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This film is a compendium of the facts and fiction of the events leading up to the disaster. For dramatic effect, Sabotage was chosen as the cause, rather than electricity lashing out at a couple of tons of hydrogen. Written by
Charles Holland <email@example.com>
The film includes clips from the actual newsreel footage of the airship's explosion and fire. The recording played just before the closing credits is the actual eye-witness account of news reporter Herbert Morrison, describing the Hindenburg disaster. See more »
In the film, the characters of Ernest Lehmann and Hugo Eckener are portrayed as very wary of the Nazi party. In reality, while Eckener hated the Nazis and spoke against them openly, Lehman was very accommodating to the powers in Berlin in order to advance his career and the fortunes of the Zeppelin Company. In fact, while the movie shows Lehman protesting using the ship in the previous year to drop propaganda leaflets, in reality Lehman was eager and glad to oblige in this undertaking, to the extent that he launched the ship in a dangerous wind condition, bashing in the tail. In real life Eckener lashed out at Lehman for endangering the ship to please the Nazis, resulting in Propaganda Minister Goebbels blacklisting Eckener in the press forever after, despite his being a national (and international) hero. See more »
Colonel Franz Ritter:
We're all gonna die! Where's the bomb!
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The film opens with the 1936 Universal logo followed by a newsreel prior to the credits. See more »
The problem with making true stories is that the viewer already knows the outcome of the story. Most true stories center on someone's life thus giving the filmmakers a chance to show us insights we the viewer may not have known. When doing a film about an incident, the filmmakers are challenged to keep our interest high despite knowing how it all comes out.
The problem with "The Hindenburg", and it's a big one, is that the filmmakers have created a possible though unlikely scenario to explain why the infamous blimp exploded just prior to landing in 1936. The scenario created is that the explosion was caused by sabotage via a mad bomber. This would have worked fine had they remembered one thing. We already know coming in that the Hindenburg exploded and killed 36 people. Any tension that could have been created is then lost. When George C. Scott as a sympathetic(?) Nazi figures it all out it's a race against time to see if he can find the bomb and then diffuse it. But we know that can't happen so the only real tension in the whole movie is waiting to see which of the big name cast members are going to die. And it is a long, tedious wait until the final scenes.
Director Robert Wise incorporates real footage of the explosion with staged shots that mix together nicely. Again this comes in the last 10 minutes of the movie so we have to wait a while for the expected explosion. The final scenes are quite compelling. Unfortunately the first 110 minutes or so are a raging bore as we meet the cast and watch their individual stories. Anne Bancroft, Burgess Meredith, Charles Durning, and others join Scott for the flight but none of these characters are the least bit interesting. Only when their lives are in peril does any interest perk us up. And the only interest we have is seeing who survives but not caring who does and doesn't.
Director Wise has had a distinguished career but "The Hindenburg" will not be remembered as one of his best works. In the large group of disaster films of the 70's this was the worst up to that point ("The Swarm" and "When Time Ran Out" would come later and were much worse). It isn't even fun to watch in a bad movie kind of way the way you can with "Earthquake" or the later "Airport" movies. With all the talent involved "The Hindenburg" should have gone a different direction with its script. As it stands it's a dud.
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