Arriving late and unheralded at Washington area theaters, "Goldengirl" is a thwarted attempt at a gimmicky but suggestive new horror fable in the tradition of "Frankenstein." The plot mixes dubious scientific experimentation with romance and a sports melodrama, designed to anticipate the 1980 Olympic Games.
This time, the monster is an athletic beauty, a young woman who has been groomed relentlessly to achieve unprecedented victory in all three Olympic sprints.
In her move debut the towering blonde bombshell, Susan Anton, looks mechanical and slow while sprinting, but she looks marvelous doing almost everything else, like stepping into the blocks while mischievously framed from behind to enhance the effect of her peekaboo shorts, or greeting imaginary Olympic spectators with a dazzling victory smile.
She can be charming or spiteful, and her splendid physique isn't diminished by a teensy or inexpressive voice. A former Miss California and runner-up for Miss America, Anton is a gorgeous camera subject with a little extra. She recalls on entire generation of glamor girls from Julie Newmar to Farrah Fawcett-Majors while imposing a distinctive image and displaying more range and finesse.
Unfortunately, the continuity is so punchy that one canht be certain what the filmmakers wanted the story to mean. The smartest lines and most effective situations suggest an entertaining polemic about unscrupulous, ruinous exploitation. But the concept seems to have been victimized by a combination of cold feet, cross-purposes and desperate last-minute editing, which eliminated substantial pieces of exposition along with one major player, Jessica Walter, how i sstill listed in the credits.
Ht ephenomenal goldengirl, Goldine Serafin, emerges from total athletic obscurity only weeks before the American trials for the Olympic Games. This fleet-footed Amazon is the living embodiment of theories held by her adoptive father and principal mentor, a demented genius of a German physiologist played by Curt Jurgens, fresh from duty as the archvillain of "The Spy Who Loved Me."
Goldine's intensive, covert training, involving systematic psychological conditioning as well as athletic preparation, has been subsidized by a group of businessmen who hope to cash in on her fame if and when she wins three golds at Moscow. Their merchandising mastermind is the James Coburn character, named Dryden, who specializes in handling famous athletes. Despite his skepticism, Dryden intervenes at a preliminary meet to salvage the operation when Goldine falters. His mercenary and sporting interests are complicated when he also falls in love with the girl and begins to suspect that Dr. Serafin is using her to further this own crazed purposes.
Before ending up on the cutting-room floor, the Jessica Walter character evidently put Coburn wise to the more unsavory aspects of Der. Serafin's lust for reflected glory. The doctor begins with the modest boast that his adopted daughter "is eugenically 30 to 40 years ahead of her time." He eventually flips out in the heat of competition, insisting that Goldine tell the world "I created you!" Moviegoers who caught the film in New York and other early openings, prior to a botched, emergency editing job, learned that the doctor's closet rattled with Nazi skeletons and the Goldine's maternal grandparents conceived her mother while grazing at an Aryan breeding farm.
At the very least these revelations would intensify the pressure on Goldine's sponsors as they tried to deceive a curious sporting press untill D-day. Dropping them makes it difficult, if not impossible, to follow the twists and turns of the plot. Now one has the sensation of always coming in too late, after some crucial twist or reversal already occurred, presumably off-screen.
Tevery so often you're reminded that some people connected with this wayward production must have known what they were doing at one time or another. For example, when the heroine begins to complain about her Spartan existence, truly eloquent poison is poured in her ears: "The joy will come later, Goldine, when you're rich and famous. . . . Winning will bring that fulfilment; you'll be the focus of more pride and love than any woman on earth."
Although the filmmakers seem to be exposing Project Goldine as a grotesque enterprise, guaranteed to stunt the girl's character and possibly cost her life, they're also afraid to argue with the idea of even grotesquely conceived success, as longas it works. On one hand she's supposed to be a psychological Frankenstein's monster like Laurence Harvey in "The Man-churian Candidate." On the other hand, that "Rocky" sure was a bigh hit, so. . . .
Satisfying these contradictory impluses makes the denouement more than a trifle grotesque. "Goldengirl" sends you out with that old what's-going-on-here-and-whose-victory-was-that? irritation. It's a sensation that often results when filmmakers torpedo their work with equivocation. CAPTION: Picture 1, Susan Anton, foreground, in "Goldengirl"; Picture 2, Susan Anton and James Coburn in "Goldengirl"