“It’s all here! The happy fun times. And the crazy turned-on dangerous times.”
If the movies have taught me anything at all about life it is this: a lot of young women dream about becoming professional dancers. Some want to be celebrated ballet stars or high-kicking Rockettes. Others are eager to become trophy-winning ballroom dancers or well-paid strippers. In Ted V. Mikels swinging sixties B-movie bonanza Girl in Gold Boots (1968), Michele (Leslie McRae) wants to be a go-go dancer.
Michele is tall, dark and gorgeous. She could be Jennifer Jones’ long lost cousin if she wasn’t so uncomfortable in her own skin. You’d expect to find Michele working behind a makeup counter at high-end department store but when we’re introduced to her she’s working at a greasy diner with her alcoholic father. When she’s not serving food and pouring cups of black coffee for her customers, Michele is dancing to music on the diner’s jukebox. One sunny day a violent gun-toting thug named Buzz (Tom Pace) walks into the diner and spots our heroine practicing her dance moves. He promises Michele that he’ll be able to make her a star if she travels to Los Angeles with him. Michele’s a little weary of Buzz but after a fight with her father she leaves the dirty food joint behind and heads west with Buzz in his white convertible.
On their way to the City of Angeles, Michele and Buzz pick up a peacenik biker named ‘Critter’ (Jody Daniels) who likes to write songs on his acoustic guitar. When sparks start to fly between Michele and Critter, Buzz gets angry and tells Michele that she has to make a choice between her budding romance with Critter or going to L.A. with him to pursue her dreams of becoming a go-go dancer. Michele can’t give up on her dancing dreams so she puts her personal feelings for Critter aside and the three misfits continue on to the city of broken dreams. When they finally reach L.A. Buzz’s first stop is at The Haunted House club on Hollywood Boulevard, which is decorated with horror movie props and looks more like an amusement park ride than an actual dance club. Buzz’ sister Joanie (Bara Byrnes) is the main attraction at The Haunted House club where she and her team of go-go girls dance the night away wearing gold and silver boots while entertaining a mixed crowd of young and middle-aged hipsters as well as sleazy old men.
When Michele sees the girls shaking their stuff in skimpy costumes while the audience cheers them on, she knows that this is the life for her! Later Buzz introduces Michele to his sister and the two girls hit it off right away. Joanie promises Michele that she’ll get her a job at the club and proceeds to show her some moves while the management looks on. Even though Michele seems to dance to her own rhythm and appears more than a little awkward at times, everyone in the film is impressed by her dance moves. Or maybe they just like looking at her curvy body in that skimpy costumes? For whatever the reason, she’s hired right on the spot.
Buzz and Critter also find work at The Haunted House club. Critter takes a janitorial job so he can stay close to Michele and keep an eye on her, while criminal-minded Buzz ends up working for the club owners as a drug pusher. You see, the sad fact is that the swinging Haunted House club is just a front for the management’s drug selling operation. Innocent Michele is unaware of this but she benefits from it on her way to becoming a go-go star. When her mentor Joanie starts to show signs of drug addiction the club owners offer Michele the job of “substitute lead dancer” so Joanie can take an unexpected “vacation.” Michele’s a little weary of taking the job at first but she’s also eager to become a dancing star. The sexy new dresses she’s been given as gifts, and the wild parties she’s starting to attend, have offered her a taste of the glamorous life and she clearly wants more.
Critter is smart enough to know that things aren’t what they appear to be at club and after making some extra money by selling some of his songs to the house band, Critter confesses to Michele that he’s a draft dodger and asks her to run away with him. At first Michele refuses to go but when Joanie finally collapses due to her drug use, Michele is forced to face the horrible fact that she’s working at a drug den instead of a legitimate dance cub. Things finally come to a head and Critter ends up in a nasty brawl with the creepy club owners. When it’s all over Michele and Critter leave the Haunted House club together and you hope that they’ll find their fortune and fame somewhere else. Unfortunately all that glitters is not gold in Girl in Gold Boots.
Unlike countless other films about would-be dancers trying to fulfill their dreams, Girl in Gold Boots ends on a low note. Michele gives up her dreams of becoming a professional go-go dancer to become Critter’s “war-bride” after he reenlists in the military. The former draft dodger and go-go girl finish the movie singing a downbeat song that contains the following lines:
“You can dance on the rim of a rainbow. Walk a tightrope across the sky
But you must come down, put your feet on the ground bye and bye.”
As depressing as the ending is, the young couple seems content so I can only assume that the audience is supposed to be happy that they let go of their dreams and joined the war effort. I personally suspect that the future doesn’t hold much promise for Michele and Critter. I’ve always thought that peace loving Critter would probably get killed in Vietnam and Michele would end up a war widow back in L.A. working on Hollywood Boulevard as a go-go dancer and strung out on drugs just like her mentor Joanie.
Girl in Gold Boots is obviously not your typical dance movie but that’s why I enjoy it so much. It’s elevated by a terrific jazz influenced score by composer Nicolas Carras who created music for many of Mikels’ best films. The movie also features music by Chris Howard and The Third World as well as the renowned bongo player Preston Epps, who all make a brief appearance in the movie.
The wild dance scenes were shot inside a real Hollywood night spot and they’re creatively edited and full of energy even though the go-go girls seem rather amateurish. This trashy low-budget dance movie is an entertaining way to spend 90 minutes if you’re looking for something fun to watch that doesn’t require very much from its viewers. Over at IMDb.com audiences have called Girl in Gold Boots “The bane of dancing films everywhere” and “worse than any other bad bad BAD movie you’ve ever seen” but don’t let the negative press discourage you from watching it. Believe me when I tell you that there are far worse movies you could spend 90 minutes with besides Girl in Gold Boots. Ted V. Mikels is one of my favorite American B-movie makers and if you haven’t had the opportunity to experience a Ted V. Mikels film yet do yourself a favor and see Girl in Gold Boots or one of the films Mikels made with Tura Satana such as The Doll Squad (1973) or The Astro-Zombies (1968).
The director is almost 80 years old but he’s still making movies. If you’re interested in buying yourself a copy of Girl in Gold Boots or want to know more about Mikels I highly recommend visiting Ted V. Mikels Official Site. The director currently sells autographed copies of the film on DVD for only $10.95.
If you’d like to see more images from the movie please see my Girl in Gold Boots Flickr Gallery
The original trailer for Girl in Gold Boots
My look at Girl in Gold Boots was inspired by Ferdy On Films‘ Invitation to the Dance Movie Blogathon, which ends today. Be sure to stop by the blog and check out all the other dance inspired submissions.