From the Files of Irwin Allen
The immediate problem with Cave in is Leslie Nielsen. Not his performance, but rather the timing. Although filmed in 1979, Cave in didn’t see its release until 1983. By then, Nielsen already found his shtick mocking these exact roles, from the disaster movie spoof Airplane to a cop in Police Squad. He plays to both genres in Cave in, including a shootout that looks taken directly from Police Squad.
That shootout is part of a flashback. Cave in has lots of those. Too many, really. What’s already a plodding, slow developing disaster story keeps doling out redundant information. Ray Milland plays a gruff father figure, depressed after his wife passed, and repeatedly talking his daughter out of marrying men. That’s clear from the dialog inside the caverns, but Cave in uses full flashbacks to further these plotlines.
That’s because there’s so little drama in the disaster itself. Archetypal characters, including a senator holding the park’s financial future in her hands, the ranger unwilling to cancel her trip into the cave because of her influence is a dynamic from countless other Allen films. A walk across a shaky bridge seems shot-for-shot taken from Allen’s earlier When Time Ran Out, with water rapids replacing lava.
Along with the bridge escapades, Cave in features another overlong escape through a short underwater swim, enough to pass one rock. Everyone goes individually, making the trip some seven people long, and each swimming journey is shown in full. One finds their foot stuck in an obviously phony rock, to which Nielsen makes a rescue, while also clearly holding their foot to prevent them from leaving too soon for the camera.
Allen’s next-to-last genre film (The Night the Bridge Fell Down came next, an agonizing three hour snoozer), Cave in safely follows the standard formula, but it’s a film clearly exhausted of any potential.
A pleasing near-conclusion to Shout’s Irwin Allen Blu-ray Collection, Cave in looks splendid and natural. The thinnest veneer from film grain shows to a limited degree, naturally resolved by a capable encode. Texture stays high, including the location shots and the weaker studio sets. Underground, the phony rock surfaces appear clear enough to make out the paint applied.
Splashy color makes numerous appearances. Warm, satisfying flesh tones produce consistent results. Earth tones understandably dominate, including browns en masse.
Shadows indicate some age based on the hazier black levels. Cave in still produces dimensionality when needed, the density enough to sustain depth.
Given the primarily underground setting, echoes naturally fill a thin, mono soundstage. DTS-HD can handle it. Elsewhere, the minimal score holds firm, even producing slight bass. Cave in’s audio is clean enough to reach expected norms.
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Cave in’s sluggish, zero tension pacing saps any potential from this Irwin Allen disaster story.
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