The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When Time Ran Out

With The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno to his name, producer Irwin Allen had quite the track record when it came to disaster flicks. In this case, he went back to the well once too often, and the end result is a less than quality final product, 1980's When Time Ran Out.

On a remote island in the Pacific, extremely successful businessman Shelby Gilmore (William Holden) is putting the final touches on his newly constructed hotel resort with his partner, Bob Spangler (James Franciscus), a longtime native of the island. Miles away from the oceanside resort is a volcano that's been dormant for over 60 years, but it is starting to show signs of another eruption but on a far greater scale than it's ever shown. Drilling an oil well on the island with his crew, Hank Anderson (Paul Newman) sees all the telltale signs of what's to come, but he can't convince Spangler to prep for what promises to be an epic disaster (money is a powerful motivator, isn't it?). As he makes a last ditch effort to convince others, the volcano explodes in grand fashion. Can all the island inhabitants and guests find a way to survive?

Like any successful genre, 'Time' follows the formula laid out by countless other disaster flicks. Assemble an all-star cast of actors and actresses, put them in some ridiculously perilous situation, and see who survives. The only problem? Well, other than the script that is. By 1980, the genre had outlasted its welcome a bit. Audiences had seen just about every calamity a disaster film could throw at them. How many times can you see the same movie over and over again, just replacing the man-made disasters, natural disasters or various diseases? 'Time' bombed in theaters and received some very poor reviews. Star power aside, it's got nothing going for it. Other than that? It's a real winner.

What sucked me in was the casting. To be fair, these are all cardboard cutouts of real characters, but the star power is legitimate. Newman is sleepwalking as Hank, the quiet oil driller who steps up as a hero because all disaster movies need a hero. He's also in trouble when he meets his ex, Kay (Jacqueline Bisset, around to wear a low-cut, tight T-shirt), who's now dating Holden's Shelby. Uh-oh, relationship drama! Sit back though, we're just getting started. Franciscus is the big villain -- $ $ for eyes -- who's cheating on his wife, Nikki (Veronica Hamel), with a hotel employee, Iolani (Barbara Carrera), who's engaged to islander Brian (Edward Albert). And just because, there's also Ernest Borgnine's NYC cop tracking a possible crook (Red Buttons) while Burgess Meredith and Valentina Cortese play an old married couple. There's also Alex Karras as Newman's right hand man, Pat Morita as a saloon owner and Sheila Allen as Mona, his wife.

Now more than just the all star cast is how the all star cast is treated. You could do a drinking game with these movies, or you could keep a scorecard. Every time a celebrity dies, take a shot. Throw $20 in and whoever guesses which celebrities survive and which ones don't gets all the money. The volcano explodes about halfway through director James Goldstone's flick, giving plenty of time for all the celebrity carnage. There's some surprises here, but nothing gigantic. Still, you've got to stick with it. Who makes it?!? Who doesn't?!?

Mostly though, the issue here is that it's just too dumb for it's own good. The volcano explodes so Newman's Hank leads a small group of individuals away from the fast-moving lava. Seems like sound thinking, right? Oh, no, they're all celebrities! Something bad might happen to them! It's beyond cliched here. The group must actually walk along a mountain ledge that's about to fall apart. Then, they've got to navigate a rickety wooden bridge that stands over a deep, flowing river of lava! That extended sequence goes on for about 20 minutes and actually ends with Meredith saving two kids by walking a tight rope (read = thin wooden rail) with a balancing act. The scene goes on and on, lacking any real tension.

For a movie budgeted at $20 million, it's hard to see where all that cash went. The special effects are laughable, especially the projectiles thrown from the volcano, usually landing directly on the hotel and/or people. The two sequences above were clearly shot on a poorly lit indoor stage, adding a nice touch of realism to the proceedings. That's a joke by the way. Then, at different points, the volcano is either right on top of the hotel or miles away as needed. Whatever is most appropriate for that given shot. This one's a dud. Even the all star cast couldn't save this one.

When Time Ran Out (1980): */****

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