Evil genius Dr Goldfoot has decided to take over the world, taking advantage of his resemblance to one of NATO’s top generals. When the military men gather in Rome, he begins to eliminate them one by one, using his Girl Bombs; seductive robots who explode on command. An agent of the Secret Intelligence Command attempts to foil the scheme, with the help of two bumbling friends…
‘Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine’ (1965) had been a worldwide hit for American International Pictures but had done some of its best business in Italy. After the domestic success of ‘The Amazing Dr G’ (1965) for the Italian comedy duo Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, producer Fulvio Lucisano was looking to finance a sequel. So why not combine the two projects into one? Bring Vincent Price back as Goldfoot and star him alongside Franco & Ciccio!
Producer Lucisano had worked with Mario Bava on ‘Planet of the Vampires’ (1965), and American International were only too familiar with the horror maestro, having distributed several of his films Stateside. Some of these had been joint ventures, and Bava had even shot separate versions for the different markets simultaneously. He was also known for bringing in projects on time, and on budget. What could possibly go wrong?
Dr Goldfoot (Price) is up to his old tricks again. This time, he’s perfected a new army of girl robots. Not only do they look fabulous in gold bikinis, but they explode on contact with NATO generals! Working with Oriental sidekicks, Hardjob (Moa Tahi) and Fong (George Wang), he’s planning to take control of a nuclear missile and start another world war between the US and Russia. All that stands in his way is disgraced secret agent, Bill Dexter (Fabian), his love interest Rosanna (Laita Antonelli) and two blundering hotel doormen (Franco & Ciccio, of course).
Fabian attempts to convince his boss Colonel Benson (Francesco Mulé) of the threat that Price poses, but he’s already screwed up once too often, and he’s thrown out on his ear. The handsome young agent gets more of a sympathetic hearing from pretty secretary Antonelli, and things start looking up when a mistake allows idiots Franco and Ciccio to become registered as fully-qualified agents. Mulé gets the office computer to select the two best operatives to investigate the exploding Generals situation and, of course, it spits out the names of our gormless duo, after some tinkering from Price. Rather enjoyably, the mad genius breaks the fourth wall on a few occasion to explain his schemes to us, but the film fails to commit to the idea of the villain as narrator, which could have been interesting. And might have been funny.
The later stages opt for the same approach as the first film; an extended chase sequence, this time, mostly around a funfair. This is delivered in the style of a silent movie, complete with intertitles and under-cranking the camera to speed up the action. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work because there is no creativity behind the gags. It just falls flat. Curiously, it contains Bava’s most extended appearance in one of his films; as an agitated passer-by who gets involved in the action and, subsequently, as an angel in the clouds. There’s little other evidence of his involvement, beyond some nicely-framed shots and a sequence where the girls dance in a roomful of mirrors. It’s a hint at what the film could have been.
These shortcomings may be due to a production decision made early in the film. There were always going to be two separate and distinct cuts of the final film; one for release in America that prominently featured Price, and one for Italy which highlighted Franco & Ciccio. Indeed, a different scriptwriting team worked on each; Robert Kaufman (returning from the first film) and producer Louis M Heywood for the American version, and Franco Castellano and Giuseppe Moccia for the Italian one. How these scripts were finally mashed together is anybody’s guess.
There’s further evidence of a general downturn in quality too (and the original wasn’t that good!) The Supremes catchy theme song has been replaced by a useless effort from the slightly less famous outfit, The Sloopys and American International studio star Frankie Avalon has been switched out for teen heartthrob Fabian. He was another crooner who music moguls were trying to mould, unsuccessfully, into the next Elvis. His performance here is stiff and wooden, but at least we are spared Avalon’s tiresome mugging from the first film.
Strangely enough, the Italian cut of the film with, more Franco & Ciccio and less Price, is better. The story is more coherent and feels more fully developed. Perhaps it’s closer to Bava’s vision of the property, which makes sense as he would have been more familiar, and probably more in tune, with the humour and taste of his own country. However, there is more Franco & Ciccio, which is never a good thing.
If it seems a little baffling as to why a director such as Bava would take on such a project, there are several possible reasons, any one of which might have been sufficient on its own. To begin with, Bava was a massive fan of science-fiction, and the story falls broadly into that category. Perhaps it’s significant that his next project was ‘Diabolik’ (1968), who was a far more successful comic book villain in every sense. Also, he may have wished to try his hand at something different, and there’s the fact that Bava’s films were not all that successful on their original release, particularly in Italy. Ironically, this film proved to be his only real box-office hit domestically! In other words, he may just have needed the work.
Art fantastic Price may have thought a trip to Italy and working with Bava would be a meeting of minds. After all the director’s father, Eugenio, was a well-known sculptor and Bava himself was known for the visual brilliance of his films. However, when asked about working with the actor, Bava remarked: ‘Oh, that pain in the ass. All he did was talk about statues all the time.’
A clumsy, low-grade comedy that was undoubtedly the director’s worst work, and an experience that Price probably wanted to forget.