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In a decade known for some spectacularly designed title sequences, American International Pictures' Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) can boast of sporting one of the best. The AIP drive-in picture is an eclectic mash-up of several genres to begin with; it is part "beach party" spin-off, part spy movie parody, and part Vincent Price horror-comedy. The opening credits similarly combine two wildly divergent talents: claymation artist Art Clokey (the creator of Gumby) designed the visuals which play out under a rollicking theme sung by Motown hitmakers The Supremes! The bizarre imagery includes floating bikinis, molten gold forming the letters of the credits, and the clay-formed head of Vincent Price sliding around in a golden slipper.
The actual film that follows the extraordinary credits is more conventional fare. Conventional, that is, for a medium-to-high budget AIP campfest from the 1960s. Viewed with a post-Austin Powers appreciation for the Mod aesthetic and unsubtle, winking sexual humor, much of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is pure genius for the right audience. In San Francisco ("the day after tomorrow"), agent Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon) of S.I.C. (Secret Intelligence Command) encounters Diane (Susan Hart), a beautiful brunette in a trench coat. Diane is no ordinary girl - under her coat she wears a gold bikini and she is prone to minor mechanical malfunctions. She is a robot and is monitored carefully on a computer viewscreen in the hideout of the evil Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price), along with his henchman Igor (Jack Mullaney). Diane's real target is young millionaire Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman); she/it waylays Armstrong by causing him to wreck his convertible after which she seduces him and has him sign over his stocks and bonds for the benefit of Goldfoot. The mad scientist has a small platoon of gold bikini-clad robots who are trained for the same purpose, although they sometimes just as easily break out into spontaneous fits of dancing. At the urging of his S.I.C. boss, Donald J. Pevney (Fred Clark), agent Gamble convinces Armstrong of the plot and the two of them attempt to infiltrate Dr. Goldfoot's lair.
Fortunately, everyone involved with Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine knows that the plot is only a necessary evil, and that the main goal is to display beautiful models in gold bikinis, dance as often as possible, and playfully send up various film genres. Nobody is having more fun than Price, and in his below-a-graveyard lair is a torture chamber and the golden opportunity to parody (and use stock footage from) his classic AIP horror film Pit and the Pendulum (1961). A long and elaborate chase sequence at the end of the film has Goldfoot and Igor (in a free-moving cable car) pursuing Craig and Todd (in a tricked-out spy car and a boat) through the streets and off-road byways of San Francisco. The shots are accomplished through the time-honored method of intercutting long shots of stunt drivers on real locations with close-ups of the actors performing in front of a rear projection screen. A rousing music score by Les Baxter helps move along the chase antics.
Director Norman Taurog was a very capable veteran of low-to-medium budget comedies ranging from Larry Semon shorts from the 1920s to Bing Crosby and Deanna Durbin musicals from the 1930s to Martin and Lewis features from the 1950s. At the time of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Taurog was in the midst of helming a long series of Elvis Presley movies - almost one a year - from G.I. Blues (1960) to Live a Little, Love a Little (1968), Taurog's last film. Barbara Luna, who played robot no. 8, was quoted (in Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television: 1962-1973 by Tom Lisanti and Louis Paul, McFarland, 2002), as saying "Frankie Avalon and Susan Hart were very sweet [and] Norman Taurog was a fine director. However, I wasn't very happy standing around in a gold bikini for six weeks, but I needed the money." Luna added, "I got to know Vincent Price better while attending various sci-fi conventions with him years later. He was a very pleasant man."
AIP pulled few punches for Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and arranged for cameos from their other Beach Party heavy-hitters, including Annette Funicello, Harvey Lembeck, Aron Kincaid and Deborah Walley. In an elaborate televised plug for the film, AIP presented a full half-hour special called The Weird Wild World of Dr. Goldfoot, which aired November 18, 1965 in the time slot regularly occupied by the music show Shindig!. It featured songs such as "What's a Boy Supposed to Do?" sung by Aron Kincaid and Susan Hart. The Supremes were not to be heard; instead, the special opened with a tepid remake of the movie theme by other singers. Price, Hart, Kincaid and Lembeck reappear in the shot-on-video opus, while Tommy Kirk was recruited to play "Malcolm Andrews of SIC," an agent who retains all of the intelligence data that Goldfoot covets.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine earned a profit sizable enough to warrant a sequel, although it was not produced by AIP. Le spie vengono dal semifreddo (1966) was produced in Italy and directed by no less than Mario Bava. Vincent Price returned as Dr. Goldfoot and singing star Fabian was brought on as the romantic lead, while Italian actors filled the other roles. The film was distributed in America by AIP as Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs with a new score by Les Baxter replacing the original Italian music.
Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Robert Kaufman, Elwood Ullman (screenplay); James H. Nicholson, James Hartford (story); Louis M. Heyward (uncredited)
Cinematography: Sam Leavitt
Art Direction: Daniel Haller
Music: Les Baxter
Film Editing: Fred Feitshans, Eve Newman, Ronald Sinclair
Cast: Vincent Price (Dr. Goldfoot), Frankie Avalon (Craig Gamble), Dwayne Hickman (Todd Armstrong), Susan Hart (Diane), Jack Mullaney (Igor), Fred Clark (Donald J. Pevney), Patti Chandler (Robot), Mary Hughes (Robot), Salli Sachse (Robot), Luree Holmes (Robot)
by John M. Miller