Saturday, July 19, 2014

1980 Week: When Time Ran Out . . .



It’s hard to imagine a more fitting title for the final big-screen release from producer Irwin Allen, who became synonymous with the disaster-movie genre after making The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Towering Inferno (1974). By the time this enervated flick hit cinemas with a resounding thud, time had indeed run out for Allen’s formula of jamming as many movie stars as possible into melodramatic epics about mass destruction. The disaster this time is a volcano that threatens to consume an island in the Pacific, so the usual Allen contrivances seem especially silly. For instance, tanned B-movie stud James Franciscus plays the requisite cold-hearted businessman who tries to convince island residents that the volcano’s not going to erupt. Really? Then what’s with all the lava and smoke, to say nothing of the corpses left over from scientists conducting tests in the mouth of the volcano? Similarly, the endless scenes of people climbing hills and crossing ravines—running from lava as if the stuff possesses malicious intent—are ludicrous. And while much of the cast comprises such second-stringers as Edward Albert, Barbara Carrera, Alex Karras, and (of course) Allen regular Ernest Borgnine, Allen clearly wrote big checks to get a trio of major stars involved. William Holden plays a hotel owner more concerned with his love life than his professional obligations, Paul Newman plays a heroic oil-rig boss who spots trouble that others can’t recognize (naturally), and Jacqueline Bisset plays the woman caught between them. Never mind that late-career Holden looks so desiccated from alcoholism that he seems more like Bisset’s grandfather than her would-be lover. Anyway, it’s all incredibly boring and shallow and trite, with any potential for excitement neutralized by indifferent acting, leaden pacing, and questionable special effects. Not even Bisset’s spectacular cleavage or Newman’s irrepressible charm can sustain interest. Instead of being a disaster movie, When Time Ran Out is merely a disaster.

When Time Ran Out . . .: LAME

2 comments:

William Blake Hall said...

Oh gawd, what a groaner. You note well the bitter coincidence of the title with Allen's career -- When Money Ran Out or When Clout Ran Out may also be apt. (I forget if this would have come after Allen's whole "Walter Syndrome" insanity.) Your poster is more interesting than the movie! Carl Foreman and Sterling Silliphant wrote this!? How the mighty had fallen. The original novel this is allegedly based on, about an actual 1902 eruption, would probably have provided a far better story. Interesting to see how Veronica Hamel struggled along (watch for her at the beginning of "Klute"), landed here, then made her mark as Joyce Davenport on "Hill Street Blues." The poster unjustly excludes Pat Morita, still very much of "Happy Days," who was just a few years shy of becoming Mr. Miyagi. Titans fell, a scrappy few survived -- even the reality made for a better Irwin Allen script than the movie.

Blofeld's Cat said...

the crossing-the-ravine scene does go on waaaayy too long, but mention must be made that it features Burgess Meredith doing a tightrope walk (he is an ex-circus performer) across a fallen tree (or something) over a river of molten lava...actually Burgess has to do it twice, right? one time to get to a stranded child, then to walk back with said child on his back(!)...then newman has to go and a second stranded child...there is something appealing in the film's delightfully cheesy, tacky, ridiculousness...when I come across any Newman biography (like PAUL NEWMAN: A LIFE by Shawn Levy), this is the film I look for in the index to find the appropriate pages in the main text; reading how the author covers this film makes me decide whether to read the rest of the book...