When you’re in the middle of a month long horror movie marathon, there are just certain stars you want to showcase. Vincent Price is one of those guys. Price is not only one of my favorite horror stars, he’s one of my favorite actors in general. Because of that, he’s a Legend of the Silver Screen.
Our first Price film is…
CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER (1962) ***
Vincent Price is a sailor who comes to San Francisco and finds himself in the middle of a Tong war. He learns that they’re selling girls into slavery and decides to rescue one of the babes from the Tong’s clutches. Price also finds time to smoke some opium and have strange hallucinations.
If you are a fan of Big Trouble in Little China, you might get a kick out of Confessions of an Opium Eater. Like Kurt Russell, Vincent Price goes to Chinatown, rescues a girl from an evil Chinese warlord, takes an elevator to an underground lair, fights a bunch of dudes wielding hatchets, and crawls through the sewers. Confessions of an Opium Eater is nowhere near as good as Big Trouble, but it’s definitely fun spotting the similarities.
This movie is a bit difficult to describe, difficult to review, and hard to put into the category of “good” or “bad”. It is what it is. It’s strange, weird, and while I wouldn’t quite call it “entertaining”, you should still probably watch it because it’s quite an experience. I’m not sure what kind of an experience it is, but it’s an experience nevertheless.
Confessions of an Opium Eater is more of an action movie than a horror flick. (Seeing Price doing Kung Fu maneuvers is definitely odd.) The hallucination sequences of laughing faces, spiders, and snakes are weird, but that doesn’t really make it a horror movie. Even the action scenes have an offbeat fever dream feel to them, like when Price uses a dragon kite to scale into a second story window.
This flick is hard to pin down. Director Albert (Sex Kittens Go to College) Zugsmith obviously had a hard time figuring out what kind of film he wanted to make. He just threw everything together without rhyme or reason. Sometimes this works to the audience’s advantage. Like the crazy scene where some slavers put a mess of girls in a giant fishing net. Sometimes, it just kind of leaves you scratching your head.
So what we got here is a movie that more or less a mess, but one that’s not easily dismissed either. So much of this movie doesn’t “work”, yet there are some undeniable moments of WTF lunacy. Such as:
1) Price’s run-in with a midget hooker with a squeaky voice.
2) A dance sequence where a slave girl loses her wig and is revealed to be bald (which probably could’ve inspired Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss).
3) Price’s freakout scene where he runs around in slow motion and jumps out of a window (which is played out in total silence no less).
I originally was going to give Confessions of and Opium Eater ** ½, but seeing how this might be our only opportunity to see Vincent Price fight Ninjas in super slow motion, I bumped it up to *** territory.
AKA: Souls for Sale. AKA: Evils of Chinatown.
Our next Price film is…
DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (1965) **
Dr. Goldfoot (Vincent Price) invents a machine that makes hot girls out of thin air. He sends them out to seduce a bunch of billionaires and bilk then out of their money. Goldfoot mistakenly sends one girl to secret agent Frankie Avalon and he falls head over heels in love with her. Frankie then sets out to stop Dr. Goldfoot’s devious plot.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine starts out with an avalanche of awesomeness. The opening credit sequence features cool Claymation work from none other than the creator of Gumby himself, Art Clokey. And the toe-tapping theme song was sung by The Supremes; and it’s probably the best song they ever did. Sadly, it’s all downhill from there.
The problem is that this movie is a painfully bad comedy that never figures out if it wants to be a Bond parody or a send-up of the usual AIP nonsense. The James Bond jokes are pretty bad. Frankie is called 00.25, there’s a bit involving a trick attaché case, and of course there’s a gadget filled car. None of it is funny. The nods to other AIP movies work somewhat better. We get a cameo from the binoculars from Horrors of the Black Museum, Price returning to the set of Pit and the Pendulum, and Annette Funicello even turns up at one point.
Plus, I think it was misguided to make Vincent Price a comedian in this flick. It’s usually fun to watch his tongue in cheek villainous performances. Here his tongue goes through his cheek and out the other side. Price isn’t very funny in this movie (especially while wearing his dumb gold shoes) and he looks uncomfortable doing his lame shtick. I think it would’ve worked a lot better if Price played it straight and left the mugging to Frankie. I mean Frankie isn’t very funny either, but at least we aren’t expecting much from him.
Luckily, things pick up considerably in the third act. The trolley chase through San Francisco is entertaining enough and there are actually a few laughs to be had. This part of the movie isn’t great, but it’s certainly better than the rest of the flick. (Sample joke: “You forget you’re a member of Secret Intelligence Command. You’re a S.I.C. man!”)
The end credits announce that Dr. Goldfoot would return in “Dr. Goldfoot and the Glass Bikini”, but the real sequel wound up being called:
DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS (1966) **
Vincent Price returns once again as Dr. Goldfoot. This time out, he sends his hot robot girls to make out with a bunch of generals. When they’re in the midst of making out, the girls blow up! Goldfoot then takes the place of one of the generals (also Price) and sets out to start WWIII. Fabian is the bumbling secret agent who is sent to stop Goldfoot.
I don’t know about you, but it kinda pisses me off that the only movie that the Legendary Vincent Price made with Italian horror maestro Mario Bava was this dumb sequel to the dumb Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine. Imagine if they had made a real horror movie together. Oh well.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is a different movie than its predecessor. Whereas the original was bookended with quality moments and suffered from a terrible midsection; this one is mostly mediocre throughout its 82 minute running time. I don’t know if that makes it better or worse than the original, but at least it’s consistently ho-hum.
Bava utilizes Price a bit better here though. He seems a bit more devious than he did in the previous film. However, there is still an unfortunate scene where he appears in drag. We also get an odd scene about twenty minutes in where Price stops the movie cold and explains the plot to the audience. (Not that we needed any help.)
Fabian is an OK substitute for Frankie Avalon I guess. He’s no Donovan though. But Fabian is Olivier compared to the two unfunny doormen whose constant mugging will get on your damn nerves. Whenever they show up, they pretty much bring the whole flick to a grinding halt.
Most reviews I read prior to watching this film said it was Price’s worst (or at least worse than the original), but I found it to be watchable. Sure, the silent movie scene at the end is dumb and the Dr. Strangelove ending is pretty weak. Still I’m a sucker for any movie that features Benny Hill type fast motion chase scenes involving hot girls. And besides, I can’t hate on any movie that features lots of girls in bikinis doing calisthenics.
AKA: Dr. Goldfoot and the S Bombs. AKA: Dr. Goldfoot and the Sex Bombs. AKA: Dr. Goldfoot and the Love Bomb. AKA: The Spy Came from the Semi-Cold. AKA: Two Mafia Guys from the FBI.
Next week’s Legend: Bela Lugosi.