Madcap mad scientist Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) returns with another zany scheme to take over the world. This time he creates a gaggle of gorgeous, gold bikini-clad robot girl bombs, designed to seduce then blow up high-ranking generals from NATO countries. By doing this Goldfoot hopes to start a war between Russia and the United States, after which he and his Chinese allies will divide the spoils. Out to foil this evil plan is bumbling American agent Bill Dexter (Fabian) if he can keep his hands off beautiful secretary Roseanna (Laura Antonelli). To assist Bill, Colonel Doug Benson (Francesco Mulé) employs the latest high-tech computer to select the world's two best secret agents. Unfortunately a malfunction lands them with the two worst agents instead, moronic Italian duo Franco (Franco Franchi) and Ciccio (Ciccio Ingrassia).
A Mario Bava movie with Vincent Price plus a bevy of bikini-clad beauties should not be a chore to watch. And yet Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is and then some. Nevertheless even Bava's worst film left a cultural legacy. The titular bombshells, in more ways than one, went on to inspire the 'fembots' from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). While it is safe to say the vast majority of Bava fans agree this was his weakest effort and even Vincent Price despised the end result, it was a different story in Italy. Conversely in Bava's homeland the Italian language alternate version: La spie vengono dal semifreddo ("The Spies Who Came in From the Semi-Cold" a pun on The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)) proved his most commercially successful film. Even today, along with Black Sunday (1960), it is the only Bava film most Italians recall. Which given we are talking about a man who inspired generations of horror and fantasy filmmakers as well as special effects artists and cinematographers and was feted by Martin Scorsese, is rather shocking.
Of course La spie vengono dal semifreddo's popularity in Italy had nothing to do with Bava but rather Italian low comedy duo Franco and Ciccio. In fact Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs was conceived as a dual sequel, following up both American International Pictures' earlier comedy Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) and a string of Italian made Franco and Ciccio spy parodies including Two Mafia Guys Against Goldfinger (1965) (released in the US as Goldginger). Several of these were directed by then-comedy specialist Lucio Fulci! Beloved in Italy, Franco and Ciccio's appeal eluded the rest of the world. Here they basically gurn, drool, leer and gesticulate wildly for eighty minutes. Oh, and rip-off the Marx Brothers' mirror gag from Duck Soup (1935). In Italy this laboured schtick served the duo well for almost thirty years. They even worked with Federico Fellini and the Taviani brothers on acclaimed art-house fare like Amacord (1973) and Kaos (1984). Comedy truly is subjective. One imagines an Englishman would have as hard a time explaining the appeal of Tommy Cooper to an Italian.
Mercifully the AIP cut gives us a lot less of Franco and Ciccio than the Italian version although the alterations render an already ropy plot borderline incomprehensible. One of the more surprising aspects of Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is the ridiculous storyline concocted by producer Louis M. Heyward, co-writer Robert Kaufman and Pipolo (the pseudonym of choice for Italian comedy writer and director Giuseppe Moccia) proves thematically consistent with the rest of Mario Bava's filmography. Bava revisits his favourite themes: identical doubles and false exteriors masking inner evil. Here Roseanna is momentarily replaced by her uninhibited robot double while Goldfoot poses as his own stuttering, eyepatch-wearing look-alike General Willis. Vincent Price could not give a dull performance if he tried. His sly smile and silky-smooth delivery enliven many dud scenes even if the witless script lets him down. Similarly Sixties teen idol Fabian tries to inject some energy into his goofball hero though the running gag with his repeated attempts to grope Roseanna wears thin. Come the finale he inexplicably forgets all about her and goes chasing some other girl. Another minor irritant are Goldfoot's patronizing cod-Oriental nicknames for his Chinese sidekicks.
At least the gold bikini-clad robot girls are diverting eye-candy. Even more so the adorable Laura Antonelli who upstages everyone with a steamy dance routine in a fetching, flimsy powder-blue negligee. She later parlayed her success in sexploitation fare (e.g. Venus in Furs (1970), Malizia (1973) into an acclaimed career in art-house film including Luchino Visconti's final work L'innocente (1976) and Ettore Scola's Passione d'Amore (1981). Coupled with the Swinging Sixties ambiance, the combination of comic book sci-fi with silly sex comedy carries a certain kitsch appeal. Too bad Franco and Ciccio's inane antics undo any good will engendered by this amiable mix.
Italian director/writer/cinematographer and one of the few Italian genre film-makers who influenced, rather than imitated. Worked as a cinematographer until the late 1950s, during which time he gained a reputation as a hugely talented director of photography, particularly in the use of optical effects.
Bava made his feature debut in 1960 with Black Sunday/The Mask of Satan, a richly-shot black and white Gothic gem. From then on Bava worked in various genres – spaghetti western, sci-fi, action, peplum, sex – but it was in the horror genre that Bava made his legacy. His sumptuously filmed, tightly plotted giallo thrillers (Blood and Black Lace, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Bay of Blood) and supernatural horrors (Lisa and the Devil, Baron Blood, Kill, Baby...Kill!) influenced an entire generation of Italian film-makers (and beyond) – never had horror looked so good. Bava’s penultimate picture was the harrowing thriller Rabid Dogs, while his last film, Shock, was one his very scariest. Died of a heart attack in 1980.