There's a volcano on this Hawaiian island but it has lain dormant for many years, though as oil drilling going on nearby the head of the operation, Hank Anderson (Paul Newman), has the safety of his crew uppermost in his mind. Meanwhile, an old flame of his, Kay Kirby (Jacqueline Bisset), is flying in on a private jet with one of the area's tycoons, Shelby Gilmore (William Holden), for there is a resort there for wealthy holidaymakers which at the moment is being run by Bob Spangler (James Franciscus) who inherited it. According to him, the volcano is nothing to worry about.
Translated that means: get the hell out of there as quick as you can, but if everyone in the cast did that then the movie would be over far quicker than it would have been otherwise. Yes, it was disaster flick time once again, and the last gasp of the seventies craze perhaps fittingly was produced by the master of such entertainments, Irwin Allen, here apparently calling in the favours from those who still owed him work on their contracts from previous jobs. This was supposed to have been The Towering Inferno sequel, except while they secured the services of a reportedly reluctant Paul Newman, Steve McQueen turned Allen down.
Therefore a script about an erupting volcano was conjured up, and all those stars who would rather have been doing something else were stuck in When Time Ran Out... for the duration, and suffering the indignity of acting with hokey dialogue, cheesy relationships, and laughable special effects which made this look more than ever like a soap opera determined to put its characters through massive upheavals. With the budget blown on cast's salaries - they had to be well compensated, after all - and the location shoot in Hawaii, it was little wonder the would-be blockbuster looked so much like a TV movie with its flat lighting and unimaginative set-ups, only this happened to feature some fairly big names.
Fair enough, it was perhaps no surprise to see Burgess Meredith, Barbara Carrera and Ernest Borgnine in a work of this calibre, but you sort of wanted more from Newman, who here apparently was ploughing his wages into his charity sauces business which explains his barely there interest in the proceedings. One trouble with this was that Allen was flogging a dead horse, we really had seen all this before which could be viewed as the producer being a victim of his own success, but more likely was an example of someone ignoring that time had not only run out for the disaster movie as the seventies knew it, but had moved on as well. If he'd waited and revived the genre in the nineties, he might have been onto something, such was the ebb and flow of trends.
After all, there were two volcano movies released just under twenty years later, Dante's Peak and Volcano, which were nothing but Irwin Allen movies made some time after his heyday. Alas, this didn't render this effort any more palatable, not even for nostalgists, with its groaning melodrama and rather sadistic punishing of the weak, that was anyone who disagreed with Paul Newman. Who is essentially anyone who agreed with James Franciscus, he of the "as long as we stay in the hotel we'll be fine" dubious logic, which handily sees a small minority opting to take their chances and follow Hank to the other side of the island. Of course, some of them have to be picked off, but as long as you're white you have a very good chance of surviving as the natives fall into the lava (one even flies sideways off a helicopter - a neat, if inadvisable trick) and Pat Morita tumbles off the disintegrating bridge which takes up an interminable chunk of the climax. Some cheap laughs were here for the lovers of camp (gee, why is Burgess playing a retired tightrope walker?), but it was tiresome stuff. Music by Lalo Schifrin.