists and turns – one of which involves a self-propelling San-Fran Cable Car, the film really is a bit of a time capsule; parodying not only the golden age of spy films that became such a sensation only a year before, but all tropes of plotting, grand viziers and bumbling sidekicks; and in the process becoming a ridiculous stoner-cult picture unrivalled in such capacities.
As in many pictures, Vincent becomes the highlight. Mr. Price is having an absolute blast in one of his first campier efforts, and makes an incredibly appealing cantankerous villain that joins Edward Lionheart, Doctor Phibes and Roderick Usher as one of his more iconic and unusual characters – his little nods towards his creations’ physiques, effeminate expressions and playful enthusiasm make it all the more humorous when faced with other people’s idiocy. He’s wildly entertaining, and accidentally forms a viable argument to the idea of Mr. Price’s capabilities in being a genuine Bond villain. Even hilarious guest star Fred Clark pales in comparison to the sheer comedic timing that the master of horror doles out in droves.
The film also seems to fancy itself as a slapstick piece – fold out beds, car crashes and being knocked out by doors all happen in very swift succession, and while none of the laughs are at sheer wit or intelligence, a stupid chuckle can be a very gratifying thing. The script is closer to a collection of jokes than it is a coherent story, but this only drives the film further towards its target. It’s blatantly not attempting to become a classic – in fact, chances are AIP were expecting it to be forgotten within a couple of months – but the film’s own bizarre outlook, sexual connotations, madcap characters and quick paced humour manage to elevate it to cult status with a swift strike of a poorly transitioned explosion.
Interestingly, even in its most exploitative, sexual mood, the film doesn’t seem overtly offensive. It doesn’t choose to go for voyeur shots or completely sexist language – in fact, the most sexist part of the film is probably its trailer – and the girls themselves don’t even get that much attention. The real draw here seems to be the silly parody of Goldfinger and some time-honoured cast members who guarantee the audience a certain level of enjoyment – with the promise of at least a little randy fun to match.
My favourite aspect is easily the sheer absurdity of the chase scenes. I dare not spoil it for you, but the chase that makes up the film’s climax manages to form the absolute apex of comedy – it is completely overstretched, completely unconvincing and resorts to completely ridiculous vehicles, thefts and crashes that not only characterise the film’s chief location of San Francisco to a tee, but manage to characterise the Looney Tunes nonsense that makes up a surprisingly inspired piece of idiotic film making.
It’s stupid, it’s cheap and it’s even a little incompetent. But if you love a bit of 1960s cheese, ridiculous slapstick and bikini-clad ladies with generous layers of exploitation, it’s not only a film for you – but perhaps the representative of a wild, bizarre period of cinema taking advantage of the increasingly hefty trends of free love and liberal film making that made the 1960s such a hilariously romanticised time period for those of us that never lived it.
The brilliant stop motion titles and utterly ace song by The Supremes seal the deal. And probably made the final push for this concept to return as television special, and later, a sequel; Doctor Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs.
Another time, perhaps…
Release date: 1965
Director: Norman Taurog
Vincent Price as Dr. Goldfoot
Frankie Avalon as Craig Gamble
Dwayne Hickman as Todd Armstrong
Susan Hart as Diane
Jack Mullaney as Igor