Sunday, October 21, 2012

When Time Ran Out... (1980)

When Time Ran Out..., I wanted to watch again for many years, mostly because this was THE first new tape I bought, not an x-rental, but a real, new, wrapped in plastic, expensive VHS cassette from the local video store in Märsta. And now I realize I'm 35 years old and a couple of years moved back very close to where this place was, 25 years later. Oh, time flies my friends. I also bought an x-rental of John Guillermin's King Kong at the same time, but that's another story. Already at a young age I was obsessed by disaster movies - and still is. One of my first big investments was a TV-recording of Mark Robson's masterpiece Earthquake, a tape my classmate Pernilla stole from her father when we was in second or third grade. But that's another story I won't go in to right now. Back to this, the last of the real disaster flicks, from the master of disaster: Irwin Allen!

Bob Spangler (James Franciscus) is the co-owner of a luxurious tropical island resort, together with Gilmore (William Holden), who owns the main chain of hotels. Today he decided to visit the island. Bob is partner of a oil drilling firm, owned by Hank Anderson (Paul Newman) and this day they strike gold: oil, lots of oil! Anderson is a bit suspicious. I thinks the pressure is way to hard and wants to stop the drilling... which makes Bob unhappy. Soon they understand that the cause of this is the volcano, who's gonna erupt! Anderson takes it upon himself to help people away from the danger before all hell breaks loose, but not everyone likes this... and soon the volcano will explode, and so the island!

It's easy to see how the genre had got bored with itself at this point and no one believed this movie would be a success - Paul Newman, Ernest Borgnine and a couple of the other stars took the parts just to get out of the contracts they had with Allen - and the script by Stirling Silliphant (what kinda name is that anyway?!) and direction by James Goldman is competent and it works, but it's far from being ambitious and fun. They're just all gun for hires, doing their job, grabbing the pay check. But as a disaster-aficionado I still think it's an okay movie, only let down by a couple of very bad visual effects scenes, worthy of a movie with an helluva lower budget.

The story is idiotic and leaves no room for more logical solutions, people just accept whats coming to them and this makes us - the audience - thinking most of them deserves getting killed. But I like the small touches or BIG melodrama, for example the fine performances by Burgess Meredith and Valentina Cortese (who you could see in Ricardo Freda's The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire, among others) as retired tightrope artists, both of them delivering very sensitive and convincing characters. Another favourite is the love-hate relationship between cop Ernest Borgnine and defrauder Red Buttons, which gives some extra warmth to the otherwise uninspired cast.

When Time Ran Out has every cliché in the book - and more! It's like they just took the best and worst of every other disaster movie the latest decade and mixed them all together in this volanco-soup. I like greedy, evil and stubborn baddies like James Franciscus who stays on the hotel just because he refused to accept that the volcano will erupt, or the mistress drawn by two men who stays with the one that doesn't love her - to die! That's actually melodrama of high class and gives us some genuine tension at the end. The final scene of two of the characters when they're watching something that will cause their death seconds later is both touching and chilling.

But still, this is a disaster movie and the disasters is the only thing that counts. It delivers a lot of action, from an earthquake to a tsunami, lava floods, volcano meteorites and panicked people causing their own deaths by acting stupid. It's just a pity that many effects looks quite crappy! The miniatures often looks good, but the visual effects - the back projections, matte paintings and double exposure effects just looks primitive and very unconvincing. According to Borgnine the budget ran out because of the super-expensive locations - and those locations truly looks great!

I think When Time Ran Out... is a fun disaster movie with a few good scenes here and there. It's worth a watch for fans of bored famous actors getting killed by a volcano. 


Anonymous said...

"One of my first big investments was a TV-recording of Mark Robson's masterpiece Earthquake"

That flick is still shown on TCM.....I´ve seen it a couple of times there.

"and the script by Stirling Silliphant (what kinda name is that anyway?!)"

Some kind of upperclass name...?

Who knows...but I like some of his writing like, Shaft in Africa (1973), Telefon (1977), The Killer Elite (1975) etc.

And the fact that IMDB claims that he was student of Bruce Lee.

"That's actually melodrama of high class and gives us some genuine tension at the end."

Melodrama could be one of the factors why people love these disaster films, just look at Titanic (1997).

Sadly, the same audience wouldn´t look at film by Douglas Sirk.

"It's worth a watch for fans of bored famous actors getting killed by a volcano."

Hmmm...that could be the explanation why I saw The Day After Tomorrow (2004)....

Good review ninja and thanks.


Ninja Dixon said...

I really like Silliphant's work, but this is not his strongest moment ;) But there's a couple of really good moments!

Anonymous said...

Ninja: Yeah I understood that from your review....


Kev D. said...

If a person ISN'T a fan of bored famous actors being killed by a volcano, I'm not sure they should be allowed to watch movies in the first place.

Darrell41 said...

Ninja check out 'The Devil At 4 O 'clock' (1961) which inspired this film in many ways.