Some all-star smouldering love triangles explode in the face of doom…
Irwin Allen’s last big-screen disaster movie with an all-star cast (check), imminent disaster (check), soapy dialogue and plot (check and check) and wee role for his off-screen wife (check).
WHEN TIME RAN OUT (Video Trailer), K.J. Norman
When Time Ran Out (1980), is an Irwin Allen produced disaster film made in 1980, but with an old-timey feel. Darlin Husband kinda half-watched this film with me and affectionately (?) quipped after the first five minutes of this film his alternative title, When Audiences Ran Out. This description was not too far from the truth as it alludes to the fact this film made 4 million at the box office but had been made for 20 million. The high budget apparently went on location shoots.
This film bombed at the box office despite appearances from the usual band of Irwin Allen and disaster movie regulars – and a few were there apparently only due to contractual reasons – with Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, James Franciscus and Red Buttons. And there are many more big office draw film names from this time including Pat Morita, Barbara Carrera and Veronica Hamel.
It’s a disaster film like the others of this ilk, with tropes aplenty, soapy dialogue and the characters’ all essential attributes. There is a volcano long due to erupt, and a hard-hatted engineering guy – aka Hank Anderson (Paul Newman) – warns about this calamity to an oilfield of workers – who have (naturally) just struck oil – due to concerning recordings and pressure readings. Surprisingly, they ignore him and continue working, despite him wanting to close things down.
Hank also smells sulphur… and after donning no protective gear whatsoever he checks out the volcano crater with John – a cast extra who later warns of concerning magma recordings, and is also ignored – and the obvious future villain, Bob Spangler in a lift to observe the magma. But Bob says those scary recordings are irrelevant as it’s the average of these numbers that matters. Apparently. And Hank is just a panic merchant. Of course.
Bob Spangler (James Franciscus) is the villain of the piece and a real estate developer, hotel owner and scientist who profits from this oilfield and the hotel. He also has a daddy complex and even has daddy inspired painting (to shake fists at), He naturally doesn’t go along with the health and safety assessments from Hank as Bob owns this luxury hotel with a big opening planned. Bob calls Hank out and puts hotel guests at risk all the time and lies through his (gritted) teeth to the big cheese investor, the ageing Shelby Gilmore (William Holden).
But as the hotel guests are all played by nobodies apart from his love interests, it (obviously) really doesn’t matter as in the natural pecking order of disaster films they always die (see The Poseidon Adventure (1972) etc etc). Bob is also married to the big investor’s godchild, Nikki. Franciscus hams it up in a role that should have been played by Irwin Allen’s constant bad guy, Richard Chamberlain (see The Towering Inferno (1974) and The Swarm (1978)).
Support for these manly men of course comes from the women who love them. In Hank’s case, it’s the one who got away, Kay (Jacqueline Bissett) and a woman who still is blatantly in love with him. She wants Hank back, and you know they have a history (and a love theme on the soundtrack). This is after they look at each other for that one extra, crucial second as if remembering a past, and this look is familiar to this Primetime soap fan but obviously not noticed by Shelby.
Kay and Shelby in the opening scenes visit this island by his private plane, little knowing her one true love (Hank) is the engineering consultant for this island in a what are the odds moment. But Kay has fortuitously turned down a proposal to be Gilmore’s wife no seven because she’s in love with a man who then Shelby cruelly reminds her “isn’t the marrying kind”.
The other love triangle has Gilmore’s godchild Nikki Spangler (Veronica Hamel), as the pretty and clueless wife of Bob. Bob is also sleeping with Iolani (Barbara Carrera), a meet and greet hotel worker who has just postponed her wedding to the apparently vacuous Brian (Edward Albert). She claims it’s due to the big opening of the hotel, and a hotel with views of a neighbouring (about to erupt) volcano… but we now know differently.
Then there are the band of exclusively supportive all-star cast members who join these headliners Bissett and Newman, as they face adversity after the volcano erupts. The all-star cast is in no particular order, the bar – and brothel (?) – owners, Mona and Sam (Sheila Allen (the producer’s wife) and Pat Morita) and a plot involving his prize-winning chicken (and Darlin Husband thinks it should have been a turkey).
There is also an islander and his two wee kids to add to this never-ending
cast list drama. and a cop – with an actor’s name – Tom Conti (Ernest Borgnine) and the thief, Francis Fendly (Red Buttons). Conti has been hounding Fendly for the last three weeks in the hope of arresting him when he slips up and has tracked him down to the hotel tennis courts. He’s that good…
And these stars are rounded off by the elderly – apparently one-time tightrope walker – Rene (Burgess Meredith) and his very ill wife, Rose Valdez (Valentina Cortese). Finally, there is a hotel full of nobodies who naturally are killed off mercilessly by volcano, tsunami and a helicopter.
I don’t really need to tell you more about the plot, as I’m sure disaster movie regulars can work it out with little help from me from those cast descriptions. But instead, I’ll answer the question as an Irwin Allen disaster film aficionado, did I like it?
The all-star cast didn’t disappoint me and there are some great scenes of those stars literally trying to reach higher ground away from those extras. The most thrilling has a scene with many cast members crossing a wooden bridge, conveniently found over the lava flow in the boss level moment after they dodge or meet death in various ways.
This scene at the bridge lasted 20 minutes, and it’s pretty tense and exciting. Especially after the wee kids suddenly decide to run away before even getting over the bridge in a Dante’s Peak (1997) move. Also seeing Borgnine with bandaged up eyes and Meredith shuffling like a tightrope walker with a kid on his back over this plank of wood is more than enough to make me hide behind a cushion. This is despite their on-screen life expectancy as all-star cast members being higher than Pat Morita and lower than Sheila Allen.
The special effects – particularly shots of the volcano, the lift and the science facility often looked like cut scenes from a long discarded Thunderbirds (1966-67) episode. As much as I appreciate the work of these model makers, they added little to the threatening ambience. Other niggles included the scene in the science facility which had two main characters and a nobody going down the volcano crater in a lift.
This lift journey by three cast members was taken without protective equipment and a gaping hole was spotted at the bottom of the lift, and this was seen to be big enough for an acting extra to fall through (and does). This hole was obviously open to the air these characters surprisingly had no after-effects from possible gases coming from that bubbling lava below.
And after a wee explosion, the controls for this lift were fucked so then it was dependent on a rope and pulley system which only a strongman could use to help them to safety (and did). How this lift passed a health and safety inspection I will never know. But then no A-listers fell to untimely deaths so it must be safe.
Disaster scenes were accompanied by dramatic music, hammed-up acting and followed by shaky camera scenes of extras falling over in all directions. This was combined with shots of the volcano itself looking more like a stock footage one than an ominous real-life threat. Also, the bolus from the volcano inevitably was seen only hitting the hotel, and nowhere else on the island and like the snake in Venom (1981) had surprising accuracy in finding the villain’s lair…
These scenes had me laughing out loud, but this was not helped by Darlin Husband doing a commentary in the style – and a perfect impersonation – of Werner Herzog. Darlin Husband has been itching to do this voiceover after we saw Herzog’s documentary on volcanos. Darlin Husband’s Herzog inspired dialogue starts with “As man looks into the abyss…” perfectly adding some thrills to the lack of ambience.
The one true love rekindled instrumental theme, was played as often as the similar love theme in A Summer Place (1959). This particular soundtrack was heard every time Kay made cow eyes and made meaningful dialogue with the bronzed-looking Hank, as she hoped to reconcile with him.
These passionate looks were not apparently noticed by Shelby. And their love was not even commented on till they’ve made it more than obvious and only after they’ve reached safety. But the idea of Shelby and Hank grappling with each other, bare chested over a bridge of lava for the love of Kay does sound appealing. Especially if one of them then plummets to their death, and Kay dumps them as she could never love them now after they killed the other one (I so should write a 1970s inspired disaster film screenplay)…
Anyway, the timing of their rekindling comes after Kay invites Hank on a picnic, both wearing matching Stetsons. Then Kay and Hank get superflirty, and talk in double entendres… the inability of opening a bottle of wine has never sounded sexier. Then this scene ends after they kiss passionately and the volcano explodes and I’m not talking metaphorically.
So ending on that soppy note, this year, I sadly came to the end of the road – or runway – with the Airport disaster film franchise reviewing the last of this quadrilogy, with Airport 79 / Airport 80 The Concorde (1980) this year. This aeroplane disaster film had actor, Eddie Albert as one of the all-star cast in the passenger list on these doomed planes.
In When Time Ran Out – another 1980s movie – it was the swan song for Irwin Allen’s big film disaster era too. This time the cast included Albert’s son – the confusingly named – Edward Albert. This is where Albert Jnr faces disasters of a natural kind.
Who wouldn’t have wanted to be there as Eddie and son discussed their workdays on these sets over Sunday lunch? As possibly Edward had the answer to that other gaping hole in this film’s plot.. with a foot-long centipede, apparently biting William Holden’s character off-screen, and temporarily landing him in hospital. So surely there was another disaster movie plot that was waiting to happen… but then time ran out.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂🙂/10
The Second Disaster Blog-a-thon 2022 No 15.
This post was added to Dubsism and Pale Writer’s The Second Disaster Blog-a-thon. Other reviews here with this cast include Paul Newman in The Towering Inferno and Silent Movie, Jacqueline Bisset in Airport, Class and Murder on The Orient Express. William Holden in SOB, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Omen II and Network. Edward Albert in The Domino Principle. Red Buttons in The Poseidon Adventure. Barbara Carrera and Veronica Hamel in Dallas. Burgess Meredith in Burnt Offerings and Magic. Ernest Borgnine in Escape from New York. Sheila Allen in The Towering Inferno.