Directed by: George Fenady
Starring: Dennis Cole, Susan Sullivan, Leslie Nielsen, Ray Milland, Sheila Larken, James Olson
I’m getting my Irwin Allen chronology all messed up here. I know I should probably review his disaster movies in the order they were made, but I’m just not organized enough. So, I happened to watch Cave In!, which is basically his last disaster flick (acting only as producer here) . It was shot in 1979 (same year as Beyond The Poseidon Adventure), but sat on a shelf for four years before finally airing on television.
And oh, how the mighty fall. With genre classics The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, Allen earned the nickname ”Master of Disaster”, but Cave In! is pretty much the bottom of the barrel. It is lackluster and uninspired, and looks cheap even for a made-for-tv movie.
The plot is all formula: A random group of characters get trapped inside a cave system in a national park, and by the time they emerge at the surface, the ordeal has also helped them resolve their personal problems. As an ordeal, this one is pretty much a walk in the park, though. Daylight, it ain’t.
The main characters are park ranger Gene and his ex-girlfriend Kate, who is now state senator and controls the funding of the caves; glum suspended cop Joe and his wife; and a mean old professor and his depressed daughter. Soundslike a fun crowd, no? To spice things up, an escaped convict with obvious psychopathic tendencies suddenly shows up down in the caves, threathening the others and generally acting suspiciously.
While only about 90 minutes long (without commercials), Cave In! is really slow and uneventful. The fact that we get to see every supposedly perilous passage seven times over, as each main character braves the danger, doesn’t really help. And you know something’s wrong when a disaster movies has to use a ridiculous number of flashbacks as padding. I counted at least seven – and one of them was actually something of a cinematic oddity, as the professor’s daughter remembers a conversation where she herself wasn’t even present!
This is one limp, unconvincing and mostly boring movie, where the antics of the escaped convict (James Olson doing some fine over-acting) add a touch of the downright ridiculous. His, and the movie’s, finest moment is when at the very end, literally 30 feet from the exit, he suddenly and for no good reason, draws a gun, takes Kate as a hostage and demands a helicopter! Say what? He could’ve just walked out of the damn caves and disappeared into the sunset. But if you’re a criminal, you have that irresistible urge to act criminally, I guess…
As for the rest of the cast, I felt kind of bad for Ray Milland who went from an Academy Award in 1946 (for The Lost Weekend) to looking old and weary in this kind of junk.