The mismatch in the sense of scale throughout this film is why the effects look so terrible

Dear Irwin Allen,

When faced with an implosion of the disaster genre as we know it, please next time go out with a bang and not a crayola whimper of an explosion. Thanks! Welcome to the wondrous bomb of a movie that absolutely hits the so bad its good nail so squarely on the head, you’d think it was actually a parody. When Time Ran Out aka When Cash Ran Out After Buying the Cast…

Release Date : 1980

Running Time : 109 minutes (there’s a 121 and 141 minute version too but I’ve not seen them)

The Premise

Let’s build a hotel on an island with nothing else on it but oil and a volcano and pretend we’re all safe while it spews out smoke. Ah yes, that little nugget!

The Disasters Faced

A volcano that can shoot lava bombs with inch perfect precision, a very dodgy bridge, a ledge, at least half the male casts libido’s and a whole lot of looped dialogue not quite synced with the mouths.

The Execution

Faced with two massive bombs at the box office The Swarm (so bad its good) and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (also the same) Irwin Allen had one last attempt at the big screen and spent most of it in the 70’s tradition grabbing a whole lot of high profile names – most of which had already been in a big disaster movie in the decade already! He then spent the rest of the money shipping them all the Hawaii where utilising the beautiful island and a great hotel appeared to have left no money for a script, any special effects nor any time for common sense to prevail at all for the film. The result is a slightly surreal experience of lots of high profile names in absolutely absurd conditions and situations – it’s like the b-movie everyone wanted to be in! When Time Runs Out… also seems to be a bit of a nostalgic hurrah for the genre too as many people end up reprising the same roles as they did earlier in the decade. Paul Newman runs around warning everyone, Jacqueline Bisset is stuck in a love trist, Red Buttons is left looking after someone who can’t cope, Shelia Allen finally gets to actually survive one her husbands films fully intact – its all a bit too close for comfort to previous films in the genre that all done the same things but a lot better. This is the reason why it comes across as a bit of a parody. The deaths are hilarious, the effects substandard and the story makes no sense at all. One character actually survives the whole ordeal without actually having a line except for a scream or two at the end – who is she?! What’s her name? It’s infuriating! Yet it draws you in because you can’t believe the silliness involved and thus optimises the so-bad-its-great sub genre in disaster movies.

I swear, this bridge – I’d throw myself off of it just to make it go a little faster!

The Effects

The film suffers due to its low budget projection screens of a falling stunt guy or girl that just do not belong in the shots they are in. Followed by some of the fakest pyrotechnic explosions and fire I’ve witnessed and the fact the volcano appears to change shape, size and distance from the hotel to suit the need of the drama, it’s just laughable – particularly with the final big “explosion”. The only bit that works well is the tidal wave flood at a push and the helicopter crash.
Why It’s Worth Watching

It’s so damn hilarious. Watch as mouths don’t match speech, effects dazzle you into tears of laughter, stars are tossed spinning into lava with cheesy screams. The film takes on a better feel if you use it as a drinking game. Drink everytime someone kisses someone they shouldn’t – or everytime an effect makes you laugh – or everytime someone does something that goes against any reasonable logic (volcano lift anyone?!). You will be ruined by half way I promise you.

Drinking Game

Character death! This has a huge cast bump off rate – the biggest in Allen’s career.

Best Death

Two death’s spring to mind. One it Pat Morita’s memorable acrobatic death into the lava right at the end. I laughed far too much. The second is the Veronica Hamel who is just the wettest wife ever screaming so loud she smashes her mirror just before she gets it – although how she could possibly know the lava bomb is coming I have no idea – she’s not even looking at the window.

The mismatch in the sense of scale throughout this film is why the effects look so terrible

Favourite Character

Character development is not this films strong point by any means. Paul Newman’s about the only one with any sense at all aside from Edward AlbertĀ  but he has such little screen time (as do many of the main characters) it seems it has to go to him! I’d have preferred to see the 141 minute version and not 109 minute version released on DVD because maybe some character development or just some background might have helped me along a bit.

Weirdest Moment

Cockfighting anyone? Volcano lift with a glass floor that breaks with just one flame? Cast members unable to say “Bob Spangler”? It’s all nuts!


I have ripped the film apart but that’s to show that you shouldn’t be watching this film if you don’t enjoy badly done movies. This is an absolute hoot however if you enjoy cringe-worthy effects, silly scripts, plots that make no sense and a general what the hell feeling! I love it!

2 thoughts

  1. It’s telling of exactly how derivative this movie is–what we have is basically “The Poseidon Inferno,” bearing absolutely NO connection whatsoever to the novel it’s supposedly based on–that three characters descend into the active volcano in their little glass-bottom elevator to “get a better look” (that is, rehash the elevator rescue from “Towering Inferno”). Only one of the characters would have any idea what he’s even looking at, and it’s nothing he couldn’t determine by far safer means. In fact, the entire crater-side facility is preposterous, but no more so than anything else in the film.

    Nice work by Lalo Schifrin, though, what little there is of it.

    The DVD, unfortunately, is the short version. The LONG version (only on VHS) has a few key dramatic scenes (the revelation that Franciscus has been hiding their shared heritage from Albert, Cortese’s passing away, greater development between Buttons and Borgnine), yet the VHS still shaves off other details for no apparent reason (the kids’ father’s body, glimpsed at the base of the ledge). Lord knows you wouldn’t want this to be longer, but that’s pretty random cutting, discarding meat rather than fat. As the DVD stands, it’s not so much an all-cast cast as Newman and Franciscus heading a stream of minor roles. Pat Morita gets a better role than Borgnine, and that’s just wrong.

    The special effects–and the awful indoor forced-perspective bridge set, straight out of a Godzilla movie–are atrocious. But everyone should witness the entire bridge scene at least once, just so they can be astounded by its idiocy.

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