When Time Ran Out... (1980) (part 1 of 8)
|Also Starring: Burgess Meredith, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Alex Karras, Pat Morita and John Considine. Wow!|
In 1970, a new sub-genre hit the big screen: The all-star disaster movie. The concept of a disaster movie wasn’t new (The Hurricane, 1937; A Night to Remember, 1958) nor was an all-star movie approach new (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963; The Great Race, 1965), but one day the two combined like chocolate and peanut butter and now we, the viewing public, could have both in one package!
Audiences flocked to see movies at the beginning of the decade like Airport, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. And whenever that much money is made, you can count on all the studios to rush to cash in. Soon the genre had exploded, and killer animals on the rampage, trapped people, burning buildings, crashing airplanes, and sequels were everywhere. It was relentless. So by 1980, the idea had pretty much run its course, and movies like Airplane! were coming along to skewer the disaster genre and people regained their cinematic senses. But producer Irwin Allen couldn’t resist sucking the tap dry for one last drop.
When Time Ran Out…, like many other disaster movies, was based on a book; In this case, the non-fiction work about the eruption of Mt. Pelée entitled The Day the World Ended by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts. Screenwriters Carl Foreman and Stirling Siliphant were called upon to give it the Hollywood treatment.
The film was directed by James Goldstone, whose most notable movie might be They Kill Their Masters, but is probably better known to Star Trek fans as the director of two original series episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Irwin Allen assembled an all-star cast (all of them in between good gigs), tossed them down in Hawaii, and set the cameras rolling. Unfortunately for everyone involved (including us now), when this film was released was exactly the same moment when time ran out on disaster movies.
The movie begins with ominous music and a pan across a steaming black lava field. A lone volcanologist takes measurements, then looks up to see a private jet flying over the island. Inside the jet are Shelby Gilmore (played by William Holden) and Kay Kirby (Jacqueline Bisset). Shelby is looking over some papers as he tells Kay, “I really like your slogan. ‘Come watch Mauna Nui toss in her sleep.'”
“Subtle, right?” she asks. Well, don’t quit your day job, Kay. Oh, this is your day job?
The pilot tells them they’re on final approach and need to buckle up. “Allow me,” Shelby says seductively, and a long, meaningful stare passes between them. Hey, if you want to make a drinking game out of the meaningful stares in this movie, you’ll need to run to the liquor store and get a couple more bottles. I don’t care how many you currently have. You’re going to need more. Go on, I’ll wait.
Shelby buckles Kay’s seat belt kind of awkwardly and then says, “Speaking of final approaches.” Very smooth, old man! He pulls a ring box out and hands it to Kay. She opens it, revealing a very large square cut diamond.
“Is that the largest you could find?” she rudely asks.
He passes it over and says, “Largest or smallest, it simply means… I want to marry you.”
She says she can’t. “You know what the problem is.”
“Yes, I know what the problem is.” I think we all know what the problem is. She’s young and hot, he’s old and not. “But he’s not the marrying kind,” Shelby tells her. But apparently neither is she, so whoever “he” is should work out just fine for her. Kay counts this as Shelby’s seventh proposal, but Shelby tells her it’s the last. Even he knows he can’t last much longer. Cue meaningful stare, aaaaaand cut!
Up at the Volcano Command Center, we see the guy in the volcanologist suit is none other than James Franciscus, star of TV’s Finder of Lost Loves! (MST3k fans insert joke punch line here.) This is just a side point, but throughout this film, James, as Bob Spangler, will be sporting many different looks. This means we can pretend the movie has even more stars than it already does! Right now, he’s looking a little like Robert Preston circa The Music Man. Hi Bob! Who will he look like next?
Bob calls down to the hotel and talks to Brian, his hotel manager, to tell him he just saw Shelby’s plane fly in. Shelby has arrived a day earlier than expected, so Bob tells Brian to hurry down and meet him.
Cut to a village near the ocean, and our next Embarrassed Actor: Alex Karras as Tiny Baker. He and his buddy Kelly pull up in a noisy old jeep in front of the freight office. Tiny jumps out and tells Kelly, “I’ll be right back,” in such a way that makes me hope the freight office has a bathroom. And that I don’t have to use it next.
Kelly waits in the jeep and tries to make time with a local native girl. “Don’t I know your sister?” Down, you dirty, racist old man! Tiny comes back out with a rooster in a cage. He keeps calling it “Champ”. If I’m not mistaken, isn’t that what he called Webster, too? It seems these two have lost $7200 cockfighting with a local guy named Sam, and importing this bird is the key to winning back all their money.
A gray limousine drives past them with Shelby and Kay inside. Tiny stares at the car and pessimistically announces, “She’s back.” But she can only darken his mood for a moment, because Champ the Rooster is far more important right now.
Tiny and Kelly take Champ over to a place called Mona’s, which is the local whorehouse and bar run by Mona and Sam. Tiny tells Mona (hey, wasn’t that his mother-in-law’s name on Webster?) to get Sam. Mona blows on a whistle and Sam comes out, and he’s played by our next guest on The Cavalcade of Shame, Pat Morita!
Sam pumps a baseball bat in the air and yells, “Where’s the fight? Where’s the fight?” Mona motions to the guys and their bird. Tiny challenges Sam to a cockfight for $10,000 even money. After some very strange whisperings to the rooster—possibly asking if the bird would take his place at the ’83 Oscars—Sam accepts the challenge. Tiny then gets a call on his walkie-talkie, telling him to get back up to the oilfield right away because the pressure readings are up. Sam and Tiny agree to a cockfight at eleven the next morning, and Tiny and Kelly quickly leave.
At the Kalaleu Gilmore Hotel, Shelby and Kay get out of their limo. They’re greeted by Iolani (played by Barbara Carrerra), who’s apparently the hotel’s concierge. Just imagine Julie McCoy from The Love Boat and you have this girl’s job. Also coming to greet them is hotel manager Brian (played by Edward Albert, currently under a ton of makeup in a failed attempt to make him look like an islander).
Iolani welcomes Shelby and Kay back to the hotel. Kay says she’s excited to be here, not only for the hotel’s grand opening, but also for Iolani and Brian’s wedding. Iolani looks downcast for a moment, then says they’ve decided to postpone their wedding so as not to interfere with the hotel’s opening. This looks to be news to Brian, because a series of meaningful glances pass all around. Here’s an unrelated question: If you and your fiancé lived someplace like this, would you think he was really cheap if he said, “For our honeymoon, I thought we could just go down to the beach”?
Kay tries to think of something to say as she and Iolani walk off. Shelby takes Brian aside and asks suspiciously if anything’s wrong. Brian gives him a big smile and says, “Of course not, Mr. Gilmore! Everything’s fine!” Wedding Planning Intrigue!