When Time Ran Out... (1980) (part 4 of 8)
The next day, Hank and Tiny are ready to tour the “fire hole” up at the volcano. Appropriately, Hank’s in cowboy clothes and Tiny’s in George Pappadopolous clothes. The two men step inside the Volcano Observation Post and Hank yells hello. Bob and the scientist guy from before come to greet them. Bob and Hank formally shake hands (do you do that a lot with friends?) and Bob introduces Hank to the scientist guy, John Webster. Now this is just getting weird! First Champ, then Mona, now Webster!
Hank proves that oil drillers are the most know-it-all people on earth (and therefore ideal saviors) by telling Webster he read his piece in a scientific journal and found it very impressive. Okay. I’m convinced. Those oil repositories? Filled with the sum total of all Oil Man Knowledge!
Bob shows Hank his science fair project, a hokey graph entitled “Lava Level.” He points out that last year the lava level was even higher than this year, so there’s no reason to worry. (Shouldn’t it be called the Magma Level?) He asks Webster to back up his statement, but Webster says, “Well, yes and no. I’m updating that chart. I’m not quite through yet.” Well, change it to “Magma Level” when you do!
So Bob, foiled again, simply asks Hank if he’s ready to go down into the crater. Hank asks, sort of worriedly, if they’ll check the monitors later. Carefree Bob says they will. Mmm-hmm. They’re descending into an active volcano that one or more of them considers to be out of the ordinary. Should they check the monitors before they go, or after they go? See, this is why I’m not a scientist, or an oil man, because I’d be checking to make sure it was safe beforehand. Stupid, stupid me!
Bob tells Ed Begley, Jr. to cool off a six pack (hey! they’re playing, too!) for their return. Man, this place is laid back. Scientists have such an easy life! Hank tells Tiny to stay with Ed Begley, Jr. Uh, so why did he even come in the first place? I know, IITS and it advances the plot in a few minutes, but it’s not like either of them knew he’d be needed. Oh, wait. Oil people. They probably did know.
So Hank, Bob and Webster get in this little capsule that’s a cross between a small elevator and one of those deep sea exploring rover deals. Ed Begley, Jr. shuts them in and runs back to the other side of the observatory to the capsule’s control panel. The Violins of Doom begin trilling as the descent starts. This is one seriously hokey looking capsule. And by the way, you can’t swallow fast enough for the amount of staring that takes place in the next five minutes.
During the achingly slow descent, we get a shot of the volcano’s orange glow from inside the capsule. It seems the bottom of the capsule is made of glass. Glass! On a capsule descending into a live bubbling volcano! Did I mention these guys are laid back? Because now I’m starting to think they’re not real scientists. No one is wearing a Reynolds Wrap suit, either. If that thing bubbles up and breaks the glass (like the violins are indicating it will), they’re all gonna be Kingsford tonight.
Tiny is extremely worried as he keeps staring at Ed Begley, Jr. He asks how Ed tracks them. Ed shows him three rows of numbers that track how many feet they’ve descended. Tiny says they really should get a closed circuit TV in the capsule. (Or, at the very least, a digital number display.) Ed laughs and says it would get too hot. Ha! That’s science funny! Tiny continues to worry. He can’t be a scientist; He’s not mellow.
So, it’s running about 110 degrees in the capsule and 140+ degrees outside. Webster calls up to Ed and says, “Better see what you can do with the cooling system, I can’t regulate it down here.” Yeah, would you mind turning the volcano down, Ed? Another gripe here: They’re on a tropical island, right? 80 to 90 degrees most days, true? So, would 110 degrees really feel unbearably hot to them, as they’re making it appear?
As they get past 200 feet deep, the magma pit starts spitting stuff up pretty close to them. So, just why do they have to be this close? What does this tell them? At 235 feet, which Bob says is the “maximum descent level”, they finally stop. Ed calls down to update them on the cooling system. He says he can’t fix it and asks if he should bring them up. “I’ll tell you when!” Bob answers.
Hank looks down through the glass and reports, “That looks like a lot more activity than there ought to be!” Good to know they had to descend 235 ft. to determine that. Isn’t that what they thought at the surface, anyway?
Webster worriedly says, “I think we ought to start back up, Mr. Spangler.” This long and pointless plot cul-de-sac is just about over. Bob starts to complain, but a huge explosion flashes behind him and sends them on a free fall. So 235 feet isn’t maximum descent. And looking at the spool the cable is coming off of, 235 feet isn’t even close to what maximum descent could be. Bob’s just a compulsive liar. At Ed’s control panel, an indicator switches from “DESCEND” to “MALFUNCTION” to let us know this isn’t supposed to happen.
Ed pushes a button that’s apparently a manual emergency brake, and the capsule finally stops falling at 300 feet. Told you 235 wasn’t even close. Webster radios up to the control tower. “Howard! [That’s Ed’s name.] What’s going on? Howard?” This isn’t funny anymore, Howard! I’m telling my mom!
Howard tells Tiny he lost contact. Tiny repeats, “You lost contact!” as he runs downstairs. He sees the cables all violently swinging about and calls back to Howard. “Bring them up!” Howard says he’s trying to. “You’re trying to!” Tiny repeats again. He comes back upstairs and asks Howard where the manual system is. Howard points to a door, behind which are several spools of cables. Never mind that this manual control is on the opposite side of the building from where the capsule descended. Tiny, of course, knows how to work the manual override for this contraption. Because he, too, is an oil man.
Down in the volcano, the capsule slams against the rock wall and breaks a window out. Bob yells for them to raise the heat shield, and a metal door closes over the window hole. Tiny continues struggling with the crank. A control panel in the capsule inexplicably shorts and falls out. Just as Tiny finally gets the capsule rising, another blast hits the bottom of the capsule, breaking the glass out and causing Webster to fall through. He manages to grab the metal floor edge and Bob and Hank pull him back up. Boy, one of those heat shields like they had for the side window would’ve come in real handy right about now, but no. The funding must’ve run out before they could put that on.
They all huddle real close together for the long ride back up. So as you can see, there’s absolutely no reason to suspect this volcano of any unusual activity!
The capsule reaches the top and Tiny opens the doors. Bob and Hank help Webster out and Bob demands, “What happened?” Howard, having not been down in the volcano, rightly replies, “I don’t know.” Hank tells Tiny to get Webster to the hospital. Which is ironic, because that’s where he got Webster! Okay, I swear that’s the last one.
Bob throws Hank a worried stare, but Hank’s gone all introspective again. Hank goes downstairs and washes his face off in the drinking fountain, but the sound of the chattering seismographs draws his attention. He stares at the equipment for a moment, then sits down in front of it. Bob watches from above, then nervously tries to explain away the chattering, telling Hank about peaks and troughs, averages and parameters. Hank ignores his excuses and cuts to the heart of it.
| Hank: This thing’s a powder keg.
Bob: I think that’s a damned irresponsible conclusion on your part!
Hank: Mmm-hmm. Well, you do what you have to do, I’ll do what I have to do.
Bob: What’s that supposed to mean?
Hank: I’m shutting down operations until that pressure goes down or the crater blows up, whichever comes first.
Bob: You even try shutting down and I will sue you blind.
Hank: Well, it’s been done before.
Bob: Dammit, man! We have a contract!
Hank: Toss it down the crater.
Back at the oil drill, Hank has a tougher time convincing his workers to pack up and go. He tells them he was down in the volcano and it’s not safe to stay, and they can come back when it is. One of the less brilliant oil guys says the volcano’s been over there for a hundred years. I guess he’s the one stupid driller. Ok, him and Ben Affleck.
Tiny tries to back Hank, but the guys say they need the money even if Hank doesn’t. Hank takes a quick glance at the smoking volcano matte and tells the crew, “If a buck means that much to you, okay.” So there’s our next group to have their fate sealed.
Hank goes over to his single-wide trailer (whoa! guess he doesn’t need the money!) and inside waiting for him is Kay. “You didn’t call,” she says, “So I came anyway.” Take a hint, lady! She tells him nothing has changed, except her. I guess she’s referring to the fact that she now has a totally different hairdo [!]. Makes me wonder how long production stalled on this thing.
“Don’t I wish,” Hank says, then immediately looks away, like he just lost a bet with himself on not talking to her again. He tells her to “shave your head and grow a mustache and put on about 150 pounds” [!] so he has a reason to throw her out. She asks why he didn’t call her. He says, “Because I was just getting used to not having you around.” Zing.
Stung, she drops the ERA act.
|Kay: I used to think it was okay for you to do what you do. And that it was okay for me to do what I do. And that we could each move at our own speed and still get there together. That doesn’t work. So, um, now I see that it’s okay for you to do what you do and it’s okay for me to do what you do. I don’t like it, but that’s just the way it is.|
Yep. That’s right. Give up your own dreams and career, lady. There’s a man in your life now! So to celebrate her subjugation, she invites him on a picnic. He asks her what year the wine is. So I guess stalking is a viable dating alternative, after all.