Review of "Dr. Goldfoot Collection (Blu-ray)"

published 16/03/2016 | hogsflesh
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Having trouble leavng comments today. Hope my rates are sticking.
Not for me
Pro There really aren't any
Cons All three films are lousy
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"The Price is wrong"

Vincent Price showing off his sex face.

Vincent Price showing off his sex face.

This set, containing two blu-rays and a bonus DVD, is an unlikely £16.50 on amazon at the moment. You can buy the two blu-rays separately, too.

The James Bond films were hugely popular in the mid-60s, with Goldfinger being the most successful of them all. There were consequently many, many spoof spy films released in its wake. This always struck me as rather pointless, considering that the Connery Bond films are pretty jokey anyway. An awful lot of these spy spoofs came from Europe, but the Americans got in on the act too. The only thing the spy spoofs have in common is that they have not aged at all well.

Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is one such. It was made by cheap exploitation producer AIP, and featured their in-house camp horror star Vincent Price.

Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965)

The diabolical Dr Goldfoot has a machine that makes beautiful woman robots which he sends out around the world to seduce rich men and bring him back their money. But some inept secret agents are on his track. The main part of the plot deals with one of the robot women marrying a dim millionaire while an agent tries desperately to stop Goldfoot.

This is a thoroughly unimpressive film. I think it has a vague stoner following in the States, and Price is a major cult figure, but this most emphatically does not need to be seen by anybody. Probably the most endearing things about it are the plasticine animated opening credits and theme song (by the Supremes, somehow). But even they are only slightly less annoying than everything else in the movie.

This is a style of humour that really hasn’t aged well. It combines a very dated zaniness with leaden slapstick. It’s kind of reminiscent of Jerry Lewis (once the most popular comic actor on the world, now a punchline about how terrible the French sense of humour is). In fact Goldfoot’s annoying, inept assistant seems to be doing a half-arsed Lewis impression. The presence of Frankie Avalon in the cast also puts it firmly in the tradition of beach party movies, an exploitation genre that made AIP a huge amount of money, but which is – justifiably – almost completely forgotten. Goldfoot has a real smugness to it, with in-jokes that are bound to alienate a modern audience.

There’s also the sexism. The attitudes that underpin the film are woefully unfunny. Olden-days attitudes can be tolerated up to a point if the quality is high enough otherwise – I can accept Charlton Heston playing a Mexican in Touch of Evil because the film is brilliant. Dr Goldfoot most emphatically is not good enough to transcend its sexism, but nor is it extreme enough to be actively offensive. It’s just… witless. A scene where Goldfoot’s machine goes hilariously ‘wrong’ and produces a fully clothed woman with a butch haircut who starts karate kicking people is probably an early stab at parodying Honor Blackman in The Avengers (again, why on earth would you do that?), but it just emphasises how out of date the film is.

It would actually work as a Carry On film – you can imagine each character in it being better portrayed by one of the Carry On team. It would almost certainly have been funnier, too. Instead we get Vincent Price as Goldfoot.

Price is rightly loved for his horror film work, much of which skirts the edges of comedy, but in an out-and-out farce he is irritating. Part of the appeal of his horror roles was a kind of lassitude, a weariness that you could never say with any certainty was part of the character or Price’s own attitude to the material. This self-awareness is part of the appeal of his acting. In a comedy the mannerisms which work in more po-faced material grate badly. An extended sequence featuring the set from The Pit and the Pendulum, with Price parodying his role in that film, emphasises this problem. When Price’s straight horror performances constantly skirt the edges of parody, as Pit certainly does, what is the point of doing a comic version?

The supporting cast aren’t any better. Frankie Avalon, the hero (playing ‘Agent double oh and a half’. My aching sides) is thoroughly vexatious. He was a not-very-good pop singer of the era who also did bad films, mostly of the beach party variety. But I don’t really think it’s fair to single him out here – everyone is terrible. It’s also appallingly cheap, with walls that visibly wobble when anyone touches them. This is like an episode of the old Batman TV show, without being funny or endearing. It feels like a film where the cast are having a much better time than anyone in the audience.
Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

The sequel is even worse. Price is the only person who returns, and sadly the new cast members are no better than the old. Indeed, in some cases they are much, much worse.

This time Goldfoot’s robot women are explosive, and he uses them to assassinate a number of NATO generals. His plan involves imitating a general and starting World War 3 – he’s working for the Chinese, so this film can add witless racism to its list of sins. As with the first film, it’s too badly made to really be offensive, except on an aesthetic level.

It was made in Italy – presumably the first film did well enough there to warrant this sequel. It’s directed by Mario Bava, who made some of the best, most visually stylish horror movies of the 60s. It’s a terrible shame to see him reduced to this, and you’ll look in vain for much in the way of directorial inspiration (although the film does make a bit more of an effort on that front than the first one). Depressingly, it was Bava’s most successful film in Italy.

The reason for its success is the presence of Franco and Ciccio, a lowbrow comedy double act, playing inept secret agents. They were highly popular in Italy in the 60s, apparently (some of their earliest films – and they made dozens – were directed by Lucio Fulci, later a grim horror director). They don’t seem to have made much of an impact on the English-speaking world – this is probably the only film of theirs you’re in any danger of seeing. They are beyond awful.

One of them is tall and kind of pompous. One of them – the one with really ghastly teeth – is short and lecherous. And that’s basically their act. They’re in the film far, far too much. If you imagine the most annoying comedy double act of all time (for me, Abbott and Costello, but there are plenty to choose from). And then imagine that double act wrestling naked in front of a back projection of footage from a slaughterhouse, while the sound of a baby crying blasts out, and a dachshund urinates against your leg. Imagine all that – got that image in your head? Good – that’s less than 1% as annoying and repellent as Franco and Ciccio. You have been warned.

Alongside Price and the Italian clowns we get another American pretty-boy pop star turned actor, Fabian, and the usual bevy of women in bikinis. This time Price gets to be more openly lecherous towards them, which is about as funny as you’d imagine. He also addresses the camera directly a great deal. His henchwoman is a Chinese lady called ‘Hardjob’ – obviously a play on the Oddjob character from Goldfinger, it sounds more like something a very specialised escort might offer.

It’s also a very lazy film – there’s a lengthy, tedious comedy chase scene in a fairground in which they obviously couldn’t be bothered to dub dialogue onto the film, so insert silent-film style intertitles instead. Price regarded it as one of his worst films, and there’s a general, joyless sense of everyone turning up purely for the rather meagre paycheck.

Blu-rays

The picture quality on these isn’t terrible, but nor is it particularly great. The images look a little flat and soft, but that’s probably down to how they were originally shot. There’s certainly enough detail visible to make it painfully obvious that the dreadful comedy chase at the end of the first film uses stunt doubles. There are no extras on either disk – not even an image gallery or trailer – but we do get a DVD with a third film on it. Aren’t we lucky?
Master of the World (1961)

The bonus film is only included on DVD rather than Blu-ray. It doesn't look great in standard definition, but probably isn't high on anyone's list of essential films to restore. It's basically 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but set in the air. A film of 20,000 Leagues had been a very successful Disney adaptation of a Jules Verne novel. Master of the World tries to repeat the trick for AIP on about one tenth of the budget – it’s based on two Verne novels, and in place of Captain Nemo in the submarine Nautilus, this has Captain Robur on the vast airship Albatross. Robur is trying to put an end to war by bombing warships and armies into submission.

It's a potentially interesting idea, and might do rather well now as a steampunk adventure romp (it's set in the 19th Century). But 1961 is too early for it to be treated with the lightness of touch it needs, and that, along with the low budget, means that it fails to overcome the gravity of its silly premise. (And it’s especially weird, because the film begins with a too-long collection of ‘funny’ silent clips of early attempts at flying machines, suggesting the film will be a lot more light-hearted than it is.)

The plot is provided by four Americans who end up as Robur's unwilling guests after he shoots down their hot air balloon (Verne liked hot air balloons). The Americans have to try to stop Robur, escape the Albatross, and deal with a deeply annoying love triangle among themselves.

The main problem is the budget, or lack thereof. The Albatross sets look like a cheap Western-steamship-themed restaurant. The special effects are weak (although having the Albatross superimposed over what is obviously stock footage does have a pleasingly Monty Python feel). There are surprisingly few speaking parts. And when Robur goes on the offensive, things really start to unravel. First he bombs London – Victorian London, the beating heart of a mighty empire, a hub of industry and commerce. What we see is a diorama of Elizabethan London in which Shakespeare's Globe theatre is prominent. This will be very familiar to anyone who has seen Olivier's Henry V, from which it is stolen.

This theme continues. When Robur bombs the British fleet, we see footage of 17th century ships exploding. Madrid is somehow coastal. He eventually starts dropping bombs on a huge battle which seems to be made up of footage from at least two different films, involving Arabic soldiers on camels, shirtless Africans with swords and shields, and what seems to be the French Foreign Legion defending a fort. I'm surprised (and a little disappointed) that Robur didn't swing by Italy and start bombing Roman gladiators.

Vincent Price is Robur, overacting like a maniac and sporting a pair of enormous, bushy eyebrows (and mispronouncing ‘ultimatum’). The hero is Charles Bronson – this is Bronson 1.0, supporting actor in films like The Great Escape, rather than the grim, 1970s Bronson. But perhaps because of all the psychotic vigilante films he made later, he seems terribly wrong as a romantic lead. The oldest of the American captives is played by Henry Hull, who was the monster in Werewolf of London, and is also in Hitchcock's Lifeboat. His character is an arms manufacturer, so you'd expect him to be the particular subject of Robur's wrath, but I don't think anyone could be bothered to write anything that intelligent. Otherwise we have various stock characters – the plucky heroine, the jealous lover, the faithful first mate, the execrable comedy chef...

It’s more entertaining than the Goldfoot films (I’ve had bowel movements that are more entertaining than the Goldfoot films), but it’s still not worth seeing unless you’re a Vincent Price completist.

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In truth, I knew I wasn't going to enjoy this going in. I'd seen Goldfoot 1 and Master of the World before, and had been impressed by neither. I wanted to see the second Goldfoot film, as it's about the only Mario Bava movie I'd not seen. And the set was cheaper when I pre-ordered it than it is now.

But when I think of all the things I could have been doing instead of watching these terrible old films - flying a kite! learning to play the bassoon! building a ship in a bottle! - I think that, probably, they were expensive at the price. Avoid this as if your very life depended on it.

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Comments on this review

  • justarube published 08/08/2016
    Good review
  • jb0077 published 30/03/2016
    An E from me, superb.
  • anonymili published 29/03/2016
    Fab review
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Product Information : Dr. Goldfoot Collection (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Classification: 12 years and over

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Video Category: Feature Film

Actor(s): Vincent Price

Production Year: 1965

EAN: 5037899065662

Main Language: English

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