When Time Ran Out is a disaster film released in 1980, starring Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, James Franciscus, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Burgess Meredith, Valentina Cortese, Veronica Hamel, Pat Morita, Edward Albert, and Barbara Carrera. It was directed by James Goldstone.

Produced by Irwin Allen, When Time Ran Out is marginally based on the novel The Day the World Ended by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts detailing the factual 1902 volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique, which killed 30,000 people in five minutes by pyroclastic flow.

It marked the second and final time Newman and Holden appeared in a movie together after the box office triumph of The Towering Inferno six years prior, as well as reuniting Borgnine and Buttons from The Poseidon Adventure. When Time Ran Out... was a commercial flop and Allen's last theatrically released picture and is often regarded as the final 1970s era Disaster film. Despite critical and commercial disappointment, the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design (Paul Zastupnevich).


Shelby Gilmore (William Holden), who owns a newly constructed hotel on a remote Pacific island, wants desperately to marry his secretary, Kay Kirby (Jacqueline Bisset) and proposes to her under the impression that she'll become his seventh wife. Kay is in love with Hank Anderson (Paul Newman), an oil rigger whose scientists are warning him that a nearby active volcano is about to erupt.

Shelby's partner, Bob Spangler (James Franciscus), assures guests at the hotel that the threat of the volcano is a total exaggeration, explaining that it only erupts once every thousand years. Spangler is married to Shelby's goddaughter Nikki (Veronica Hamel), but is cheating on her with Iolani (Barbara Carrera), an executive with Shelby's hotel. Iolani is engaged to Brian (Edward Albert), the hotel's general manager. Unbeknownst to all except Spangler, who chooses not to reveal the secret, Brian is his illegitimate younger half-brother and therefore part-owner of the resort.

Guests at the hotel include a bonds smuggler, Francis Fendly (Red Buttons), who is being tailed by a New York City private investigator, Tom Conti (Ernest Borgnine). Also on hand are Rene and Rose Valdez (Burgess Meredith and Valentina Cortese), who are retired circus tightrope walkers. Hank's oil-rig workers include Tiny Baker (Alex Karras), who has a wager going with cockfighting rival Sam (Pat Morita) with a prized rooster that has just been delivered to him. Sam and his wife Mona (Sheila Allen) own a local bar.

Hank and Kay go for a picnic on the beach to discuss their relationship. During their time together, the volcano erupts and most of the island's population are wiped out. Tiny and all of Hank's workers are killed in town when a tidal wave crashes onto them. Sam takes Mona and two of his girls, Delores and Marsha, and escapes by car, while Hank and Kay rescue Nikki and some others at the stables by helicopter. The only survivors are those at Shelby's hotel, overlooking a disaster that will surely come straight for them, as the volcano is spewing fireballs. A fireball lands at the hotel - Conti is blinded in the explosion, to Fendly's horror. Some of the hotel guests panic and try to escape by stealing the helicopter, but it soon crashes, killing all those inside.

Hank insists that everyone must evacuate the hotel and journey to a safe side of the island to await rescue. Spangler convinces the majority of the guests to stay, including mistress Iolani. Shelby bids a farewell to Nikki, who insists on staying with her husband. After one final attempt to persuade others to join them, Hank and Kay leave the hotel along with Shelby, Brian, Rene and Rose, Fendly and Conti, Sam, Mona and the girls, plus a few more. At the hotel, Nikki stumbles upon her husband's affair with Iolani, but now it is too late for her to follow the others though Spangler expels her from the hotel.

Trucks carrying survivors manage to travel as far as a mountainside gorge. Everyone must cross the gorge on foot. Conti is guided by Fendly, and the two become friends. From there, the party comes upon a rickety wooden bridge over a river of molten lava. Hank crosses first to see if it is safe. The others go in pairs. Two native children, whose father died crossing the gorge, are afraid and run away. Rose, who had stopped to rest with Rene because of her weak heart, dies after telling her husband to find the children.

After an explosion beneath the bridge causes Sam and Marsha to fall to their deaths into the lava, Rene hoists a child onto his back and recreates his old tightrope act in getting the child safely across. Hank guides the second child to safety. The survivors take refuge in a cavern, during which time fireballs streak across the sky. Spangler gets his comeuppance when one huge fireball arcs directly towards the hotel; when it hits, the hotel explodes, killing him, Nikki, Iolani and all who had unfortunately chosen to stay. The survivors (fearing they're the only ones left) continue on toward a beach to wait for rescue.



Shot on the Big Island of Hawai'i (notably at the Kona Surf Resort (today known as the Sheraton Kona Resort), the film was rife with production problems. Holden, who was ill, also was upset about his billing under Newman (as had been the case with The Towering Inferno five years prior). Newman, contractually obligated to do another Allen film after Inferno, was unenthusiastic about appearing in this one. In a 1998 interview with Larry King, when asked if he ever regretted making any film, Newman bitterly responded "that volcano movie." However, it is believed his salary for this film was used to start up his Newman's Own company.


When Time Ran Out performed poorly at the box office. While it cost an estimated $20,000,000 to produce, the film grossed only $3,763,988. Movie critic Leonard Maltin's annual publication of capsule film reviews dubbed the film "When Ideas Ran Out" or "The Blubbering Inferno". A story in TV Guide observed that "with cheesy special effects (even the volcano isn't convincing, considering the film cost $20 million) and a hole-ridden script, this film offers precious little to like."[1]

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert selected the film as one of their "dogs of the year" in a 1980 episode of Sneak Previews.[2]

Despite being a flop, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Alternate versions

In 1986 and 1994, Warner Brothers Home Video released an extended version on VHS that was 144 minutes long. Deleted scenes and additional footage were restored when Earth’s Final Fury (the film’s TV title) debuted on network television. It was released as the "expanded video edition" on VHS, with some of the additional scenes retaining their sporadic "fade to black" commercial edits.

Material from the restored footage included more screen time for the love triangle between Franciscus, Carrera, and Albert, and expanded Albert's role, which is little more than a cameo in the edited two-hour version. Scenes involving Karras' cockfighting exploits at Sam's and Mona's bar were also added. The original theatrical release runs at two hours, while the cockfighting subplot is nearly gone.

The caravan sequence where trucks make their way through the island is trimmed in the theatrical version, and the death of Cortese is not shown onscreen. It features scenes that didn't make it to the longer video edition: a humorous one where a winded Borgnine chases a jogging Buttons, plus a longer introduction to the characters of Franciscus and Hamel. A precarious ledge scene is slightly longer (and employs a shot of the dead farmer at the bottom of the cavern), as are shots of the survivors hiking through the jungle.[3] In February 2009, it was released on DVD - the final Irwin Allen film to be released in that format - but was cut to only 109 minutes. This short print is also the version currently available through Netflix.


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