After chuckling my way through the cheesy-but-fun Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (see last week’s Video Vulture), I was naturally in a mood to check out the sequel, Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966). All of the reviews warn that it’s the weaker of the two films, but c’mon, you’ve still got the wonderful Vincent Price as the evil Dr. G, he still has a bevy of beautiful robot spies who dress in gold bikinis, and he still has a diabolical plot to take over the world. I mean, that’s basically the same damn movie, right? Right?
Oh God, was I wrong. Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is so awful, it’s astonishing. Jesus, guys, you made the exact same movie last year; how could you possibly mess it up this badly?
Every single joke falls so flat, you can hear the impact. Dr. G disguises himself as a nun! (Thud.) He keeps piranha in his swimming pool! (Clunk!) The cast ride a hot air balloon up into the clouds, where they encounter angels! (Wait, what?)
Worst of all, the vast majority of the... er... “comedy” (let’s pause to hang an enormous pair of sarcastic quotation marks on that word) is left to the unbearable Italian comic duo of Franco and Ciccio. These bozos can fuck right off. They are awful. Ciccio, the supposed “straight man” of the duo, is just as manic as Franco, who makes grotesque faces, waggles his hat up and down and freaks out when he sees an actual (gasp) Chinese man! (The bumbling duo will later murder the Chinese character by pushing him out of an airplane. Hardy har har.)
Astonishingly, this piece of crap was directed by the one-and-only Mario Bava, one of the most visually courageous directors in Italy (which is a bit like being one of the most talented sculptors in the Renaissance). I can’t imagine that Bava ever made a worse movie than Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs. Oh wait; you say that the Italian version of Girl Bombs reduces Vincent Price’s role, has way more Franco and Ciccio stuff, and is titled something like The Spy Who Came In From the Frozen Dessert? Wow, that sounds much worse.
Enough. Let us move on to a much more successful spy spoof, the brilliant animated series Archer (2009). This show rocks. Imagine Spy Groove (2000), only with way more sex, violence and hilariously self-destructive egotism. Oh wait, nobody saw Spy Groove. Okay, imagine if the characters from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005) were performing covert operations and assassinations. Actually, forget all that; just imagine if James Bond were a colossal asshole. That’s Archer.
Suave secret agent Sterling Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is the top operative at the spy agency ISIS, mostly because his mother runs the place. He’s a lying, cheating, self-centered, womanizing jerk, but since he’s also handsome, connected and rich, he gets away with murder. We are never intended to idolize this guy, which gives us permission to laugh at his antics, which are funny indeed. Archer’s position as top spy is challenged by his equally deadly co-agent (and former lover) Lana Kane (voiced by Aisha Tyler), and the pair of them squabble like an old married couple, if old married couples were constantly shoving automatic weapons into one another’s faces. The best way to parody the spy genre is to bestow the usually unflappable spy archetypes with human weaknesses and foibles, and the characters in Archer are so wonderfully petty, selfish and short-sighted that we start to identify with the super villains, who must often stop in the middle of their World Domination speeches to sputter “What is wrong with you people?!”
Fast-paced, audacious and shocking, Archer might be the funniest show on television right now. It’s created and written by Adam Reed, the guy who did SeaLab 2021 (2000). Still not convinced? OK then, a bunch of the voice actors were on Arrested Development (2003), and they’re just as funny here. Now go watch it.