Review by Megan Weireter
Posted on 14 June 2007
Source MGM DVD
In a world in which drive-ins have gone the way of the passenger pigeon, I suspect that one of the more ideal ways to watch Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is the way I did: after a long day, as part of a feel-better plan that might also involve a very cheap at-home facial, a bottle of wine for one, and a big bowl of popcorn for dinner. Add to that equation Vincent Price and Frankie Avalon and a bunch of anonymous gold-bikini-clad starlets with a predilection for breaking into the mash-potato, and what on earth could be more fun?
Frankie Avalon is Craig Gamble, our hero, a hapless loser employed for some reason by Secret Intelligence Command (“You’re a SIC man!”) who, through a complete accident, meets and is instantly smitten by a brunette with a thick southern accent. Never mind that the first time he meets the charming woman, Diane, she spurts out the milk she drinks, fountain-like, from all over her body. This is love, and even when Diane suddenly adopts a Russian accent and storms out of his bachelor pad, Craig is bound and determined to find her again. Little does he know that Diane is actually an extremely realistic gold-bikini-clad cyborg, only one of the mad Dr. Goldfoot’s veritable army of robot sexpots—sexbots! You see, Dr. Goldfoot has plans for his sexbots; he’s built them to seduce very specific rich and famous husbands-to-be. All the sexbots have to do is show up in gold bikinis, get the stupid rich guys to marry them, and have them sign over their stock options, real estate, power of attorney, et cetera, all of which will make Dr. Goldfoot rich enough to TAKE OVER THE WORLD. That is, unless lovelorn Craig and disheartened newlywed Todd Armstrong can defeat them!
As the director of several Elvis Presley movies with plots almost as ridiculous as this, Norman Taurog was no doubt thought to be ideal for this project. Fans of Blue Hawaii and Girls! Girls! Girls! will probably have a little less fun here – Frankie Avalon is no Elvis – but, like those films, this one is funny and slight, and doesn’t hold up too well, and is also good fun to watch. Though the title invites us to consider Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine a James Bond spoof, the fact that Dr. Goldfoot does, indeed, have golden feet is a joke referred to only briefly, then instantly dropped. In fact, any attempt here at true parody is a little half-hearted. Frankie Avalon is a spy of sorts, but his haphazard relationship with SIC is exploited only insofar as it will garner a cheap laugh. (Unlike the more illustrious 007, Avalon is merely double-0-one-half.) The vibe is more screwball comedy than true send-up—the Bond genre is merely nodded to rather than turned on its head.
Avalon, a given for most any film with the word “bikini” in its title, is a one-dimensional, clumsy galoot here, more of an everyman than a glamorous spy. Dr. Goldfoot’s assistant, Igor, is even more awkward, and has apparently been resurrected from the dead only to be mocked by Goldfoot. And then there’s Vincent Price, hamming it up gleefully as the deranged, oversexed, mad genius, essentially parodying his performance in House of Wax. This is the kind of role Price can play in his sleep, and he probably did. Nevertheless, it seems Taurog misunderstood Price’s gifts somewhat—here, Price is set up as straight man in a Dr. Goldfoot/Igor comedy partnership, and it doesn’t really work at all. Very few actors would play a role like this less straight than Price.
And that’s not all that’s wildly imperfect here. You’ll probably wish there was more music—an early scene involving all the sexbots breaking into the watusi really makes you wonder how this would have turned out as a full-on musical. You might blink and miss the kind of unexpectedly awesome Annette Funicello cameo, and you’ll be amazed that, yes, that is the Supremes singing the theme song over the opening credits. Perhaps, if you have the mental energy, you’ll think a bit about whether this film revels in sexism or is somehow commenting on it. And maybe you’ll even start to imagine traces of homoeroticism between Craig Gamble and Todd Armstrong—which is entirely feasible, considering that there isn’t a single actual human female in the film to satiate these horny boys.
And then when you watch the final chase scene through scenic San Francisco – featuring in succession, count ‘em: a car, a motorcyle, a stolen car, another stolen car, two San Francisco streetcars that both go off their tracks, a bicycle-built-for-one, and a boat (on the street! Wicked!) – you might just wish they still made movies as broad and wide-eyed and flawed and ludicrous as this one, and that there was a suitable drive-in left in town to show them.