Cave In! (1983)

Cave In! (Warner Brothers)

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.

Rating: 1/5

6 Responses

  1. john gray says:

    I remember as a pre teen being so excited by these irwin allen tv movies, and so dissapointed when I actually bored myself rigid watching them….

    hope you can find a few more disaster movies! not many left!!!
    I can think of a couple…

    krackatoa EAST OF JAVA

  2. Crippa says:

    Don’t worry, John, I have a bunch of movies lined up (Krakatoa is one of them). Just gotta find the time to watch them. Wasn’t really aware of The Devil at Four O’Clock — thanks for the tip!

  3. W.J. says:

    If you’re looking for a good tunnel-walking movie, you should check out Short Walk to Daylight, from 1972. A very low quality version is online (, but I’d love to see it restored and on DVD.

    A group of walking stereotypes (police officer, black panther, druggie, girl from Iowa) get trapped in a subway after a mysterious disaster (earthquake? meteor?) causes a cave-in. There’s some surprisingly good acting, especially from Abbey Lincoln as a weary single mom. Lincoln’s a famous jazz singer who showed up in a handful of movies and TV shows. For a TV movie, there’s also some impressive set pieces and action sequences.

  4. Julie March says:

    How can I watch Cave In!

  5. Crippa says:

    I’m sorry, I hadn’t noticed that the trailer clip was flagged as ‘private’ by YouTube. I’m taking it down and will see if I can find an alternative version.

  6. Monster A GoGo says:

    I actually just watched “Cave In!” (The exclamation mark is actually part of the title–too funny) last night. It was typical TV movie stuff–not as bad as I heard. I’ve seen ALL of Irwin Allen’s disaster flicks now (“Cave In!” had somehow eluded me for years). This was far more watchable than the incredibly boring “Hanging By A Thread”! UGH!

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