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.
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).
When Time Ran Out (1980)
Directed by: James Goldstone
Starring: Paul Newman, Jacqueline Bisset, William Holden, Edward Albert, Red Buttons, Barbara Carrera, Valentina Cortese, Veronica Hamel, Ernest Borgnine
Screenplay by: Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan Witts
Production Design by: Philip M. Jefferies
Cinematography by: Fred J. Koenekamp
Film Editing by: Edward A. Biery, Freeman A. Davies
Costume Design by: Paul Zastupnevich
Set Decoration by: Stuart A. Reiss
Art Direction by: Russell C. Menzer
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: March 28, 1980