A cult movie classic? A piece of Americana? A vintage slice of the '60's? Uh, I guess if you want to be diplomatic you could describe the movie Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine in all of these ways.
Made on a record-high budget for Samuel Z. Arkoff's American International Pictures (this was the first-ever A.I.P. film to have a budget of over $1 million dollars) Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine began filming in the late summer of 1965. Much of the film was shot on location in San Francisco, with other scenes shot at MGM studios.
The original idea for the film came from James H. Nicholson, who was one of the owners of A.I.P. films (Nicholson provided the story and is credited as James Hartford). Nicholson had a then-girlfriend, an aspiring actress named Susan Hart. Knowing full well that Susan did not have much acting ability, he wanted to provide her with a role by making her a robot in the film. A plot for the movie was thus hatched.
Dr. Goldfoot, a nefarious, evil, mad scientist, played by Vincent Price, would develop an army of female robots. These sexy and very attractive femme fatales would hunt out and locate wealthy men. The robots would then use their feminine wiles and anatomical endowments to milk the unsuspecting cash cows dry of all their assets.
The original title for the movie was actually Dr. Goldfoot and the Sex Machine.
Vincent Price, the legendary horror movie icon, was recruited for the lead title role. He had already starred in several A.I.P. macabre horror films. In fact, the dungeon and torture scene in the movie actually incorporated a long shot of Vincent from his 1961 A.I.P. film The Pit and the Pendulum. Vincent Price also gave this otherwise "fluff movie" some cachet.
Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman, who had just starred in A.I.P.'s Ski Party together a few months previously, would play the film's resident "good guys.” Oddly, while Frankie and Dwayne played the roles of Todd Armstrong and Craig Gamble, respectively, in Ski Party, their characters were reversed, i.e. Frankie played Craig Gamble and Dwayne played Todd Armstrong in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (go figure!)
Sixties character actor Jack Mullaney took the role of Goldfoot's assistant “Igor" and veteran movie straight man Fred Clark was brought in to play Frankie's slow-burning “Uncle Donald.” The movie also featured cameos by fellow beach party film alumni Annette Funicello, Harvey Lembeck, Deborah Walley and Aron Kincaid.
Susan Hart took the lead female role of “Diane,” an ultra-sexy female robot who latches onto Todd (Hickman), marries him, and is well on her way to siphoning off all his wealth (including stocks and bonds). It's up to Craig (Avalon) to save his buddy from the mechanical gold digger's clutches.
The film was based on the ultra-popular James Bond movies of the sixties, but was originally supposed to include musical interludes. The original concept was sort of a “James Bond meets beach party.”
According to Susan Hart, Vincent Price originally sang a wonderful musical number in the movie, in which he explained exactly who Dr. Goldfoot was and elaborated on the plot of the movie. But alas, the number was edited out of the film's final cut. Hart called the number "excellent" and said the reason for its cut was because Vincent was "too fey" in the number. (Ironically, she asserted, he was playing a "fey character" in the movie anyway.)
She claims the editing of this wonderful song "took the explanation and the meat out of the picture.” She elaborated about the "missing" scene: “It was a really extraordinary scene and it was so beautiful. it was right on the money.” Vincent Price agreed. Speaking about the film in a 1987 interview, Vincent recalled: “It could have been fun, but they cut all the music out.”
Two of the girls in the film were Playboy playmates. Another female robot was Laura Nicholson, the daughter of James H. Nicholson. Susan Hart's hair was done by then-hairstylist/later-producer Jon Peters. The movie's title song was sung by the Supremes.
If Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine sounds a bit familiar to present day movie goers, it is not surprising. Mike Meyers was to use the film as a main inspiration for his Austin Powers movies three decades later. Remember "the fembots"?
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was released in November of 1965 and met with good financial success in America (taking in over $2 million at the box office). It was however, an even bigger hit in Europe and was especially popular in Italy. The movie was retitled Dr. G and the Bikini Machine in England because there were actually two doctors in the country called Dr. Goldfoot. One of the Dr. Goldfoots had even initiated legal action.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was popular enough to merit a sequel, made the next year, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. There was even a Dr. Goldfoot TV special made for ABC called “The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot,” incorporating scenes from the film (it can be viewed on YouTube).
Actress Susan Hart had worn a bikini in a few films previous to Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, including the 1964 beach films Ride the Wild Surf and For Those Who Think Young. After Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, she was to don a bikini once more on camera in A.I.P.'s The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966). But by this time she was happily married to James Nicholson.
Her last acting role was in a 1968 episode of The Wild Wild West. After this, she hung up her bikini for good (and her acting career) and devoted her time to raising her son, Jimmy.
Susan Hart reputedly owns all the rights to Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, as well as other A.I.P. films. It is rumored that she has a very high asking price for their rights and this is why many of these films haven't been released in the home video market.