Cave In! (1979)

caveinWhen you take your act from the big screen to the small one, you have to shout to get noticed. That could be why producer Irwin Allen’s made-for-TV movie Cave In! arrived in NBC prime time with an exclamation point intact.

At Yellowstone’s Five Mile Caverns, the north fork of the grounds undergoes a smidge of a rock collapse. Rather than close the tourist destination until the situation is fixed, the rangers on duty decide just to keep the tour groups away from that part. After all, a couple of bigwigs are on their way: a state senator (Susan Sullivan, TV’s Castle) and a crotchety professor (Ray Milland, Frogs). Ranger Gene (Dennis Cole, Death House) even was supposed to marry one of them; you guess whom. Among the few others along for the stroll are a sad-sack cop (Leslie Nielsen, just before Airplane! sent his career soaring in a different direction) and a short-fused fugitive (James Olson, Amityville II: The Possession). Wouldn’t you know it, that group gets trapped when boulders fall all around them and block off the obvious paths.

cavein1From there, it’s all about the saintly Gene leading them to safety … just as another saintly Gene (Hackman, that is) did the same in Allen’s The Poseidon Adventure. If director Georg Fenady (Terror in the Wax Museum) had excised his characters’ flashbacks to recent points in life when they weren’t stuck in a cave — each the stuff of soap operas — then Cave In! would look brazenly more like a drier remake of Poseidon, as Gene takes the men and women through nature’s obstacle course: tight crevasses, gaps over perilous heights, a rock path through a geothermal pit, underneath a submerged rock wall and across a rickety bridge made of wood and rope, neither to be trusted.

But Allen’s brand name can be, provided an undiscriminating, no-brainer disaster fix is all you seek. Compared to his blockbuster movies, Cave In! has less money and lower star power to work with, but does hold one unique advantage: getting the job done in about half the time. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.


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