Vincent Price stars as the nefarious Dr Goldfoot, who is plotting to ensnare the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest men with the aid of beautiful bikini-clad robots he manufactures in his secret laboratory.
His latest target is millionaire bachelor Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman), but his inept assistant Igor (Jack Mullaney) makes a blunder when he sends out their prized beauty on the assembly line, Diane aka No 11 (Susan Hart), to seduce Todd and she ends up hitting on entry-level Security Intelligence Command agent Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon) instead.
Cue all manner of goofy antics and a wild chase around the streets of San Francisco as Craig tries to stop Goldfoot’s diabolical scheme…
Directed by Norman Taurog, who helmed nine of Elvis Presley’s films, Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is a slice of zany 1960s screwball fun that kicks off with The Supremes singing the catchy title song over claymation titles by Art ‘Gumby’ Clokey.
Vincent gleefully spoofs himself and Bond supervillains like Goldfinger and Dr No, and has much fun with some inventive gadgetry that includes a lipstick armed with a deadly laser beam and opera glasses with poisonous blades. Of course, Vincent was no stranger in spoofing the spy genre in the mid-1960s, as had just guest starred in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode The Foxes and Hounds Affair (on 18 August).
Teen idol Frankie Avalon and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis-star Dwayne Hickman (who had just appeared together in Ski Party, with the same names but the other way round) have great chemistry, the always enjoyable Fred Clark pops up as Craig’s SIC superior and uncle, and Jack Mullaney makes for an hilarious fall guy for Price’s Goldfoot.
Their scenes together provide the film with some its comic highlights – especially the perfectly choreographed restaurant scene and one in which Goldfoot plays a cruel joke on Igor by pouring black ink in his periscope. And these visual gags are all courtesy of Ellwood Ullman and Robert Kaufman, who wrote for The Three Stooges and Bob Newhart respectively.
Originally going to be called Dr. Goldfoot and the Sex Machine, it was American International Pictures’ first production to have a budget of over $1million. It was filmed over 30 days in late summer of 1965 on location in and around San Francisco and at the MGM and Producers studios, and released in the US on 6 November 1965.
It was a box-office hit thanks to some heavy promotion (key cast members went on a 30-day tour of 18 cities in 13 countries), doing particularly well in Italy where a sequel, Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, was filmed under the helm of Mario Bava. It was not his best and that was the end for Dr Goldfoot until the late 1990s when Mike Myers included some ‘fembots’ in his Austin Powers movies.
Armed with their downloaded knowledge, feminine charms and deadly weapons, Goldfoot’s cybernetic babes each have her own assignment.
There’s a Brazilian coffee king for No 3; a Greek shipping magnet for No 4; a South African diamond king for No 5; a Danish surgeon for No 6 (Mary Hughes); a Dutch oil baron for No 7 (Playboy Playmate Sue Hamilton); and an Italian diplomat for No 8 (Deanna Lund, who later found fame in Irwin Allen’s sci-fi TV show, Land of the Giants three years later).
No 9 is assigned a Swiss banker, No 10 (Patti Chandler) to a famous British composer, and No 12 (Laugh In‘s Pamela Rodgers) is earmarked for a famous Spanish painter, but Igor’s first attempt (Beach Party regular Alberto Nelson) comes out all wrong. No’s 1, 2, 11 & 13 don’t get name checked, while No 14 is glimpsed being chased by the seven-foot tall William ‘Tiny’ Baskin (who also appeared in The Raven and Confessions of an Opium Eater).
Two other Playboy Playmates played robots, including China Lee and Marianne Gaba, while James Nicholson’ s daughters Luree and Laura also joined the assembly line. But I’m not sure just who played who. Do you know?
As for No 11 (aka Diane), she’s played by Susan Hart. She was the wife of James H Nicholson (the film’s producer and AIP co-founder), and it was Nicholson who came up with the ‘James Bond meets beach party’ concept and planned the film as vehicle for Hart. But nepotism aside, she totally owns the part, providing an hilarious range of comic accents and character traits. Her Tallulah Bankhead impersonation is a hoot.
While many of the ‘fembots’ are played by Beach Party regulars, the film features a few other nods to the franchise. A cinema is showing Girl in the Glass Bikini, and there are cameos from Deborah Walley (as Craig’s cafeteria date), Annette Funicello (in stocks) and Harvey Lembeck (chained to a motorcycle in his Eric Von Zipper leathers – which might have been the inspiration for Meat Loaf’s Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
Just like in House of Usher and Pit and the Pendulum, Goldfoot also has some ancestral portraits proudly hanging in his ‘funeral parlour’ HQ, and each one has their own diabolical history.
His great grandfather (looking like Roderick Usher with a goatee) was a bloodthirsty pirate who was hung, drawn and quartered, another (Verden Fell in Tomb of Ligeia?) brought the terrors of the inquisition to the villages of Carpathia; while Sandor the slob was Atilia the Hun’s mentor. And Vincent ends the tour with a line (probably improvised as it was changed in Taurog’s script): ‘Strong family resemblance, don’t you think?’
Vincent gets to spoof his Nicholas Medina character from Pit and the Pendulum, wearing the same robes, in a scene that cleverly incorporates some wideshots from the 1961 chiller, and also sees Vincent uttering a classic line from the picture: ‘You will scream for mercy when I show you what I have in store for you now’.
DID YOU KNOW?
Vincent made a promotional cameo in Beach Party (1963), which was the first of seven movies in the series. He plays Big Daddy, who is referred to but never seen until the very end of the film, where he gets a cool line: ‘Bring me my pendulum kiddies, I feel like swinging’. And the end title credits also advertise Vincent’s new movie, The Haunted Palace.
The film’s climax is a slapstick big chase through the streets of San Francisco, including Lombard Street (AKA theWorld’s Most Crooked Street), and the West Port tunnel using a wide range of vehicles, including one of the city’s iconic streetcars (which was built especially for the film), and ‘ends’ with Goldfoot and Igor seemingly being blown to bits by the US Navy (using footage from 1964’s Mothra vs Godzilla).
THE MISSING MUSIC
One idea for the film was to include music just like in the Beach Party movies, but in the end Norman Taurog decided against the idea, and preferred a spy spoof in the style of Matt Helm starring Dean Martin. However, according to Susan Hart, Vincent originally sang a musical number which was edited out. She said, ‘It was a really extraordinary scene and it was so beautiful. It was right on the money.’ Vincent agreed. Speaking about the film in a 1987 interview, he recalled: ‘It could have been fun, but they cut all the music out.’ Hart said the reason was because Vincent was ‘too fey’ in the number – which was ironic as he was playing ‘fey’.
Music (minus that missing song by Price) was used for a TV special on the US TV dance show Shindig. Called The Weird Wild World of Dr Goldfoot, it aired on 18 November 1965 and featured three songs and an instrumental, with Vincent Price as Goldfoot, Harvey Lembeck as his assistant Hugo, Susan Hart as Diane, and Aron Kincaid (who later became a voice artist on Batman: The Animated Series and The Transformers) and former Disney child star Tommy Kirk as the Frankie Avalon and Dwyane Hickman characters. You can watch it in full here.