*. Of course given that there was a lot of money in the spy genre in the mid-60s it was inevitable that American International was going to try to cash in. But can we at least say they were making an honest effort with this one?
*. I think we can. In Norman Taurog they got an Oscar-winning direct to take the helm, though admittedly that had been over thirty years earlier for Skippy (and if you’ve even heard of Skippy, much less seen it, you’re an award-winning cinephile yourself). It also had a huge budget, at least for this studio, being the first AIP picture to cost over $1 million to produce.
*. I’m not sure all that money was well spent, but it does show that an attempt was being made to make something good. And, for the most part, I think it succeeds.
*. To a large extent the production was limited by the desire to stick with formulas that AIP knew best. Hence, instead of a true spy parody it’s an even stranger amalgam of one of the Vincent Price Poe confections and a beach-party flick.
*. In the former case, it’s got Price as Dr. Goldfoot, who needs only be a villain scheming of global domination but turns out in the end to be yet another mad inquisitor, one who even wears a cape and has a dungeon full of medieval torture instruments in his basement. In fact, he’s even got a full-scale working model of the pendulum from Roger Corman’s Pit and the Pendulum (1961). Of course it’s the same machine, and they even reuse some of the same longshots. The portraits of Dr. Goldfoot’s ancestors are also depictions of characters that Price played in previous movies.
*. With regard to the beach-party angle, we’ve got Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman as the co-leads (their characters swapping the names they appeared under in Ski Party a year before), along with a bevy of girls in bikinis. Hell, Harvey Lembeck even has a cameo in his biker outfit, and Annette Funicello is a girl in the dungeon.
*. But wait, there’s more! Or at least there was going to be more. The film was originally intended to be a musical as well, and apparently Price was upset that they cut out all the songs. Except for The Supremes singing the theme, which is actually quite a catchy little tune.
*. Given all this, the spy stuff is actually pretty thin. They were mainly trying to ride the coattails of Goldfinger, which had come out the year previously. Avalon’s character works for the spy organization S.I.C. (Secret Intelligence Command), where he has the code name of Double-O-and-a-half. Or at least that’s what his uncle, the Command’s San Francisco office head, calls him. Or Double-O-and-a-quarter if he’s mad at him. What the number means is that he’s not only not licensed to kill but can’t even carry a gun. In the U.S.!
*. I’m not sure what the S.I.C. actually does and like I say this part of the story is very thin. But because Avalon bumps into one of Dr. Goldfoot’s bikini girls by accident he uncovers a mad plot involving the fembots. Or perhaps not so mad. As far as these evil masterminds plotting world domination go, Dr. Goldfoot’s scheme is pretty sensible. He basically programs these gold-digging beauties to seduce the richest men in the world and then have them sign over their fortunes to their new mistresses/brides. I like the old honey trap better than threatening to blow up the planet.
*. The humour isn’t even spy-related, as it would be with most of theother Bond spoofs. Instead it’s broad, Three Stooges stuff. Dr. Goldfoot has an imbecile assistant named Igor that he’s raised from the dead and that he has to slap around a lot. There are old gags like the guy being caught in the Murphy bed and spraying himself in the face with a bottle of seltzer. I guess you can’t go wrong with the classics.
*. I’m not a fan of car chases, especially in comedies. They ironically bring everything to a screeching halt. The one we end up with here is maybe a little better for all of its craziness, not to mention tearing up the streets of San Francisco a few years before Bullitt, but it just feels like they were running out of things to do. Then there’s a coda, leading up to “The End?” I wonder what the first movie was to end with that. This movie came out a couple of years ahead of Spider Baby, which also does it. I don’t know who did it first though.
*. Overall, however, I have to admit I liked this one. It’s silly and kind of sexy, which is a hard combination to pull off. There’d be a follow-up directed by Mario Bava, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, apparently because Bikini Machine did well in Italy. It seems to me it should have played well anywhere. There’s plenty of nonsense here for everyone.