When Time Ran Out (1980)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Disaster Film, Ensemble Film  |   Run Time - 121 min.  |   Countries - Canada , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Donald Guarisco

The final feature-film production from disaster movie kingpin Irwin Allen is unfortunately his most derivative and least inspired effort. Although inspired by real events, When Time Ran Out jettisons any vestiges of real-life drama in favor of a tired scenario that recycles elements of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. The storytelling relies on soap opera devices (including not one but two romantic triangles) and contrived dialogue that is far too heavy on exposition. When Time Ran Out is further hurt by a lack of creativity and resources in its visual style. The film is shot in a flat, harshly lit style that fails to disguise the studio backlot locales, giving the film a cheap, made-for-television feel. The rushed, cheap feeling of the production is enhanced by some shockingly substandard special effects: The optical effects designed to show off the volcano's fury look downright cartoonish and stock footage of real volcanos is cut into the film in an awkward and unconvincing fashion. In terms of acting, William Holden and Paul Newman provide old-school movie star charm but their threadbare roles give them little to do other than conventional heroics. The character actors fare a little better: Burgess Meredith and Valentina Cortese are very likable as a retired show-biz couple on their second honeymoon and Ernest Borgnine and Red Buttons bring some surprising emotion to their roles as a cop-and-crook duo forced to reevaluate their adversarial relationship when the disaster strikes. Sadly, the professionalism of the cast can't rise above the overall uninspired feel of the production and this makes When Time Rans Out a disappointing finale to the '70s cycle of disaster films.