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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
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Among his reasons for sacrificing a visual effects interpretation of the climatic crash sequence for the real deal, Robert Wise felt that the newsreel footage was too iconic to recreate and that the special/visual effects would not do it justice. There was even an attempt to tint the newsreel footage to make the scenes work in color, but this idea, along with the concept of bleeding the color out up to the moment of the explosion, was scrapped. See more »
The passenger list that Mildred Breslau looks at before takeoff has many errors. Errors include Franz Ritter listed as Franz Kessler, Martin Vogel as Otto Vogel, Valerie Breslau as Irene Breslau, and Ursula von Reugen as Ursula von Scharnwitz. Additionally, there are 51 passengers; when in reality there were only 36 passengers aboard on the Hindenburg's last flight. This list appears to be from an earlier version of the screenplay. See more »
This film is a unique illustration of the Hindenberg disaster, which occurred on the evening of May 6, 1937 in Lakehurst, New Jersey when the gigantic hydrogen-filled zeppelin exploded on landing. Although a common theory for this event's cause was a discharge of electricity from the atmosphere triggering the fire, here it is suggested as form sabotage. As a result of the explosion, 36 people (one third of those on-board the German airship) were killed.
The movie goes along quite well in the way it is presented as a series of chronological events leading up to the explosion. The cast is flawless and in turn so is the superb and vivid acting. George C. Scott (as Colonel Franz Ritter, a German security officer) and Anne Bancroft (as the reluctant Countess) seem to be very suited and prepared for their parts as the main characters in the film. Other passengers to watch for include: Gig Young (as the sly Edward Douglass), Burgess Meredith (as gambler Emilio Pajetta) and Robert Clary, from the hit sitcom, "Hogan's Heroes", (as Joseph Spahn, a comedian.) These and many others provide an enjoyable overall performance in the movie while not only based on historical accounts, also provides other common genres of drama, suspense, comedy and even elements of romance between the two main characters.
This film may have a general theme of seriousness, as Colonel Ritter proceeds to investigate an array of people aboard who are suspects to an anti-Nazi conspiracy, yet it also resolves to make way for other moods as well. For example, midway through the film there is a very amusing sequence in which passenger Reed Channing (Peter Donat) plays on the airship's famous baby grand piano and sings a song entitled: "There's A Lot to be Said for the Fuhrer" while Joe Spahn performs. This scene obviously demonstrates how both passengers are clearly against the Nazi party, and here it is also interesting to note that during WWII, actor Robert Clary actually was confined to the Nazi concentration camps as countless other unfortunates were subject to during the Holocaust. There are also several humorous one-liners spoken throughout the film, such as: "Next time we'll take the Titanic!" followed by other memorable quotes.
As the film progresses, complications arise in the piloting of the Hindenberg as the crew and passengers encounter a brief experience with turbulence and St. Elmo's fire, (a flickering bluish glow sometimes appearing during storms) and repairing a rip in the fabric cover on the port side of the airship as it hovers over the frigid Atlantic Ocean. Events such as these, and Colonel Ritter's continuing investigation, prove to bring together desired elements of suspense, which certainly add up nearing the movie's climax ending.
Shortly before the Hindenberg's doomed landing, Ritter finally discovers the suspected sabotage and the passenger behind it in a perplexing turn of events. In doing so, he also finds that this well-planned demolition is i n the form of a timed-bomb that has been hidden in the airship's structure and that it is up to him to reach in time for deactivation. The last few thrilling seconds before the explosion in which Colonel Ritter slowly struggles to defuse the bomb have enough apprehension to make it seem an eternity as he meticulously works, but to no avail. From the moment in which the bomb goes off, there is enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat until the movie's end. The last few minutes (which combine both color, black and white images, and still frames of the fire as innocent passengers attempt to escape the flames) are exceedingly well filmed as well as both exciting and horrific. Through this vivid portrayal, one may wonder just what it would have been like to witness this tragic disaster. To any viewer its plain to see just why "The Hindenberg" received a special achievements award for its sound and visual effects and nominations for best cinematography and film editing.
With excellent writing credits provided by Nelson Gidding and under the careful direction of Robert Wise "The Hindenberg" proves to be a genuine and enjoyable movie to watch. This is a film that will undeniably age well, still seeming as timeless as it was the first time through. One of my favorite movies of all time, "The Hindenberg" can be highly recommended.
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