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The Hindenburg Movie Review

wise robert scott thinnes

1975 – Robert Wise –

A prediction of disaster from an American psychic sets off fear and suspicion as the famous zeppelin starts its transatlantic trip to Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. True to the formula started with The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, this film brings together an odd assortment of passengers who are observed by a Luftwaffe colonel (George C. Scott) and his investigative assistant (Roy Thinnes) to prevent any sabotage. Among the passengers, however, is a member of an anti-Nazi resistance group with a bomb who intends to destroy the ship.

The exposition plods on and on. About forty minutes in, director Robert Wise and his screenwriters create a lengthy conversation between Scott and Thinnes that discusses one by one the other characters on board while we see shots of them moving about the airship. This redundancy of introducing people already presented to the audience not only wastes time but calls attention to the shallowness of the characters. The most interesting parts of the film are those that recreate historical detail and even incorporate newsreel footage, as in a pre-credit sequence and again at the end.

The fatal mistake made by Wise, which James Cameron wisely avoided in his script for Titanic, was using the fictional element to compromise the factual one. Cameron gives his fictional love story a separate life from the parallel plot of the sinking ship and thereby allows the facts of the approaching disaster to enrich the fiction. Wise and his screenwriters begin with the “what if” premise that sabotage caused the explosion of the Hindenburg, and that decision manages to dilute both fact and fiction. All of the superficial faithfulness to detail loses much of its impact since the reason for the crash has had its historical grounding weakened by this intrusive speculation. And so Wise missed the chance to have what could have been a megahit (though he had already enjoyed the thrill of directing the biggest financial success of the 1960s with The Sound of Music). The Hindenburg is basically a whodunit set against the backdrop of the promise of spectacle and disaster. Viewers will likely get something other than what they expect.

Cast: George C. Scott (Colonel Franz Ritter), Anne Bancroft (Ursula, the countess), William Atherton (Boerth), Roy Thinnes (Martin Vogel), Gig Young (Edward Douglas), Burgess Meredith (Emilio Pajetta), Charles Durning (Captain Pruss), Richard A. Dysart (Captain Lehman), Robert Clary (Joe Spah), Rene Auberjonois (Major Napier), Peter Donat (Reed Channing), Alan Oppenheimer (Albert Breslau), Katherine Helmond (Mrs. Mildred Breslau), Joanna Moore (Mrs. Channing), Greg Mullavy (Morrison) Screenwriter: Nelson Gidding, Richard Levinson, William Link Cinematographer: Robert Surtees Composer: David Shire Producer: Robert Wise for Universal MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 126 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards 1975: Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects; Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration, Cinematography, Sound.

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