Film: When Time Ran Out

When Time Ran Out... is a disaster film notable for marking the end of Irwin Allen's theatrical career (though he only produced the film; it was directed by James Goldstone), and arguably marking the end of the golden era for 70's disaster movies. The film stars Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, Edward Albert, Red Buttons, Barbara Carrera, Valentina Cortese, Veronica Hamel, Alex Karras, Burgess Meredith, Pat Morita, Ernest Borgnine, and James Franciscus as Bob Spangler.

Mildly based on the novel, The Day the World Ended, the film can essentially be described as Dante's Peak meets a soap opera, and, in the established Irwin Allen formula, follows a group of famous celebrities as they try to escape a catastrophe of some kind (in this case, an erupting volcano), while working out an incredibly complex web of emotional infidelity, leaving behind those who didn't listen to their warnings of imminent disaster, and having an old person with a special talent that will save the day. Oh yeah, and there's also a guy attempting to win cockfights with his prized rooster.

Despite the considerable talents at work, and a 20 million dollar budget, the movie was an infamous Box Office Bomb, making less then 4 million dollars, and was Allen's least successful film. Among its many problems are a cluttered plot, bad special effects (most of the film's budget was reportedly spent on location shooting in Hawaii), and the infamous bridge sequence, which consists of characters slowly crossing a bridge for almost twenty minutes. The film also suffered setbacks during production, including numerous weather delays, and a cast who didn't really want to be in it (most of them realized the film was going to be a bomb early on). Paul Newman revealed in an interview that this was the one film he regretted doing during his career, and it was also the only one he ever did just for the paycheck.

Despite being a critical and financial disaster, the film did get an Academy Award nomination for best costume design. And on a happier note, it's also believed that Paul Newman's salary went towards starting his highly successful "Newman's Own" food company.


When Time Ran Out... provides examples of:

  • And Starring: Two of them, Ernest Borgnine and James Franciscus as 'Bob Spangler.'
  • Anyone Can Die: Subverted, none of the leads perish, though James Franciscus, Barbara Carrera, Valentina Cortese, Veronica Hamel, Alex Karras, and Pat Morita all bite it.
  • Asshole Victim: Spangler, the people who ignore Hank and crash the helicopter, and most of the doomed vacationers who stay behind at the hotel.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nearly the entire community and population of an island have been wiped out by a mildly active volcano... but at least there are SOME survivors.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Kelly has a moment of this when he is waiting for Tiny in their jeep at the freight office. He hits on a passing woman with the cheesy pickup line, "Don't I know your sister?"
  • Chekhov's Volcano: No kidding.
  • Climactic Volcano Backdrop
  • Cool Old Guy: Rene Valdez, when he recreates his tightrope act to safely hoist a child on his back across the remnants of the bridge. Which is still barely standing over LAVA, at that.
  • Dirty Old Man: Shelby, who has already had six wives and wants to make Kay his seventh, despite the two being at least twenty years apart in age.
    • Kelly makes an (unsuccessful) pass at a young woman as he waits in the jeep for Tiny.
  • Disaster Movie: One that inevitably put the box office spark out for good.
  • Don't Look Down: Crossing the gorge and the bridge. Also when a hole is torn through the bottom of the glass-floor elevator as it is being lowered inside the volcano.
  • Doomed Contrarian: Bob Spangler, and the hotel patrons who refuse to go along with Hank and Kay. Spangler was pretty much dead meat from the beginning, when he refuses to believe that the volcano could possibly become active again.
  • Doomed Hometown
  • Fat and Skinny: Tom Conti and Francis Fendly.
    • Tiny and Kelly.
  • Gentleman Thief: Francis Fendly.
  • Infant Immortality: The native children. Their father, of course, isn't as lucky.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: It seems that Bob will express some regret to Nikki about cheating on her with Iolani. Instead, he flat-out says to her face that she should have went with Shelby, because she "doesn't belong" anymore.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Rene tells Shelby that Hank and Kay remind him of his wife, Rose, and himself a long time ago.
  • Love Triangle: Hank/Kay/Shelby, Spangler/Nikki/Iolani, Spangler/Iolani/Brain... all of which takes at least an hour to set up before the volcano blows her top.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jacqueline Bisset and Veronica Hamel.
  • Police Are Useless: Conti gets blinded and can do nothing to help the rest of the survivors.
  • Rope Bridge: The climax of the film involves the survivors crossing a wooden plank bridge over a pit of occasionally exploding molten lava.
  • Suit with Vested Interests: Bob Spangler who rides the river of Denial all the way to his death. He's so in denial he locks himself in his hotel in hope of avoiding a river of lava and it seems to stem not just from his financial but some deep seated daddy issues.
  • Temporary Blindness: Tom Conti.
  • Those Two Guys: Thief Francis Fendly (Buttons) and Detective Tom Conti (Borgnine), who become friends after Fendly personally watches over a temporarily blinded Conti. Made even funnier due to the fact that the two played similar characters in The Poseidon Adventure.
    • Again, Tiny and Kelly.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Tiny actually chases after his chicken as a huge tidal wave crashes down on the village town. He dies of course.
    • Points must go to the brain surgeons who apparently thought it was a good idea to build a base on the mouth of a volcano.
    • Hank's workers, who deny any possibility of volcanic activity, even after Hank himself was almost killed descending into one of the craters.
    • Spangler and the people at the hotel, but especially the ones who crash the helicopter.