NOT Available on DVD: DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS
Article by Dana Jung
DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (1965) was a wild and funny send-up of beach movies, James Bond spy films, and horror movie cliches. It boasted Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman (TVs DOBIE GILLIS), and the beautiful Susan Hart as a robot who speaks in a variety of foreign accents. The great Vincent Price also stars as the mad scientist/evil supervillain of the title, a role he would reprise in both a television musical special promoting the film, THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT (which also included Hart), and the Italian-made sequel DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966), directed by giallo and horror meistro Mario Bava. And while BIKINI MACHINE and WILD WEIRD WORLD have both been released on DVD (but are currently out-of-print), the GIRL BOMBS sequel still has yet to find a home on DVD.
DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS is interesting in both its similarities and differences with BIKINI MACHINE. Like BIKINI MACHINE, its origins were much different than the final product. (According to Price, BIKINI MACHINE had started out as a musical, and even commissioned some original songs. What is left of these can probably be heard in WILD WEIRD WORLD, which is full of singing actors.) GIRL BOMBS began as a comedy vehicle for a popular Italian comedy team, Franco & Ciccio. It was more of a straight spy spoof in that version, without all the outlandish mad scientist and world domination storylines. After the drive-in success of BIKINI MACHINE, the producers at AIP probably thought this was a perfect way to make a quick sequel at a greatly reduced cost. So GIRL BOMBS is essentially an expanded, re-edited version of the Italian comedy, but the biggest difference is the addition of Vincent Price as Dr. Goldfoot. Price seems to be having just as much fun on GIRL BOMBS as he did on BIKINI MACHINE, sometimes breaking the Ã¢â‚¬Å“fourth wallÃ¢â‚¬Â and speaking directly into the camera. Attired in a variety of cool and colorful dinner jackets, Price makes the film come alive when he is onscreen, laughing his evil laugh and relishing the ineptitude of all those around him.
The remaining characters don’t fare as well for the most part. Then-teen-idol Fabian has replaced Frankie Avalon as the earnest but dull apprentice spy. Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia are kind of an Italian Abbott and Costello, with one playing the straight man and the other mugging his rubbery face throughout the film. Unfortunately, they are not nearly as funny as Abbott and Costello (maybe something got lost in translation?), especially considering their amount of screen time. The wonderful Susan Hart’s role is more than amply filled by the luscious – and young– Laura Antonelli, who gets to play both a robot and a human. She not only shows a flair for comedy (her weird sexy robot dance is a must-see) but also a sultry seductiveness that later made her the reigning foreign sex symbol of the 1970s. Also missing is Dr. Goldfoot’s assistant Igor, replaced in GIRL BOMBS by an Asian sidekick named ‘Hardjob’ (insert your own joke here).
Director Bava (who allegedly took this project only to fulfill a contract obligation) has also left out the funny cameos from the first film, the nifty title song by The Supremes, the horror set pieces like THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, and the Playboy Playmates playing the Girl Bombs – though, to be fair, the Italian starlets here fill the gold bikinis nicely. There is not even much of Bava’s usual visual flair or style on display. Instead, there are whole scenes lifted directly from other films (a pond full of piranha from James Bond, Keystone Cops complete with dialogue cards, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, and others), plus a foot chase through an amusement park that does not compare well with BIKINI MACHINE’S climactic car chase through the streets of San Fransisco. However, there are a few signature touches of Bava’s sense of absurdity: when a zombified robot menaces the hero and heroine with an axe, and the piranha scene has a certain morbid humor to it. And the air of surrealism comes to fruition in the action-filled climax, as a hot air balloon overtakes a B-52 bomber in a DR. STRANGELOVE-inspired sequence.
It’s a shame that two great horror icons such as Price and Bava could not have collaborated on a more worthy (and scary) project. But taken for what it is, DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS is a testament to the drawing power of star Vincent Price, and of the cinematic frivolity of its time period.
At least one film series (AUSTIN POWERS) owes a great debt to the two DR. GOLDFOOT movies, and they are quite enjoyable to watch today. It’s just too bad that DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS has to be viewed on its 1990s VHS release, and not on DVD.