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Director/Cinematographer: Mario Bava
Story: Based on an idea by Fulvio Lucisano
Screenplay: Castellano and Pipolo
Additional Dialogue: Franco dal Cer
Camera Operator: Antonio Rinaldi
Editing: Federico Muller
Music: Lallo Gori; The song "Bang, Bang, Kissense," written by De Paulis, Castellano and Pipolo, and performed by Franco Franchi
Main Players: Vincent Price (Dr. Goldfoot/General Wilson); Franco Franchi (Franco); Ciccio Ingrassia (Ciccio); Fabian (Bill Dexter); Laura Antonelli (Rosanna); Francesco Mule (Colonel Benson); Moana Tahi (Goldfoot's Assistant); Mario Bava (uncredited cameo as an angel)
Alternate titles: Two Mafia Guys from the FBI; The Spies Who Came In From The Semi-Cold
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Story: Robert Kaufmann
Screenplay: Louis M. Heyward and Robert Kaufmann
Editing: Ronald Sinclair
Music: Les Baxter; The song "Dr. Goldfoot And The Girl Bombs," written by Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner, and performed by The Sloopy's
Alternate titles: Dr. Goldfoot and the "S" Bombs

The foppish Dr. Goldfoot plots to take over the world by killing off the major military leaders of every country; to that end, he creates a bevy of bodacious "girl bombs" that explode when embraced.

Goldfoot's plans become thwarted when the mysterious deaths arouse the suspicions of Bill Dexter, a former member of Security Intelligence Command (S.I.C. for short), who has been expelled for being too much of a lady's man. While following Goldfoot, Dexter happens to run into a pair of dim-witted doormen, Franco and Ciccio, who have aspirations of becoming secret agents. Goldfoot positions one of his girl bombs, an exact duplicate of a lovely hat-chech girl, in the hotel where Franco and Ciccio work. The hotel is currently being visited by an important Belgian General, and Goldfoot knows that the military man will be unable to resist the allure of his girl bomb. Before Dexter can do anything to stop his plan, he is attacked by Franco and Ciccio, who believe Dexter to be a foreign spy. In the ensuing confusion, "another General bites the dust."

His suspicions confirmed, Dexter visits S.I.C. headquarters, with Franco and Ciccio in tow. However, General Benson stubbornly refuses to listen to Dexter's tale, and similarly denies his request to be re-instated in the organization. Meanwhile, Franco and Ciccio are mistaken for a couple of new recruits, and are pressed into service.

Soon after, General Willis is kidnapped. Apart from being the last surviving NATO General, Willis also happens to be a dead-ringer for Goldfoot -- albeit with a very noticeable stammer, and a patch over his right eye. Willis is soon killed like all the other Generals, and Goldfoot plans to take his place at an important conference.

When Goldfoot receives information that a secret meeting is being held at S.I.C. headquarters, he has the room electronically bugged. General Benson and his associates determine that the only way to catch the man responsible for these bizarre killings is to assign their two best agents to the task. Using a high-tech computer, dubbed "Rita," it is determined that the two best S.I.C. agents will be flawlessly chosen. "Humans make mistakes," Benson observes, "but machines -- never!" Upon hearing this, Goldfoot quips, "That's what he thinks." Sure enough, Goldfoot proves to be correct. Goldfoot sabotages the computer, and the two agents selected to carry out the job are Franco and Ciccio.

Having earlier been tipped off by Dexter that Goldfot is hiding out in a mansion in the countryside, Franco and Ciccio decide to raid the place, taking full credit for its discovery. They arrive, with General Benson, to find a Private School for Girls. In fact, this is another deceptive illusion arranged by Goldfoot, who himself poses as a matron, his facial hair concealed behind a black veil. Satisfied that the entire trip has been a waste of time, Benson and his men depart. Franco and Ciccio are left behind, and the diabolical doctor and his men capture them. They break free, however, and the villains search the estate for them. Franco is able to escape by impersonating a girl bomb -- Goldfoot rationalizes this strange looking "girl" as being the result of failing to "oil the machine" -- but Ciccio is trapped when he unsuccessfully attempts to impersonate Goldfoot's reflection in a makeshift mirror.

That night, Franco returns with Dexter. In the interim, Ciccio has been duplicated. After battling it out with the duplicate, the two inept doormen are once again reunited.

His plans of world domination still in place, Goldfoot attempts to flee. A mad chase ensues, leading through such picturesque sights as the Roman Collisseum (which is slightly damaged when the good doctor smashes one of the pillars), the Trevi Fountain (into which Goldfoot throws a coin for "good luck") and an amusement park. The chase culminates in the air, with Goldfoot boarding a U.S. aircraft under the guise of General Willis, and Dexter and his cohorts pursuing in a hot air ballon. (In the English-language print, the balloon ride is presented as a silent movie spoof, complete with title cards and farcical sound effects). Landing their balloon on the wings of the plane, Dexter foils Goldfoot's escape. The heroes battle it out with Goldfoot, but the doctor takes advanatge of the commotion by quietly donning a parachute and escaping. Before he escapes, however, Goldfoot sets the control panels of the plane on a course for Moscow -- once it reaches the deignated sight, the bomb bay doors will open an a "Super Bomb" will be released on the Kremlin. In an obvious spoof of Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964), Franco and Ciccio disarm the bomb, but the doors open prematurely and they are dropped into the heart of Siberia, riding the bomb like a horse.

The happy ending seens Dexter re-instated as a member of S.I.C., while plans to rescue Franco and Ciccio are scrapped when President Johnson declares that the entire incident must be kept strictly under cover. It ultimately transpires that Franco and Ciccio are happily residing in a prison camp, presided over by none other than Dr. Goldfoot.


While watching this film, one is faced with many question, chief among them being: why would Bava, the master of morbid horror, have been assigned to direct this sophomoric comedy, and why should he have accepted? Bava was a working director. He took the film to fulfill contractural obligations and to put food on the table. Not everybody has the luxury of being able to make the films they want to make. So much for excuses: as a comedy, LE SPIE is unfunny, and as a film it is, quite literally, a mess. The lighting is flat and functional, the use of accelerated motion is, even by 1966 standards, terribly out-dated, and the performances range from the somnabulistic to the downright awful. Vincent Price occassionally manages to get a chuckle out of his lame dialogue, but this sort of material is quite beneath his talents. All told, this film represents an all-time low for both Price and Bava. Sicilian comics Franco and Ciccio, to quote the great Italian director Lucio Fulci -- who wrote some material for them at the beginning of his career -- were nothing more than "horrible rip-offs of Laurel and Hardy," and they repeat their standard shtik with customarily laughless results.

Originally planned by producer Fulvio Lucisano, the head of Italian International Pictures, to be a sequel to the hit Franco and Ciccio vehicle TWO MAFIA GUYS VS. GOLDGINGER, the film became complicated when American co-financing was supplied by AIP. Having had a big hit with DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (1965 -- itself hardly a masterpice of sophisticated comedy, though it is vastly superior to the Bava film), producers Samuel Z. Arkoff and James Nicholson, together with producer/co-writer Louis M. Heyward, determined that the Italian film would be a perfect opportunity to fulfill the commercial desires of both companies: the Italian version would be marketed as a Franco and Ciccio vehicle, while the American one would be tailored to showcase the return of Vincent Price's Dr. Goldfoot character. Since Bava was known by both companies to be a reliable talent, he was signed to direct. Understandably, he had no enthusiasm for the project and tried to pull out of it. However, Lucisano had him under contract for one more film, and he was determined that this was going to be the one. With no other options opened, he agreed to direct. Bava and his cast improvised from the poorly written scenario, gamely hoping to deliver a watchable film, but the impossibility of filming a project which was to be edited into two completely different films killed their efforts. The American version, widely hailed as a bomb, is not the work of Mario Bava, as it was re-written, re-scored and re-edited without his participation, but even the Italian version -- which benefits from his input -- is far from a success. In any cut, it is Bava's worst movie.

For all of that, Bava's signature does show up in the film's perverse premise. Here again, the linkage of sex and violent death is blatantly obvious. Dr. Goldfoot preys on his victims' sex drive by luring them to their deaths with his seductive girl bombs. Their orgasmic release is literally explosive. The idea is a delicious one, even if it is realized in a reckless and frivoulous fashion.

In many ways, LE SPIE can be viewed as a rehearsal for Bava's later pop art fantasy DIABOLIK (1967). At heart, both films are live action cartoons informed by an impish sense of fun. In both films, the central anti-hero uses technology to outwit a slow-witted police force. Dr. Goldfoot, like Diabolik, makes use of state of the art inventions of his own design. Yet, there is no question but that is a superior film in every respect. While it seems clear that Bava personally invested himself in DIABOLIK, and that he felt some affinity for the protagonist (for example, Diabolik makes use of photographic tricks which are very similar to techniques utilized by Bava in his films), here the director is dealing with a project that has been forced upon him. Even so, the similarities between the two films are striking, and help to keep this film from being a total waste of time.

Ideas such as these testify to Bava's seeming inability to undertake a project without investing something of him self in it. Given the circumstances of its production, it is perhaps not surprising that it is such a rambling and unfocused piece of work. Apart from the occasional clever idea, only Bava's characteristic tactic of layering meaning into seemingly straight-forward (i.e., commercial) subject matter prevents the film from being totally worthless.

Review © Troy Howarth

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