Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs Blu-ray Review (originally published 2015)
Dr. Goldfoot's gorgeous robots are loaded with lovemaking explosives - their mission: ignite war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Goldfoot is one general shy of global domination and, with the ravishing Rosanna (Laura Antonelli) as his secret weapon, it's just a matter of time. Now, it's up to secret agent Bill Dexter (Fabian Forte) to keep the general and the world safe from the diabolical Dr. Goldfoot and his sexy robots. (From Kino Lorber’s official synopsis)
The staying power of the James Bond series is a testament to the lead character’s transcendent, multi-cultural popularity. The cinematic impact of 007 was seen in direct imitations (many of which were Italian – more on that in a bit) and, on the fun side of things, parodies. One of the earliest of the superspy spoofs (and I believe the first American-made one) was Norman Taurog’s Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) and a few things set it apart. One key point was the fact that it doesn’t really feature a double-oh-seven counterpart; instead, the film (and eventually mini-franchise) centers on a Bond villain analogue. Dr. Goldfoot, whose name is a combination of Dr. No and Goldfinger, was developed for B-movie superstar, Vincent Price, while the secondary hero role was given to teen heartthrob/anti-Sean Connery, Frankie Avalon. Avalon’s appearance brings up the second major difference between Bikini Machine and other Bond satires – it was planned as a follow-up to American International Pictures’ Beach Party series, in which Avalon (and usually Annette Funicello, who also appears here) sang and danced on the beach while wearing conservative beachwear. There were an astonishing eight Beach Party movies, nine if you count Bikini Machine as one of them, between 1963 and 1965. According to Price, songs were recorded, but AIP dumped them in favour of cashing in on the sweet James Bond gravy train. It’s really too bad, because even bad songs could’ve elevated the concept.
I’d love to say that this unique melding of AIP properties (sets/props from the Corman/Poe cycle movies are recycled and the last act is a direct parody of the finale of The Pit and the Pendulum), Scooby-Doo antics, jaw-dropping, yet oddly chaste sexism, and superspy spoofin’ is as endearing as it sounds, but Bikini Machine is an unfunny, mostly annoying ordeal. The claymation opening titles, set to the film’s catchy theme song (by the Supremes!), and Price’s unrelentingly campy performance are pretty much the only reasons to recommend it to anyone outside of Avalon’s fan club. It’s difficult to fault the film, though. Everyone involved achieves exactly what they set out to do and no one appears to be half-assing their job, despite the tiny budget and frightfully short production period. I suppose fans of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997, directed by Jay Roach) and its sequels will enjoy the chance to see where Mike Myers got some of his ideas.
As per usual, the Italian film industry put all other countries to shame in the 007 rip-off department. Technically, the term “Eurospy” refers to a genre of superspy movies made in a myriad of European countries (France, Britain, Germany, probably even Spain), but the subindustry really belonged to the Italians. These movies burned so hard and fast that entire mini-franchises were released within a two year period, such as Bruno Corbucci’s James Tont series (two movies in two years), Sergio Grieco/Alberto De Martino’s Secret Agent 007 series (three movies in two years), and Antonio Margheriti/Ernesto Gastaldi’s Bob Fleming series (three movies in two years). Many of them were, of course, satires and, in this environment, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine thrived. There wasn’t much call for a sequel in the states (the Beach Movie series dropped the 007 motif in favor of the horror spoof Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, 1966), but Italian International Pictures’ Fulvio Lucisano exploited his relationship with AIP to make a semi-official sequel, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (Italian: Le Spie Vengono dal Semifreddo, lit: The Spies Who Came In From the Semicold, 1966), which also acted as a semi-sequel to Giorgio Simonelli’s Due Mafiosi contro Goldginger (Two Mobsters vs. Goldginger and released Internationally as The Amazing Dr. G, 1965).
In lesser hands, Girl Bombs’ only charms would be its Neapolitan flavour, but Lucisano had the one and only Mario Bava under contract. At the time, Bava had only first-unit directed horror, thriller, and adventure movies, but the stylish extremes of Blood and Black Lace (Italian: 6 donne per l'assassino, 1964) and latent camp appeal of even his most frightening movies (especially Kill, Baby, Kill [Italian: Operazione paura, 1966], which was released in Italy the same month as Girl Bombs) lent themselves to the mod-y spy spoof subgenre. Unfortunately, the ‘two sequels in one’ concept, which included two separate screenplays and largely different casts, proved difficult. Apparently, everyone involved remembers the filming process as a depressing nightmare. Both Bava and Price have referred to it as their worst production. Even if it had been a successful follow-up to either Bikini Machine or Goldginger, the only thing more arduous than the Hollywood slapstick of the ‘60s was its Italian counterpart. Campy Italian-made comedies are such an acquired taste that I’m not sure even Italians like it anymore and Bava falls victim to the demands of relentless mugging and Benny Hill-style speed-ramping. Viewers able to at least tolerate these comedic stylings can still enjoy the director’s wonderfully inventive camera work and special effects tricks. It is certainly a better-looking movie than its predecessor, even in this mangled form. There are also a number of fun odes to the ‘60s Batman TV show. I’d like to think that Girl Bombs was an important step on the way to Bava’s ultimate exercise in swinging ‘60s comedy – Danger: Diabolik (Italian, Diabolik, 1968). It’s possible (?) that the maestro wouldn’t have been attached to the comic book adaptation without first making a similarly poppy, live-action cartoon spy spoof. Silver clouds are where you find them.
There are significant differences between Bava’s Italian cut (84 minutes) and AIP’s US cut (78 minutes), to the point that Bava biographer Tim Lucas describes them as different movies in his book Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark (Video Watchdog, 2007). This Blu-ray only includes the Goldfoot-centric US version (unlike Kino’s Evil Eye release, which included both the Italian and AIP cuts), so, beyond reproducing Lucas’ very apt descriptions (an act of copyright infringement), I can only say that the Italian cut sounds even more unbearable – though it was probably edited to make at least a smidgen of sense.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs was not officially released in North America on DVD. The film (presumably the Italian cut) was released twice by Italian company IIF Home Video/01 Distribution. Both of those were anamorphically enhanced and the later release included a 5.1 remix. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray is the first available HD version I know of, though it has probably showed up on European TV at some point. This 1.85:1, 1080p transfer is a very Italian-looking product, in that the image is soft, the gamma leans a bit too bright, and there are issues with CRT/Telecine scanning noise. This leads me to assume that Kino got the transfer from an Italian company, rather than from MGM. The noise is mitigated by what seems to be DNR enhancements, which itself increases the transfer’s general fuzziness. Background details are often obscured, sometimes by Bava’s focus choices, but also often by the fact that the image just isn’t up to the typical Blu-ray standard. Print damage is more substantial here than it was on the same-day Bikini Machine disc, though never oppressively so (the opening titles, which reuse clips from Bikini Machine and Goldginger, are completely ragged). There is no vertical stretch this time, but I do suspect that the image has been zoomed. The pastel palette looks nice and the hues are consistent, aside from some misaligned edges.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. This is a much more consistent track and it isn’t plagued by the phase and echo effects slathered all over the Bikini Machine disc. Like most Italian flicks from the era (especially ones that knew they had to be dubbed into Italian and English), it was shot without sound. Every performance is dubbed and every sound effect is achieved via foley work. This leaves an underdeveloped effects field and uncanny vocal sounds, especially in this particularly weak dub, which I’m guessing was produced by AIP, not Bava’s team. Les Baxter music (Coriolano Gori scored the Italian version) sounds particularly sharp and the lossless codec helps the more complex
Commentary with film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker David DeCoteau – Due to the film’s difficult production back-story and maligned reputation, this is one of David Del Valle’s most focused tracks. Both he and DeCoteau double-down on defending Bava, Price, and almost everyone involved in the production, outside of the top-end producers that are mostly to blame for the film’s quality. The facts fill every nook and cranny of the discussion without repeating any unnecessary info from the previous track. Surprisingly enough, there isn’t too much overlap with Tim Lucas’ book, making the two products amiable companion pieces.
Black Sabbath: Trailers From Hell with Mick Garris (2:40, HD) – The one-man Stephen King adaptation machine discusses his love for Bava’s horror classic over the film’s AIP trailer.
Animated image gallery (1:10, HD)
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, and House of Long Shadows trailers
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.