Thomas Crown Affair

tcaSteve McQueen is one of the kings of sixties cool, but despite his successes in films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Cincinnati Kid, many people weren’t sure how he’d go dropped into a business suit. They needn’t have worried – it didn’t matter if McQueen wore a cowboy hat, jeans and a leather jacket, or a three piece tailored suit, he was still the epitome of ‘cool’.

The Thomas Crown Affair is one of the most famous sixties caper films, although ‘the heist’ isn’t the most important part of the film. It is a character study. Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen) is a bored rich playboy, who plans the perfect robbery just to convey his frustration at the ‘system’. It’s never about the money, as he is already loaded. Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway) is the insurance investigator assigned to crack the case that the police are having no luck with. But she has an advantage that the police don’t – she is willing to almost ‘sell’ her feminine assets to get to her man.

Apart from being a caper film, and a character piece, The Thomas Crown Affair is also a lesson in style. It famously makes use of split screens and often blurs the images in certain panels to draw your eye to a certain section on the screen. Some images are repeated for emphasis, and in other instances, multiple story threads are being played out at once. Adding to the visual trickery is the music score by Michel Legrand. The score is very good, including the Oscar winning song, The Windmills Of Your Mind. The music is freewheeling swinging sixties jazz. It doesn’t always reflect what’s happening storywise, but it certainly captures the mood and the style of the film.

The film opens with Erwin Weaver (Jack Weston) walking up a hallway in a swank hotel in Boston. He knocks on a door – no answer. So he walks into the darkened room. Before he has time to react (like flicking on a light switch), he is suddenly blinded by two spotlights. Behind the lights, in silhouette, a man offers him a job as a driver. Weaver agrees, and is thrown an envelope full of cash to buy a car.

The film then employs the split screen effect, and we witness five men, from five different parts of the country traveling to Boston. Next we meet Thomas Crown. He is a successful business man with loads of cash. As he sits in his expansive office, he starts to receive phone calls from the five men who have arrived in town. Crown gives the word, and then the men go to work.

Their work is a down to the minute, perfectly planned robbery at a Boston Bank. The five men grab the bags of filthy lucre and place it in the back of the car, which Erwin Weaver is driving. Then the five men go back to where they came from. They will receive their cuts of the take later, in installments.

Weaver drives off with the money and travels to a cemetery. He takes the money bags out of the car and places them in a rubbish bin. Then he drives off. Crown then arrives at the cemetery in his Rolls Royce and collects the loot.

Despite their being thirty two witnesses to the crime, the police have no leads as to who pulled the robbery. The insurance company has to pay out for the $2,660,000 that was stolen. The head of the insurance company, Jamie McDonald (Gordon Pinsent) is not happy about the pay out, and calls in his own insurance investigator to look into the robbery. The investigator is Vicki Anderson. She always gets her man, but she has some very unusual methods in doing so.

It’s fair to say that The Thomas Crown Affair is a classic. But it is a flawed movie. Some of the scenes don’t quite ring true, but they are also the pieces that give this film it’s flavour. It is about ‘style’. It’s about getting your ‘kicks’. It’s about ‘beating the system’. While not being a ‘flower power’ film, it certainly encompasses some of the themes that we have come to identify with that era, and as such is an interesting time capsule.

Thomas Crown Affair

Le Doulos

Film GenericLike any film fanatic I have a huge mountain of films that I need to watch. I have a stack of Spaghetti Westerns that I haven’t even gotten close to, along with piles of Eurocrime, Eurospy and Eurosleaze films that are all crying out to be reviewed. I try, but a man can only squeeze so much into a day – and I have to squeeze a full days work into my hectic schedule too. Day after day, it’s only natural that I should feel jaded – a tad worn out.

But then along comes a film like Le Doulos. It is the perfect tonic for the jaded film goer. It has revitalised me. It has made me enjoy cinema again – not that I was hating it – but sometimes it’s easy to forget the joy of a great film particularly if you aren’t expecting it.

Over the years everyone has told me that I must watch the films of Jean-Pierre Melville. I was told that Tarantino said ‘Melville did for the Crime film what Leone did for the Western’. So I watched some Melville. Le Cercle Rouge – hey it’s a good film, but there’s nothing in it that I hadn’t seen in Riffifi. Next Le Samurai – again a good film, but a bit detached. While both these films are good, I was starting to think that Melville was over-rated. At times I think some people see a French movie and ‘have to’ like it, because it’s art.

So with a belief that Melville is over-rated, I tentatively started Le Doulos. I’ll admit that I was enjoying it from the beginning, but by the 25 minute mark, I was hooked. Sure it’s a noir style crime story, that I have seen one hundred times before, but this one grabs you by the scruff of the neck, gives you a good shake, and then throws you down onto the rug. And just as you’re getting settled on the rug, it rips that right out from under you, with one of the best endings to a movie that I have ever seen.

You may notice, I am not writing any of my usual plot description. I do not want to spoil any of the surprises this film has in store. They say writing a review for a good film, is a lot harder than writing one for a bad film. In that case, this may well be one of my shortest reviews.

I’ll briefly mention that Serge Reggiani plays Maurice Faugel, a career criminal who has just been released from jail after a four year stint. His best friend is Silien, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Silien is a two-bit gangster and police informer.

Now if you love crime films and you’re fond of French cinema, then I beseech you to track down a copy of this film and watch it. I want to ‘infect’ as many people as I can with this film’s brilliance. Watch it, enjoy it, then drop me a line with your thoughts.

Le Doulos

Kriminal

Film GenericThe character Kriminal has a rich history, which is a bit out of my depth to discuss at length. Put simply, Kriminal began in a series of adult comic books (called Fumetti) in Italy. The success of the comics lead to two Kriminal movies, made in the mid sixties and starring Glenn Saxon as the titular hero. For a more in depth look at Kriminal’s history, and an alternate view of this film, skip over to Keith at Teleport City’s in depth review.

The film opens in London. A man is being lead to the gallows. The man is ‘Kriminal’ – an evil genius. He is to be executed for the theft of the Crown of England. Kriminal mounts the scaffold, and the noose is slipped around his neck. At the last second, before Kriminal swings, the lights go out and the rope breaks. In the confusion Kriminal escapes.

The escape had been carefully planned down to the last detail. But not by Kriminal though. It was the police that allowed Kriminal to escape. Why? Because the Crown has not been recovered. If Kriminal had died, the secret location would have died with him. Instead, the police have secretly positioned officers in cars and on foot to follow the fiend, hopefully to the regal headpiece. But as I mentioned at the top, Kriminal is an evil genius, and it does not take him long to slip through the cordon of officers, leaving Scotland Yard with egg on their face and a lot of explaining to do.

Taunting the police further, Kriminal returns the crown, letting everybody know that it is a goodwill gesture on his behalf, rather than the tactics or investigation skills of the police that have returned this priceless artifact.

Now free from the shackles of imprisonment, Kriminal can return to his old ways, and when committing a crime, this involves wearing a full body skeleton suit. It’s a pretty threatening ensemble, but you could only get away with wearing it in the sixties. No modern evil mastermind would be seen dead wearing it. When we next see Kriminal he’s in his suit and breaking into a ladies bedroom. When he flicks on the light the lady awakens, and then confronted by Kriminal, she screams. As she does, he takes off his mask. She recognises his face and stops screaming. Her name is Margie Swan and she used to be married to the man standing in front of her. And all that time she never knew she was married to an uber fiend. But that is all in the past. Margie is all set to remarry a rich man. She now works for the Tradex Diamond Company and her new love, is her bosses son. But Kriminal isn’t interested in Margie’s love life. He’s interested in Tradex’s next big shipment of diamonds from London to Istanbul.

The thing about masked fumetti characters like Kriminal or Diabolik, is while they are criminals themselves, their actions tend to take down people and crime syndicate’s that are worse. The regular criminals have no code of honour, or worse still, pretend to be upright citizens. Kriminal’s skeleton suit says to the world, ‘look out’, I am a bad person, ‘stay out of my way’. But criminals who do not wear are costume are hypocrites who want things both ways. They want there ill gotten gain, but they also want to be accepted and fit into society. That’s exactly what happens in this film. Kriminal attempts to steal some diamonds, but finds that they have already been stolen. But of course, he gets the blame for the theft, while the perpetrators get off scott free. But Kriminal is an evil doer of the highest order, so naturally he seeks retribution.

Kriminal is an interesting film. It’s fun in a glossy sixties jet-setting fashion, but there are a few ‘evil’ moments. Generally, the nasty things happen to people who deserve the atrocities, but a couple of innocents get caught along the way. It’s this subversive or slightly malevolent tone that may put a few people off this movie. But mostly it’s cartoon mayhem, with a dash of sixties glamour.

Kriminal

Il Marchio Di Kriminal

Film GenericIl Marchio Di Kriminal is much lighter in tone than it’s predecessor, and the plot is a little more straight forward. But, it is still fine, good old fashioned entertainment.

Kriminal (Glenn Saxon) is back and operating in London, but Inspector Milton (Andrea Bosic) of Scotland Yard believes the fiend is still locked up in a prison in Istanbul. In fact, Kriminal is now working as the director of Villa Serena, which is a nursing home for old widows. The film starts with Kriminal, dressed in full skeleton kit entering through the outside window, into one of the rooms of one of the ladies in his care, Ethel Smith. Ethel awakens, sees Kriminal standing above her, and then has a heart attack and dies.

As Ethel had no kin, the life insurance is paid out to Villa Serena (and Kriminal). After the funeral Kriminal goes through Ethel’s belongings. One item is a little blue Buddha statuette. Kriminal’s gorgeous accomplice, Janet (Evi Rigano) clumsily drops the statue and it breaks open. Inside is a quarter of a map, showing the location to two stolen paintings (by Goya and Rembrandt). Kriminal estimates the paintings to be valued in the millions of dollars, and as such it seems like a worthy project and worth his attention. But the catch is, that the other three portions of the map are hidden in three identical blue Buddha statues.

Kriminal tracks one of the statues down to an auction house, but he is too late. The hammer had just fallen and the statuette has been bought. Adding insult to injury, the winning bidder is the fiancée of Inspector Milton, and she intends to turn it over to him as a wedding gift.

Another Buddha belongs to a German art collector named Von Beck (Ugo Sasso/Hugo Arden). Kriminal dons the skeleton suit and heads to Von Beck’s home, only to find that someone has beaten him to the punch. Von Beck is lying on the floor with a knife in his belly and the Statue is gone. Naturally enough, Kriminal gets the blame for the murder – but that’s what happens when you wander around dressed as a skeleton – people just believe you’re up to no good.

After his failure to retrieve Von Beck’s Buddha, Kriminal goes after Milton’s. Disguised, Kriminal poses as a guest at Milton’s wedding and swipes the statuette from the gift table. In it’s place though, Kriminal leaves a ‘special’ gift for Milton. The gift happens to be a spring loaded gun, that fires when the gift box is opened. The shot misses, but the gift alerts Milton to the fact that Kriminal may be at large. He runs out of his wedding and after a little investigating, makes his way to Istanbul to check if the authorities really have their man.

Now that Kriminal has two pieces of the map, Janet tries a little bit of treachery. Kriminal is wise to the event, and runs Janet a nice hot bath – unfortunately, the water has an electrical charge running through it. Alone, Kriminal next follows his next clue to Madrid, and to a Flamenco dancer named Mara Gitan (Helga Liné). You probably remember, Liné was in the first Kriminal film, but here she is playing a different character.

Kriminal and Gitan agree to team up and find the forth missing piece of the map. She believes it is in Lebanon, and they both agree to take a boat trip there. Naturally, Gitan double crosses Kriminal, but he was ready for that. And as she has never actually seen Krimal’s face, her attempt isn’t too successful. It’s hard to double cross someone when you don’t know what they look like!

Saxon is great as Kriminal. He has the looks to convey the sophisticated gentleman traveller, but he also has an evil glint in his eye, maybe even a furrowed brow, which indicate that there is more to this character than we are seeing. Andrea Bosic doesn’t have quite as much to do as Milton this time around, and Helga Liné is just plain gorgeous. As with the first film, the globe trotting locations and scenery are excellent, especially in Baalbeck amongst the ancient ruins. Manuel Parada’s music is light and swingin’ and really suits the film. As I mentioned at the top, this is a lighter Kriminal, but that doesn’t mean this film should be dismissed as being inferior to it’s predecessor. If you enjoyed the first, then I am sure you will enjoy this second outing for our skeleton suited anti hero.

Il Marchio Di Kriminal

Do Aur Do Paanch

Film GenericIf like me, you’re taking your first tentative steps into an understanding and appreciation of Bollywood film then I guess looking at the films of superstar Amitabh Bachchan is a good place to start.  The film opens with a colourful animated title sequence, very much in The Pink Panther style – that is, cartoon characters with bombs. In fact the film starts off very much like a comedy. Two men, Sunil (Sashi Kapoor) and Vijay (Armibabh Bachchan) are in prison (a classic comedy setting). Whenever they see each other, they threaten each other with all forms of physical violence. As they are separated by bars, of course, they cannot enact upon their threats. A young boy, also serving hard time, asks an old man, ‘Why do they go at it like dogs?’ The old man explains that destiny has a hand in it – whenever either of the two go thieving (or whatever nefarious activity they are up to), the other inadvertently turns up. We then ‘flash-back’ to the event that lead to their incarceration.

Both Sunil and Vijay have planned to rob a safe on the same night. As they enter the room from different entrances, each is dismayed to see the other enter the room. But time is of the essence, so they both chip in to break open the safe. It’s only when it comes time to split the loot, that problems arise. Neither wants to share, and instead they slug it out on a roof top. As they fight, they tear open the money bag, and a shower of bank notes rain down upon the police officers who are looking for them. Naturally they are captured, and each blames the other for their arrest.

The film skips ahead to it’s next plot point. It concerns a young boy named Bitoo (Master Bittoo) who is neglected by his father (Shreeram Lagoo). That’s not to say the boy doesn’t have everything he needs. Bitu has everything, including nannies and a team of security guards to watch him around the clock. The neglect stems from his millionaire father’s hectic work schedule. He never has time for little Bitoo.

But criminal minds are scheming. If Bitoo were to be kidnapped, they could extort an exorbitant ransom demand from his father. One gangster, known only as Uncle (Kader Khan) plans to do exactly this. He arranges for a squad of cars to kidnap the boy. Despite being professional gangsters, there kidnap attempt is foiled by a passer by, Miss Shalu (Hema Malini). Single handed, and in a quite ridiculous fashion, she manages to destroy all the cars that were sent after Bitoo.

Miss Shalu is a school teacher at an exclusive boarding school. She suggests to Bitoo’s father that the boy come and stay there. The school has excellent security and she guarantees that Bitoo will be safe.

By this time both Sunil and Vijay have been released from prison, and have gone their separate ways…but not for long. Destiny once again steps in so they attempt to work on the same scheme at the same time. Both men conspire to kidnap Bitto. This, of course means infiltrating the private school. Vijay’s plan involves impersonating the son of a friend of the headmaster…and ultimately becoming the Phys. Ed. Teacher. Sunil’s scheme is to replace the music teacher, who is off on leave after encountering some of Uncle’s henchmen.

Naturally, at the school, Sunil and Vijay are not enamoured to see each other and spend a considerable amount of time trying to outwit each other, and ultimately get their hands on Bitoo.

Do Aur Do Paanch starts off in an amusing enough fashion, but to be honest, the child kidnapping plot is a bit creepy when you think about it. In the second half, this film moves away from comedy and becomes slightly darker in tone. Well, you certainly can’t call the film boring. It has a bit of everything in it. But for me, I don’t think this is the best introduction to the work of Amitabh Bachchan. I think I’ll have to look elsewhere.

Do Aur Do Paanch

Circus Of Fear (1966)

Film GenericWhat we have in Circus Of Fear is a British Edgar Wallace Krimi, albeit with a rather ‘International’ cast so it can travel over borders quite effectively. Also quite effective is the story line which I never guessed where it was heading. Sure there are plenty of hints, and you can guess where each story thread may be leading, but how do they all tie up together?

The film opens in London, and on a nice big widescreen closeup of Klaus Kinski’s head. Klaus is standing on a dock overlooking the Thames. But he isn’t the only suspicious character loitering around. There are quite a few suspicious characters – there’s two on a boat, there’s a few in a car, and another two men standing by a bridge with stockings over their heads. I realise this is swingin’ sixties London, baby, but I don’t think these guys are dressed like this because they’re swingers! It looks like some kind of heist is going down.

It doesn’t take long for the object of everyone’s attention to appear on the screen. It’s a small armoured van carrying a shit load of cash (er, for those confused by my terminology, a ‘shit load’ is an Australian collective noun… It can be used for almost anything, but most often to describe a large amount of money and when purchasing dim sims – but I digress). As the van and escort vehicle pull up at the bridge, the two gents in stockings make short work of the guards. This is because one of the guards, Mason, is in on the gig. However, unlike the other crooks, Mason isn’t a professional and he panics. He draws a pistol and shoots one of the other guards. The heist has now gone from being a simple robbery to now, MURDER!

Meanwhile Klaus has gone from loitering with intent, to completing a bit of nasty work himself. He sneaks up on the fellow in charge of raising and lowering The London Bridge and clocks him over the head. Now in charge, Klaus raises the bridge. The other cohorts are now on the bridge and are tying a rope to the railing and attaching the other end to a boat waiting on the river below. Attaching rings to the sacks of cash, they slide their ill gotten gain down to the boat. Then the criminals follow suit, crawling down to the boat. As the police flood into the area, the perpetrators make their getaway slowly cruising down the Thames.

Once in the clear they all assemble at a warehouse. Mason, after his indiscretion is given his share of the loot, and the unseen boss man’s loot too. Mason has to meet the boss outside the city in a place called ‘The Old Farm’ at Inglemere. The other cohorts load a van up with the remaining cash an drive off. Unfortunately for them, the police receive an anonymous tip off revealing the route they’ll be taking and the vehicle licence plate. This results in a car chase, with the perpetrators eventually being run off the road.

This leaves Mason as the only man with any of the cash, and he arrives at his destination – The Old Farm. For his trouble, he ends up with a knife in his back. Now this is where the films changes tone. Inglemere also happens to be the winter location for Barbarini’s Circus. Immediately we are introduced to a new set of disparate characters. Firstly there is Barbarini (Anthony Newlands) who runs the circus. Then there’s Gregor (Christopher Lee). Gregor, some years back had a horrible accident and now always wears a black hooded mask. He is also the custodian of his neice, Natasha (Suzy Kendall) Then we have Gina (Margaret Lee) who performs a knife act with her insanely jealous boyfriend Mario, who, as you’ve guessed is a knife thrower. Next you’ve got Karl (Heinz Drache), who is the ringmaster. There’s also a malicious midget called Mr. Big, who specialises at listening outside windows.

Now it’s pretty obvious that someone associated with the circus has had a part in the robbery, but of course that isn’t revealed. But it’s not before long and some of the stolen money starts to surface. All the banks in the area have been notified of the serial numbers of the stolen money, and when some turns up, passed by Barbarini, Police Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) is called in to investigate.

It’s not the purpose of this website to act as a shill for any particular video or DVD company, but if you are going to watch Circus Of Fear (or any of the other names this film has travelled under), then do yourself the favour and obtain the Blue Underground version. Previous versions have been severely truncated – in America the film was originally released at 61 minutes long and in black and white – needless to say, this will not do the film justice. Get the full version and enjoy the film for what it is – and that’s a hugely entertaining thriller with a great cast.

Circus Of Fear (1966)

The 10th Victim (1965)

Country: Italy / France
Directed by by Elio Petri

Ursula Andress, Marcello Mastroianni, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone, Massimo Serato.
Director by by Elio Petri
Music by Piero Piccioni
Original title: La decima vittima

While The 10th Victim is not a spy film it is an iconic sixties film that has inspired countless imitators. It features Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni as a pair of killers participating in a barbaric game called The Big Hunt. The film is borderline science fiction, but it features a few elements that would be picked up by espionage films that were to follow. Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, in particular, pays homage to The 10th Victim.

The Big Hunt, the game that the characters play in this film, is a legalised form of violence. But the game has rules. You can’t just kill people willy-nilly. Firstly, you have to be registered with the Ministry of The Big Hunt. If you volunteer to participate in the hunt, you have to agree to participate in ten hunts. Five as a ‘hunter’ and five as a ‘victim’. Each of these roles alternates with each hunt that you participate in — presuming that you win, and stay alive of course! The person selected as the hunter is given all the information available about his intended victim. The victim, on the other hand, does not know who the hunter is. Whoever wins each hunt is given a prize. If you survive all ten hunts, then you receive one million dollars.

The film starts in New York, and a girl with dark hair and wearing a cowprint dress is taunting an Oriental man with a gun. He shoots at her but misses. It appears that he is not much of a marksman. She runs off. A police officer notices the commotion and stops the man. He explains that he is a hunter in The Big Hunt, and the officer allows him to go about his business. He continues to chase the girl, who is of course, the victim.

Through the New York streets, she keeps taunting him, and he blindly follows. She comes to the door of a night club and enters the establishment. Inside, the club is very modular and cubist. Patrons sit on their squares drinking, while a girl in a mirror mask and corset gyrates and writhes for the adoring crowd. One club goer removes the entertainer’s corset only leaving a very pointy looking, mirror-faced bikini. The hunter cannot find his intended target. He stomps around the crowd trying to flush her out. Eventually he becomes distracted by the stripper and starts to watch the show. The stripper approaches him during her routine and asks him to remove her mask, which he does. She then turns and fires two booby guns hidden in her top. The booby gun has become something of a cliche after it appeared in the Austin Powers films, and prior to that the Matt Helm film, The Ambushers, but The 10th Victim is its first iconic use. I’m sure that booby guns had appeared in film or some pulp fiction novel before their use here, but this is the scene where it entered into popular culture.

It appears that the stripper and the victim running through the street were one and the same person, Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress). Once again she has been successful. This is her ninth hunt. All she has to do is survive her next hunt – but she will being playing the hunter, rather than the victim, so that should give her an edge – and she will win one million dollars.

Meanwhile at an equestrian event, Marcello Polletti (Macrcello Matroianni) is engaged in his sixth hunt. He kills his victim with an explosive device he plants in the man’s shoe. During his next hunt, he will be a victim. So the stage is set to pit Miss Caroline Meredith against Mr. Marcello Polletti. Will he be her 10th Victim?

Without being overly psychedelic, the film is incredibly trippy with a mod fashion sense and some fantastic quasi-futuristic set design. The carnival style music by Piero Piccioni adds to the trip. The 10th Victim is a fascinating film, but I’ll stop short of calling it a great film. It’s a film of its time, and like Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, it is a film that can rub the viewer the wrong way. But like all good late sixties cinema, it at least asks a few questions about society and looks at our changing values.

While I enjoy The 10th Victim, I do find it a bit cold and detached, but then again maybe that is the point. After all, only a certain type of sociopath would want to join The Big Hunt. And maybe that’s a indication of what society is becoming in it’s tolerance of violence – cold and detached.

To read more about The 10th Victim, and it’s amazing Production Design, click here and you’ll be beamed across to The Spy Vibe, and Jason Whiton’s Top Ten Spy Set Countdown.

The 10th Victim (1965)

Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

Country: United States
Starring: Vincent Price, Frankie Avalon, Dwayne Hickman, Susan Hart, Jack Mullaney, Fred Clark, Annette Funicello, Harvey Lembeck, Tommy Kirk, Pamela Rodgers.
Director: Norman Taurog
Writers: James Hartford, Robert Kaufman, Elwood Ullman
Cinematograper: Sam Leavitt
Music: Les Baxter
Producers: Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson

Okay, before we start, to know where this film is coming from, it is going to pay to skip across to Keith’s impressively mounted (and courageous) feature on the Beach Party movies. Hop across there now, and then come back.

So you’re back, and now now armed with all the information you could possibly want to know about the Beach Party movies – and privy to how much Keith drinks on the weekend! Next you’re going to need a crash course in Bond, James Bond. Particularly Goldfinger. Now combine what you have read in a large tumbler. Add some ice, a claymation title sequence by Art Clokey, who would later go on to create the Gumby television series, and a healthy budget. “Hold on!” I hear you say. “This is an American International Picture — it can’t have a decent budget!” Well, you are right. The budget was a smidge over a million dollars. But Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine was the first AIP to have a budget that exceeded one million dollars. So for them, this was one of their big guns.

Who were American International Pictures? They were a film production company formed in 1956 by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff. AIP released independently produced, low-budget films. Their specialty was youth orientated pictures, and Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine taps into that audience, along with another of AIP’s audiences — those who followed the Corman Poe cycle — but more of that later. Okay now, let’s look at the film.

The film is set in San Francisco and is set the day after tomorrow. The opening features location shots of San Fran — the undulating streetscapes, the Golden Gate bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf. Finally the camera settles on a shapely young lady (Susan Hart) in a trenchcoat wearing a fedora. As she crosses a street, a hotrod screams around the corner, and before you can say “Daddy O,” it crashes right into her. She doesn’t flinch and continues on her way. Next, she inadvertently interrupts a bank robbery. The villains pull their pistols and fire several shots into her. No effect! Okay, what type of girl can survive this treatment? A robot. A “girl bot” in fact. One of Dr. Goldfoot’s amazing creations. This girl bot is Number 11, and Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) has programmed her to track down Todd Armstrong (Dwayne Hickman), the world’s wealthiest bachelor, seduce him, marry him, and then acquire all his wealth.

Meanwhile in a cafeteria, Craig Gamble (Frankie Avalon) is busting up with his girlfriend. Actually it’s the other way around. She is dumping him because he is a cheapskate. He just bought her a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk for lunch. He sure knows how to impress a girl. For some inexplicable reason, as Number 11 passes the cafeteria, she has an urge to go inside and drink the glass of milk on Gamble’s table. Why, I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. Then Number 11 confuses Gamble for Armstrong and starts to seduce him, which is not hard, as Gamble is a randy horndog. He wastes no time in rushing her back to his apartment.

As Gamble and Number 11 roll around on the floor, Dr. Goldfoot enters his control room, which he has left under the control of his faithful but dimwitted minion, Igor (Jack Mullaney). On the monitor, he notices that Number 11 has acquired the wrong target. Goldfoot reprograms her to go after her real target, Armstrong. She breaks off with Gamble, mid-embrace, and heads out onto the streets once more. Gamble is pretty confused by all this and heads off to see his uncle Donald (Fred Clark). Uncle Donald happens to be the San Francisco head of the Security Intelligence Command, or SIC as it is known. This gives the opportunity for various characters to refer to themselves as a “SIC man.” Get it? Yep, it’s a groaner all right! Gamble also works for SIC. He is agent Double O Half. He isn’t even allowed to carry a gun.

Gamble relays the mornings events to his uncle, who routinely dismisses them. By this time, Number 11 has tracked down her intended target, Todd Armstrong, and is dining with him at a local restaurant. I use the word “dining” loosely, because there is not much food being devoured. It is a procession of one drink after another. As Number 11 is a robot, she doesn’t get drunk, but poor old Armstrong is loosing it. So much so, that Number 11 convinces him, that he should marry her. He agrees.

Next, we see our newly weds in the boudoir. Armstrong is gagging for it, but before Number 11 will let him sample the goodies, she insists that he signs over all his stocks to her. He does. But rather than the supreme sexual encounter that he was expecting, she gets dressed and leaves, preparing to return to Dr. Goldfoot’s lab. On her journey back, Gamble spots her in the street and rushes over to her. She pretends not to notice him. He grabs her by the hand, only to have it come off in his hands. Goldfoot collects his girl bot, and Gamble is left with only a hand as his sole clue to his mysterious love. In case I haven’t made this plain, Gamble is in love with the robot. He is such a looser that if any woman pays any attention to him, it’s immediately love.

Later that evening, Gamble is still trying to track down the love of his life. For some reason (once again, it is never really explained) he goes to Goldfoot Memorial Park — a cemetery. Sneaking around, through a window in the caretaker’s cottage he witnesses Igor getting into a coffin. This coffin features a stairway that leads to Goldfoot’s secret laboratory. Co-incidentally, the episode “Weekend Vampire” from the television series Get Smart also featured the same coffin entrance to a laboratory, as did at least one episode of The Avengers.. Gamble goes below and witnesses all of Goldfoot’s operation, including the torture and reprogramming of Number 11. Needless to say, he is slightly disappointed to find out that the girl of his dreams is a robot. But armed with this information, he goes back to uncle Donald, and relays the details of Dr. Goldfoot’s set-up and plans. Once again, uncle Donald doesn’t believe him.

Gamble has no other option but to go directly to Armstrong and tell him what’s going on. Once informed, the two men join forces to bring Goldfoot down, and this involves another visit to the cemetery. This time, the evil doctor is waiting and captures them. He takes them to his torture chamber, which is just an excuse to re-use some footage from The Pit And The Pendulum. Our two heroes somehow manage to escape. Not because of their ingenuity, but rather because of Igor’s incompetence. And this is where the film becomes a little hard to bare. It becomes a silly chase film. Gamble and Armstrong escape in a car, with Goldfoot and Igor hot on their trail, with Igor riding a motorcycle, and Goldfoot seated beside him in a side-car.

I have my moments were I am quite happy to take a stroll down “dumb street.” I can sit through some of the most juvenile movies and still not get bored by the lame shenanigans on screen. Bikini Machine is certainly a walk down “dumb street,” and for the first three quarters of the film, I had no problem with that. I enjoyed Price’s over the top abuse of Igor. It didn’t matter how many times he called him “a blithering idiot” or told him to “chop, chop.” It raised a smile from my chapped lips. But for the last quarter of the film, somebody decided that the film needed more action. This action appears in the form of a laboriously painful chase through the streets of San Francisco. And the chase is repetitive. Dr. G chases Gamble and Armstrong, who are in a car. Dr. G uses his remote control to blow up Gamble and Armstrong’s car. Gamble and Armstrong steal another car. Dr. G uses his remote control to blow up Gamble and Armstrong’s car. I am sure you get the idea. Finally the chase moves from automobiles to San Francisco Trolley Cars. This is where I reckon most of the films budget went. During the chase, Goldfoot and Igor board a trolley car and chase Gamble and Armstrong who are also on board a trolley car. As they reach the end of the line, our heroes leap off and hop on a mini bike. But Goldfoot and Igor’s trolley leaps off the tracks and pursues them on the streets. Obviously a trolley car can’t travel where there are no tracks, so this vehicle must have been put together by the films “gadget” department, and I am guessing, cost a pretty penny. It’s a good sight gag, but the gimmick overstays it’s welcome. Still, having invested so much money in setting it up, I guess they had to run with it.

I will leave the synopsis there, so as to save a few surprises for those foolhardy enough to want to track down Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (insert maniacal laughter, fading into the distance). And if that isn’t enough for you, and you are a glutton for punishment, a companion piece to Bikini Machine aired on the TV show Shindig, called The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot. Now I have tried to push the envelope a little and actually do a little research for this review. Some people say that Wild Weird World was just a promo for Bikini Machine that American International Pictures put together for their television distribution arm. American International Television generally didn’t produce too many successful television shows (they tried, but failed with a few pilots). What they did do successfully was redistribute many of their old films. Added to that, they bought collections of European, Japanese, and Mexican films, dubbed them badly, and then redistributed them. But I digress. Back to The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot. Those in the know, claim that Bikini Machine was originally intended to be a musical, but the musical numbers were later cut (except for one by “Sam And The Apemen”). Rather than throwing the footage on the scrap heap, it was edited together as The Wild Weird World Of Dr. Goldfoot. For those wishing to track down Wild Weird World, apparently it is available on a DVD called Vincent Price: The Sinister Image, as an extra.But that’s not the end for Goldfoot — oh, no!. The final pitstop on the Goldfoot highway is Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs. And while Bikini Machine is, well, crap really, it is far superior to this painful Italian sequel. In fact, Girl Bombs is a strange beast. Obviously, as stated it is a sequel to Bikini Machine, but it was also intended to be a sequel to an Italian film called Due Mafiosi Contro Goldginger (AKA: Two Mafiosi Against Goldfinger, and also The Amazing Doctor G), which starred Italian comedy duo, Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs, or Spie Vengono Dal Semifreddo (The Spy Who Came In From The Semi-Cold) as it is known in Italy was made to be a sequel to both of them. Obviously, they were edited slightly differently to make the content more relevant to their specific audiences. But in no way are Due Mafiosi Contro Goldginger and Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine related, except for this piss-poor sequel. I hope you followed all that, because I am pretty sure I have confused myself.

Of course you can’t talk about Dr. Goldfoot without talking about Vincent Price. Price had an incredibly long career, but his big break came when he appeared in The Fall Of The House Of Usher in 1960. This film, apart from giving Price’s career a boost, also changed the career of Roger Corman and the direction of American International Picture. Up until this point, Corman had been entrusted to produce two low-budget black-and-white films for release as a double feature. With Usher, he persuaded AIP to produce a film in colour with a higher-budget. Usher became the first of what became known as the Corman Poe cycle, which included The Fall Of The House Of Usher, The Pit And The Pendulum and The Haunted Palace, among others. All the films in the series were directed by Roger Corman, and seven of the eight starred Price. These films helped cement Price’s place in cinema history as a Gothic horror star. Just to emphasize how prolific Price was, between 1960 and 1970, he appeared in forty productions — some just cameos on television, but none-the-less that’s about four per year.The Corman-Poe cycle weren’t the only films that AIP had success with. They also had their Beach Party movies (which you have all read up on). But that brings us to Frankie Avalon. Although Avalon took roles outside the Beach Party series, those films really set him up as a teen idol. After the seven films in Beach Party series, his output diminished. His most notable performances afterwards were as Teen Angel in the film version of Grease, and teaming up with Annette Funicello once again in 1987 for Back To The Beach.

Strangely enough, I am quite familiar with nearly all of director Norman Taurog’s work from the 1960’s. You see, my mother was a huge fan of Elvis, and as such E’s films were on high rotation in the household. Taurog directed nine Elvis films, starting with G.I. Blues and ending in 1968, when he retired with Live A Little, Love A Little. Taurog had started off as somewhat of a wunderkind, when he was awarded the Academy Award for best director in 1931, for the film Skippy. At thirty-two years old, he was (and I think, still is) the youngest recipient of this award. By the time of Bikini Machine, colourful, swingin’ musicals seemed to be Taurog’s bread and butter, which seems to be a pleasant way to wind down one’s career.

At the end of the day, what can I say about Dr. Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine? It is trash, yes, but there is something that draws me to the film. Is it watching Vincent Price ham it up? Is it watching another Bond style ripoff? Or is it the goofy antics of Frankie Avalon? No, sorry. I’m a randy old perv — there’s something about nubile young girls in gold lame bikinis that works for me, but American International knew that. They catered for audiences like me, and that’s why we still talk about their films today!

Dr Goldfoot And The Bikini Machine (1965)

The Man From UNCLE

The Affair Of The Gunrunners’ Gold
Written by Brandon Keith
Illustrated by Larry Pelini
1967 – Whitman Publishing Company

On a few occasions, as an Australian I have asked the question, what does my country have to offer the spy community? Obviously we have given the world George Lazenby, Rugged Rod Taylor, Guy Doleman – and more recently Peta Wilson (in the La Femme Nikita television series), Eric Bana (in Steven Spielberg’s Munich) and Cate Blanchett (in Charlotte Gray and a few other flicks). But finally I think I have stumbled onto our biggest export – well it’s my lopsided theory anyway, until it’s shot down by someone who is well versed in the U.N.C.L.E. universe. Here it is: I am claiming that the evil organisation T.H.R.U.S.H. is an Australian entity.

Why would I make an outrageous claim like this? Lets start with the U.N.C.L.E. movie, The Spy With My Face – it opens with Napoleon Solo storming one of T.H.R.U.S.H.s compounds north of Melbourne. Okay, T.H.R.U.S.H. have headquarters and secret lairs all around the world, so that in itself is not conclusive proof. But the book, The Affair Of The Gunrunners’ Gold is the icing on the cake. All will be revealed, but first let’s have a quick look at the plot.

The book opens in mid July at Kennedy Airport in NYC and Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are standing outside customs, waiting for a passenger to arrive. This man is Howard Ogden and he has been a very naughty boy. Two years previously, Odgen was arrested for gunrunning, but before he could go to trial, he slipped out of the country and hid out in South America.

The reason the U.N.C.L.E.s finest are waiting for the gunrunner is that Alexander Waverley, head of U.N.C.L.E. has been concerned about the influx of weapons to some of the Latin American Communist countries. As Ogden is a known gunrunner, and has been hiding in South America, it is fair to assume that he knows ‘something’ about where the guns are coming from.

Ogden is traveling under the name of Owens, and is posing as a machinery salesman, and is carrying two large suitcases filled with machinery samples. Solo and Kuryakin recognise him immediately and take him into custody. They march him to their car, and as he is seated in the front, Solo shoots him with a tranquiliser dart which puts him to sleep. Then it’s off to U.N.C.L.E. HQ.

As Ogden sleeps, a team of U.N.C.L.E. experts go through all his belongings. When they get to his two suitcases on first inspection they find nothing too suspicious – no false bottoms or flat throwing knives. But on further examination, they find that Ogden’s machinery samples are made from solid gold with only a thin veneer of iron over them to ward off suspicion. In fact he was carrying one hundred thousand dollars worth of gold.

Armed with this information, Waverley has some leverage. Ogden is awoken and Waverley threatens him with a long stint in jail – that is unless he helps U.N.C.L.E. find out who is behind the illegal gun trade in Latin America. Ogden decides to squeal.

Now dear reader, you’re probably wanting to know why I think T.H.R.U.S.H. is an Australian entity – well Ogden names a reputable Australian weapons manufacturer, called Raymond & Langston as the suppliers of the weapons. Furthermore Raymond & Langston also work for T.H.R.U.S.H. This company also works out of New York. Now why would an Australian weapons manufacturer work out of the U.S.A.? Surely T.H.R.U.S.H. has US agents who can work out of the USA? But that is not all – I’ll get to the next bit in a minute. Raymond & Langston supply their weapons to revolutionaries in various South American ports – shipped in crates that are marked as scrap metal. In return for these shipments, Raymond & Langston are payed in gold. And in case you haven’t worked it out, Ogden was just a courier, making a payment for a shipment of weapons. Over the past two years six million dollars worth of gold has been smuggled into the US, and now T.H.R.U.S.H. plan to transfer the gold to Geneva in one large shipment.

Now moving six million dollars in gold is not an easy task – you need some help, and in this instance it is the world famous Australian circus, the Parnley Circus which is just finishing up it’s run at the Westbury Fairgrounds on Long Island. Of course, the Parnley Circus is run by operatives of T.H.R.U.S.H. Once again, I ask the question, doesn’t T.H.R.U.S.H. have an army of agents in the US who can spirit the gold out of the country? Well I think it is obvious – T.H.R.U.S.H. being an Australian organisation uses it’s men first. It only hires men from the US or Europe (wherever) as minions or lackeys. For cannon fodder.

But back to the story at hand. Ogden is spilling his guts. He says that T.H.R.U.S.H.s contact at the Parnley circus is a world famous lion tamer named Kenneth Craig (yep, he’s Australian). This snippet of information doesn’t please Alexander Waverley. You see Kenneth Craig is supposed to be an U.N.C.L.E. agent. Does this mean he is a double agent? Well it’s up to Napoleon and Illya to find out.

Let’s face it, The Affair Of The Gunrunners’ Gold is aimed at kids and to be honest the story is piffle and has so many plot holes that you could drive a herd of circus elephants through it – even more so than my claims about T.H.R.U.S.H. But in it’s favour, the story is fast paced and has one or two little action scenes – Illya gets trapped in a cage with some lions – Napoleon gets sealed into a vault with his air supply running out. It’s all good harmless fun – but let me just add that there’s a big difference between the childrens spy books by Anthony Horowitz and Charlie Higson than what we have on display here. This is more a curio for U.N.C.L.E. fans than required reading.

The Man From UNCLE