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Tourists are surprised by a volcanic eruption in a lonesome hotel in the Caribic. The hotel owner ignores all warnings and advises his guests to wait for a rescue team. Only a small group follows expert Hank to reach higher regions. They start an adventurous journey across the island. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
WHEN TIME RAN OUT is a silly, superficial and often cheesy coda to the cycle of disaster movies produced by Irwin Allen in the 1970s. As a huge fan of disaster movies, I found myself enjoying this film a lot, even if everything that happens has been done before and better. This film sees an all-star cast menaced by a volcano on an Pacific island, and you can pretty much guess every plot point along the way if you've seen any of Allen's other, earlier, better disaster flicks.
Still, you can't say that Allen doesn't try his best it's just that the budget (or lack of it) lets him down this time around. The volcano itself is a silly little miniature, the rivers of lava are back-projected nonsense, and the final 'disaster' scene at the hotel is so poor as to beggar belief. Even ignoring the below-par special effects, this film takes the biscuit. Although it's notably shorter than the likes of THE TOWERING INFERNO, it takes half the running time for the volcano to actually blow, and until that point we have lots of cheesy dialogue scenes involving romance between uninteresting characters.
Thankfully, things really get going once the disaster hits home as Allen throws tsunamis, explosions, cliffslides and whatnot into the mix. Twinkly-eyed Paul Newman is on hand, thankfully, to take charge and act all manfully, although he's up against a scheming James Franciscus as the island resort's owner who'll stop at nothing to protect his investments. Also caught up in the mix are the usual stereotypes: doting (or should that be dotty) old timers (step forward, Burgess Meredith); hard-timers (Ernest Borgnine in his umpteenth disaster outing), youthful beauties (Barbara Carrera and Jacqueline Bisset, the latter looking a bit off) and even a few ethnic types too (Pat Morita, going Chinese). Much of the resultant running time follows Newman's group as they scramble for safety, evading dangers along the way.
It's no surprise as to who lives or dies, but the 'obstacle' scenes are great fun, especially the extended 'bridge crossing' which makes up the film's climax. And I'll never tire of those ultra-cheesy 'falling into lava' shots which are repeated at various intervals. It's just a shame that the volcano itself only has coming of a cameo appearance in the movie, and that the characters are never menaced by ash clouds or falling lumps of pumice now that would have been something to see!
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