Tuesday, 11 August 2015

No.227 : When Time Ran Out…

When Time Ran Out at the IMDb

If you thought spoof disaster movies started with ‘Airplane’ you should check out this turkey that predated it by a few weeks in 1980. It is laughably bad and all the more so for having some Hollywood heavyweights playing it straight. It’s from disaster maker and cookie cutter extraordinaire Irwin Allen and you could play bingo with it, checking off clichés as the film plods along.

Paul Newman stars as an oil driller. For some reasons he’s doing this on a volcanic island next to a luxury hotel. Not even that, he’s actually drilling for oil in the volcano’s ‘dormant’ crater. Can you guess what goes wrong kids?

Before be get to the lamentable action we are first introduced to the cavalcade of stars who are wheeled in with their improbable back stories. The best is Burgess Meredith who is a renowned, but retired, tight rope walker. What a waste of time telling us that, there's no way will that be relevant! We also meet a slightly haggard Jacqueline Bisset and a bored Barbara Carrera, both of whom are after Paul Newman’s affections. You also get William Holden as the gruff hotel owner and some guy as his hot headed son - I can only assume Richard Chamberlain was engaged elsewhere. Other luminaries include Red Buttons, Mr Miyagi off ‘The Karate Kid’, who was unintelligible, and Ernest Borgnine who plays ‘Tom Conti’ he was rubbish ; didn’t mention ‘Rummikub’ once!

The action gets under way when the drillers hit oil two minutes after Paul Newman arrives. They are understandably happy but this soon dissipates when Paul tells them all to pack up. He’s worried the oil strike may reactivate the dormant volcano. Why he didn’t think of this before they set up all the drills wasn’t explored. Anyway, his greedy men, who have families to feed, insist on keeping the well open and Paul reluctantly agrees. Huge mistake!

With indecent haste the volcano goes nuclear and sets off special effects of literary pathetic proportions. There is a massive tsunami which involves some extras getting a bucket of water thrown over them and an earthquake that puts a medium sized gash in the road. Of course this is a disaster movie so that vital staple, panicky idiots, hove into view and storm the helicopter in a laugh a moment scene that eventually sees a poor model give up its life.

This volcano has attitude though and soon it is raining fireballs down on the hotel - not much of a neighbour but what a critic! It has good aim though and gets a direct hit on Tom Conti, sorry Borgnine. He spends the rest of the film swathed in bandages so he may have sneaked off set early, having bribed someone to take his place.

With chaos all around Newman takes charge. He tells the folk in the fancy hotel that they’ll need to move but gets shouted down due to his lack of success in keeping his oil workers safe - which is fair enough really. Newman manages to get a few of the principals to go with him on a perilous mission to cross the island to safety via a large and unconvincing studio set. Safety beckons just over a rickety bridge but who will survive? And when it is down to a single beam will all hope be lost or does anyone have a special talent that may come in handy? Especially if there is a finely crafted and balanced pole nearby…

This film was so relentlessly rubbish that I actually quite enjoyed it. It was so by the numbers the must have crossed out ‘boat’ and ‘building’ on their one script and stuck in ‘volcano’ instead. Why the hotel guests never went with the ‘A’ list star beggared belief. That said their final fate was worth the admission price alone!

Newman looked embarrassed throughout and did nothing to get us involved with his character. He was a reckless love cheat and a poor negotiator and to top it all was wearing large Cuban heels. The rest of the cast were as bad with pass marks being awarded to no one apart from the hotel guests who bravely tried to leave the film in the helicopter.

The special effects were dreadful with a science fair volcano occasionally spouting some smoke the height of the pyrotechnics. They did invest a lot in the bridge which served in the interminable finale. For some reason the thick planks kept snapping despite no sign of fire of singeing on them - must be those dramatic licence planks we’ve all heard about. It was however a highlight when the tight rope walker stepped up, but only after a few bit parts took a dive into the lava below.

I hadn’t heard of this film until it turned up in one of my ‘W’ trawls and rightfully so - it was poorly made, had terrible acting and was only a couple of gags short of beating ‘Airplane!’ to the punch.

Best Bit - If only I could find a pole - Oh here’s one!

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