A glass jar filled with fluid. Half empty or half full? Fluid displaced? With what? A golem, born from the DNA found in the bacteria of a meteorite fallen to Earth. The glass jar is in Miami, FL in an underground, super-secret lab. The fate of the world is at risk. David Warbeck has his gun and is out to save us in Alberto De Martino's Miami Golem (1985).
David Warbeck is Craig Milford, a television reporter, whose latest assignment is interviewing Dr. Schweiger, who has culled the DNA from a bacterium found within a space meteorite. Schweiger believes the DNA is extra-terrestrial in origin, and his hypothesis is that the DNA contains the original strains for humankind. Craig could give a crap. He has to stay late and with clunky, special filming equipment shoot footage of the DNA under the microscope. Craig's equipment malfunctions, and a surge of electricity goes through the alien DNA. Wailing ghostly heads appear when this happens, and Craig captures their images with his video camera. Meanwhile, sinister and nefarious Anderson (John Ireland) is in the Everglades, listening to a UFO enthusiast tell him about a powerful alien life form about to awaken on Earth. Anderson has his henchman shoot the kook, only then to send him to the lab to obtain the DNA. Anderson's henchman ices everyone with a beaker in his hand and grabs Dr. Schweiger's booty. Anderson has world domination in mind, and his secret team of scientists have introduced the DNA to a fleshy embryo, now growing at a rapid rate (with telekinetic powers). The good guys, a.k.a. the extra-terrestrials, recruit Craig to save the world and stop the evil. Craig sighs.
Because he's played this role before, David Warbeck could also sigh. Always the consummate professional however, Warbeck delivers another charismatic performance to add to his impressive list of credits which have made him an Italian genre cinema legend. New Zealand-born Warbeck worked in Italian films in the 70s (for example, in a similar role in Tonino Ricci's Panic (1976)), but it was his work in the 80s where he really blossomed. His appearance in the explosive actioner, The Last Hunter (1980) would not only help kick off the Italian action movie trend in the 80s but also began a creative collaboration with its director, Antonio Margheriti, which would span five works (with my favorites being the Indiana Jones-inspired The Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982) and Ark of the Sun God (1983)). Warbeck made two fantastic films with Lucio Fulci: The Black Cat (1981) and The Beyond (1981). Subsequent to Miami Golem, Warbeck would re-team with De Martino for the mystery, Formula for a Murder (1987). Warbeck would end the eighties with a very entertaining oddity, Giuliano Carnimeo's Ratman (1988), but Miami Golem is arguably Warbeck's most fun and most odd film of the 80s.
Warbeck has never been an imposing figure physically, and there is no evidence to believe that his character Craig Milford would be a force to be reckoned with. After Anderson has the DNA he sends his henchman to kill Craig as a preventive measure. Craig gets a phone call from his editor which sends him to an abandoned field. A helicopter appears out of nowhere with a machine-gun toting bad guy on its side. Craig, in true local t.v. reporter fashion, pulls a handgun from his glove compartment and takes cover in the sole foliage of the open field. Even more jarring a slow-moving yellow school bus appears out of nowhere, not filled with children but just housing a couple of regular dudes. Warbeck's Craig pleads for the bus to stop but with the machine gun fire, the bus ain't stopping. Luckily the bus is only moving at about five miles an hour, and the Emergency Exit door on the back is absent. Craig climbs the bus and with a marksman shot takes out the helicopter. "Did you just shoot a helicopter from a moving bus with a handgun?" asks one of the guys on the bus. Warbeck gives a fittingly incredulous smile.
Those mysterious floating heads caught by Craig on video lead Joanna Fitzgerald (Laura Trotter) into his arms. Joanna poses as a translator and offers to decipher the wails and moans on the video. Etruscan? Atlantean? Pre-Colombian? From another dimension? The two become allies against the evil. Trotter and Warbeck have an immediate chemistry, and their romance is light and cute. Several of the best action sequences take place in the Everglades, and Trotter and Warbeck appear in a well-filmed air-boat sequence. The best action, however, is reserved for the final act, as Joanna attempts with telepathy to keep the evil embryo in the glass jar in check by remote mind control while Warbeck's Craig packs some heat to go to the lab for a final confrontation. Never in my life have I witnessed a confrontation such as man versus embryo in a large glass jar. Brilliant and sublime.
Alberto De Martino is an underrated Italian genre director. With a career spanning many films in different genres, some of my favorites are The Counsellor (1973), The Antichrist (1974), Rain of Fire (1977), and perhaps his best film, the giallo/crime hybrid, Blazing Magnums (1976). By the time the 80s rolled around and in the latter part of his career, De Martino had honed his craft and could probably shoot a low-budget sci-fi actioner with his eyes closed. Miami Golem is super-slick looking: the action sequences are tops, the creature fx (by Sergio Stivaletti) are cheesy yet effective, and the visual effects look professional despite its budget. Of course, the story and the dialogue are wonderfully ludicrous and laughable, but all credit goes to the participants, especially Warbeck. Most actors, perhaps, would contemplate the state of their careers after having said some of the lines within Miami Golem, but not Warbeck: his enthusiasm is infectious, his boyish good looks carry his charisma, and his acting is always professional. Miami Golem is a fine example of 80s Italian genre cinema and would make a great double bill with Nello Rosati's Top Line (1988). See it.