Kino Lorber has released two vintage Vincent Price films from 1965 and 1966 respectively. You hear the name “Vincent Price” and 1960s and the Poe adaptations immediately come to mind. These are quite different from those horror stories. The release of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966) to Blu-ray are an interesting time capsule. They are hard to classify but they aren’t horror, nor are they straight comedies. Upon viewing each disc, it’s hard to even call one a sequel to the other. It’s almost like they exist on two separate planes. The second film is informed by what happened in the first film but it’s like they made it for people who may only have heard about the first one.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is by far the strongest of the two. This film is a loving tribute to everything fun about 1965. The movie is a parody of the James Bond films, beach movies, cheap sci-fi movies, and it has the look of the TV shows like Get Smart. The generic plot involves Price as the titular character developing bikini-clad robots (think Fembots from Austin Powers) to seduce the world’s richest men and get them to sign over their fortunes before killing them. There is nothing more to it. The beautiful Susan Hart plays a robot that accidentally starts to seduce Frankie Avalon who’s a spy for a company that’s vaguely out of Get Smart.
The mistaken identity leads to one gag after another. There are sight gags like Hart leaking water when she drinks after being shot. Through nods to James Bond, especially with Price’s over-the-top Dr. Goldfoot and his golden slippers. The film ends on a long slapstick chase through San Francisco.
There’s just not a level of depth to the film to break it down beyond the surface plot. It doesn’t apologize for being just fun. When Annette Funicello has a cameo or when Vincent Price may be hooking up with the male pilot at the end of the film, these are all done with knowing winks to the audience. Watching the movie today without that base of references might leave you feeling more pained than included in the joke. The extras include a great commentary by David Del Valle and David DeCoteau that helps explain the references and they really seem to love the film.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is the sequel that came out the following year. I had enjoyed the first film for the light humor that it was meant to be. I saw that this sequel was directed by Italian master Mario Bava and was excited about where this series might be headed. What I got was a vaguely familiar mess of a plot. It appears that all AIP did was copy the plot of the first film with a cheaper cast. Out is Frankie Avalon and in is Fabian as the secret agent. Out is Susan Hart and now the dangerous bikini robot is Laura Antonelli. For some reason, they felt that the Italian audience needed local comedians, Franco and Ciccio.
The camp level of this film is through the roof to the point of being annoying. It’s a campy version of a campy movie. This isn’t truly a Mario Bava film from all available sources. There are some scenes that have his use of brilliant colors and a nod to his horror sensibility with the Girl Bombs. That’s the other difference that just takes away from the overall sense of the film. In the original, the girls are used to cheat rich men out of their money but here they are the actual bomb. It’s a minor difference that looked through feminist eyes makes a big change in the light-heartedness of the film.
The fun slapstick chase of the first film lasted a few minutes. Here they take that successful device and blow it out of proportion with a chase that seems to last the last quarter of the film. Vincent Price’s role even loses the luster and his part is smaller. This film adds the extra influence of Dr. Strangelove, and it’s even a more painful homage. The same Del Valle and DeCoteau do the commentary for this one and their explanation of how Bava was not involved in the final product makes sense.
The first film is a brilliant homage to the innocent days of the mid-’60s. The second film is an illustration of everything that can go wrong with a sequel. You take all the things that went right with the first film and change them all just enough to take what was barely funny and make it borderline unwatchable.
I am always happy to see more Vincent Price films make it to the home market but you will have to be quite dedicated to the collecting for these to be important additions.