The Hindenburg [VHS]
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Product Description

"One gasbag meets another" is how critic Pauline Kael described the "flatulent seriousness" that director Robert Wise brought to this 1975 thriller about the ill-fated German zeppelin which exploded while landing in New Jersey in 1937. The great air disaster is speculatively depicted here as an act of sabotage, and the airship's trans-Atlantic journey gives the saboteur's plot plenty of time to unfold while the story introduces a variety of characters aboard for the luxurious flight. While the anti-Nazi message is delivered loud and clear, Anne Bancroft and George C. Scott lead an illustrious cast in what amounts to a pre-World War II episode of The Love Blimp, only there's not much romance and precious little suspense. It's all rather flatly intriguing, but aviation buffs will certainly appreciate the meticulous attention to period detail, and the film won special achievement Oscars for its impressive sound and visual effects. Worth a look, if you're a student of this particular chapter of history, and the movie earns some credit for having at least the kernel of a good idea. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews:

  • Well researched and stylishly filmed
    Ok, so it's not The Poseidon Adventure, however it's better than some viewers have implied it is.

    The movie does focus around a sabotage attempt, which is still considered by many to be a plausible cause of the accident, however the film does not take the liberty of undeniably concluding that a bomb, or single saboteur cause the disaster.

    The sets are impressive. If you've seen pictures of the actual interior of the Hindenburg, you will certainly appreciate the level of detail taken to authenticate the ship. The period costumes (especially Bancroft's) are good too.

    The disaster sequence was shot in black and white so that actual news reel footage of the event could be incorporated in. That footage is especially chilling to watch since you can see the actual passengers and crew (some on fire) jumping from the ship as it crashes.

    George C. Scott does a fine job as the colonel assigned by the German government to protect the ship, and Anne Bancroft is intriguing as the witty refer puffing countess. Look for Katherine Helmond (Soap's Jessica Tate) in a rare non-comedic roll....more info

  • I love this movie, really good casting!
    The sets and cast are really great in this movie. Apparently sabatoge has been ruled out as to the cause of the disaster but it still holds up as reasonable and believable. George C. Scott and Ann Bancroft really "do" it for me!...more info
  • Good attempt to dramatize the Hindenburg disaster...
    "Hindenburg" is a pretty good film that unfortunately falls a bit flat. The concept, sets, effects, and the cast are all excellent, but there just seems to be some element missing.

    The cast is populated with famous faces from yesterday, a standard practice in all 70's disaster movies. Here we have the incomparable Gig Young, Burgess Meredith, Charles Durning, Richard A. Dysart, Robert Clary (late from "Hogan's Heroes" at this point), future Star Trek actor Rene Auberjonois, and Roy Thinnes. And of course, we have Anne Bancroft and George C. Scott. Scott and Thinnes really do their best, too (look at their confrontation scene when Thinnes' character mentions Scott's dead son!).

    Still, the cast just seems to be shuffling through this one, with little or no true tension generated, other than an emergency repair by some crewmen who must venture out onto the hull of the ship (an act that was accomplished, but never happened on Hindenburg's last trip).

    The end result is somewhat sparse, even strangely emotionless for the most part. Despite the overall blandness in tone, the film is compelling to watch anyway (thanks in large part to the cast and the effects).

    Knowing as we do what will eventually happen at Lakehurst, one cannot help but marvel at the ironic line the Hindenburg's Captain Proust utters several times throughout the course of film. In regards to the United States' bad luck with dirigibles he remarks, "It's no wonder they lose all their airships."

    The ending of the film seems to mystify some viewers today, but it is, in reality, an incredibly artistic, stylish (and daring), choice on the part of director Robert Wise and the producers. Capturing the action in black and white, with actual newsreel footage of the disaster added, and freezing images in place, Wise makes a stunning montage of the disaster and of the cast members as they flee the impending peril. Even though the end result is only partially effective, the montage makes an artistic statement nevertheless, the kind that Hollywood avoids today. With noisy garbage like "XXX" and "Ace Ventura" littering our cineplexes, it's nice to know that at one time in the recent past, there was room in Hollywood for some creative and bold artistry in films! Would that it could become fashionable again!

    An interesting side note here is the night time launch of the Hindenburg. The ship is lit with searchlights that create odd, circular patches of light on the airship's hull. Five years later, Wise directed the critically panned "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". In that film, the Starship Enterprise is lit in a similar fashion, with spotlights on the ship's various insignia that create pools of light from odd angles....more info

  • A lost classic is found
    I never even heard of this movie until I saw it on AMC. What a film.

    ...First of all the movie is not about the Hindenburg disaster. Unlike 'Titanic' it's not about the crash.

    'Hindenburg' is a suspense mystery. Germany learns the Hindenburg will be destroyed before it reaches New Jersy. But instead of canceling the flight, they send it George C. Scott as a spy to find the bomber on board. 'Hindenburg' gives us many interesting suspects.

    I can see why it won for best FX. Back when they used models and super imposing before this computer animation crap. Suprisingly after 2 hours of great FX, they cheap out at the end and go to black and white so they can splice in that famous footage of the crash. Cheesy, bust as I said the movie isn't about the crash.

    It's also interesting to see how we were once on good terms with the Nazis. Yeah we even had the Olympics there.

    If you want a great suspense film with great production quality, this is it. Look else where for big explosions....more info

  • A fine mystery film, not a disaster film, as many thought..
    "The Hindenburg" is an espionage mystery-suspense film. The suspense has to do with the who and why and how rather than the if, because we all know how the story ends. The story was written by Richard Levinson and William Link, the famous creators of Columbo and other detectives. Robert Wise directs, using his soft touch well in this very flammable scenario where a spark from the metal tip on a cane could spell doom for all aboard. The scenes aboard the Hindenburg (most of the film) are interesting in showing how precarious dirigible travel was when flammable hydrogen was used rather than helium. The U.S. had large reserves of helium but would not sell any to Nazi Germany because of its bellicose nature.
    George C. Scott is guarded, playing a German Air Force Colonel (Luftwaffe) assigned to the Hindenburg on its flight to Lindhurst, New Jersey.
    All the actors here are on the ball, Anne Bancroft, Burgess Meredith, Charles Durning. However, Roy Thinnes stands out as a Gestapo agent on board, he avoids all the usual cliches and shows menace without histronics.

    ...more info
  • Engrossing film
    When THE HINDENBURG first was released, I viewed it and was not that impressed. Now, several decades later, I find it much better than my initial impression conveyed. George C. Scott is superb, as are other members of the cast. Although we certainly KNOW the outcome, what will happen to The Hindenburg, somehow the film still manages to have us hanging on every twist in the plot, as if there is still some doubt as to the eventual outcome. That it accomplishes this is no mean feat, and a compliment to both Scott and the film direction. High recommended....more info
  • Formulaic genre film
    This "red-headed step child" of the disaster genre will really only appeal to fans of the formula (like myself, I confess!), conspiracy theorists or aviation history buffs.

    Great stars are wasted in a historical fiction melodrama HEAVY on the fiction. William Atherton turns in the best performance as a Nazi resistance crew member, while everyone else hams it up admirably hoping to duplicate Shelley Winters's success in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE.

    The last 15 minutes, however, are spectacularly well done by director Wise, Editor and the special effects department.

    Unfortunately, Universal missed the opportunity to include any interesting special features related to zeppelin travel, the Hindenberg catastrophe or the important, frenetic history of the time. Shame on them!...more info
  • The DVD transfer often asks reviewers to talk about the DVD, itself, rather than about story-line or acting. Ok. I have had experience in the studio system supervising the transfer of films to tape. Some studios have established a good reputation for their quality transfers, while others simply "dump" product on the market, a practice well known in the VHS format. Universal (THE HINDENBURG) is one of the "guality" studios. That's why I was surprised, and deeply disappointed in this DVD. The opening title sequence is a lovely shot of the Hindenburg flying through the clouds. The film element is loaded with huge scratches and much negative dirt; hardly a "quality" picture element. Throughout, the picture is often grainy, and negative scratches abound. The soundtrack is also very thin, presenting a tin-like quality; again, hardly the rich soundtracks that Universal is known for. I belong to NETFLIX and use the service to preview those films I might want to own later. Unfortunately, due to the poor quality of the transfer, this is one DVD I will pass on owning....more info
  • Utterly Fascinating Film
    I approached "The Hindenburg" with reservations probably because of the way Hollywood has recreated historic tragedies recently, notably "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbor". The tastefulness and sensitivity that this film treats the Hindenburg disater shouldn't have been a surprise when you consider the talent this film employs. Robert Wise was one of our finer directors and I'm sure he had first-hand recollection that wouldn't allow him to exploit the tragedy. Richard Levinson and William Link were reputable screenwriters whose best work is known from fine television work notably "Columbo". Actors of George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft's calibre would only be attracted to top-notch material. What makes the film work is it's detail to characterization. That quality, more than the depiction of the disaster, makes the film resonate. The disaster is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the twentieth century. The makers of the film don't pretend to have the answers. They throw out any number of theories and do offer sabotage as a possible explanation. They don't treat it as gospel, though. The makers assume the intelligence of their audience to have the common sense to draw their own conclusions. I recommend "The Hindenburg" wholeheartedly but I would offer to younger viewers that this isn't absolute history....more info
  • It's a disaster all right
    I know this isn't considered a "great" or even "good" film, but because of my intense interest in the real disaster I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for this 1975 overblown big-budget disaster flick. The real crash, at Lakehurst New Jersey in 1937, ended the era of lighter-than-air travel. Not having seen this movie in many years, I decided to rent it when it appeared on DVD.

    Sad to say, the movie is even worse than I remembered. I'm a big fan of director Robert Wise, special effects guru Albert Whitlock, actor George C. Scott and many of the other people who worked on the picture, but this is a cookbook recipe of How Not To Make A Movie. The tone is far too serious and portentious. Typical of '70s soap opera-y disaster flicks, there are too many characters with too many problems that really aren't problems at all (or at least, not interesting ones). There are many red herrings, and after a while, like with the boy who cried wolf, we stop paying attention. Hacking away a few of these "subplots" would have made the film leaner and more interesting. (You could leave all of Burgess Meredith and Rene Auberjonois' scenes in the cutting room.) In films like these, the supporting actors tend to be either up-and-coming or fading fast, and most of those here are the latter. Anne Bancroft is underused as the Countess--they can't seem to decide whether to give Ritter a love interest or not. Roy Thinnes is as plausible as a Gestapo agent as Brad Pitt is as a friend of the Dali Lama. And it seems to me they tried to give William Atherton a "devilish" quality that falls flat, probably because Atherton, for all his good looks, has all the charisma of buttered bread. The American officials at Lakehurst and Washington are straight from Central Casting--gruff-but-lovable lugs who just want to see the "flying gas kettle" land safely. (Did the film have to mention one more time that the ship was filled with deadly and explosive hydrogen? Did anyone going into the theater *not* already know that?) About the only mildly interesting supporting cast members are the German captains--Richard Dysart as Earnst Lehman and Charles Durning as Max Pruss have a few mildly memorable moments. Also slightly amusing is Robert Clary as a flaky German acrobat, in part because there was indeed such a character on board the real ship, who was initially the prime suspect in the disaster. (He was quickly cleared.)

    Which brings us to George Patton--err, I mean George C. Scott. He seems to be thinking about his golf game most of the time--his performance is phoned in, as were many of his performances after Patton. But what bothers me more is the real spine of the story really doesn't emerge till the move is about 75 percent over. I think the film would have been better if they'd junked most of the silly passenger subplots and concentrated on Ritter being torn between service to and love for his country and the fact that the Nazis are becoming big-time pains in the shorts. As it is, we've long figured out what's going to happen by the time Ritter does, if we're still awake. And by then, it seems neither he nor we care. Oh, and did I mention they make waaaay too much of the Kathie Rauch letter?

    As for the visuals, they are very good for 1975 (The takeoff is particularly effective), though in retrospect one can see obvious mattework and multiple exposures. Notice how whenever there's a process shot at Lakehurst or Frankfurt, we see moving figures in the lower part of the screen and the matte paintings in the upper half, but the two sections never cross--the screen is literally cut in two. Today people and vehicles would freely mingle with objects that aren't really there, such as airships, but that was a lot harder back then. As for those who complain that they chickened out by switching to real footage of the crash in the last moments, recreating something that complex would have been impossible in 1975 (they briefly considered it) as well as incredibly costly and dangerous, and I'm not convinced it could even be done today.

    Some other positives are David Shire's score--beautiful and faintly nostalgic in the airship sections, a bit heavy-handed in the "Nazi" sections. Costumes and sets are very impressive and as far as I can tell accurate down to the last detail. The landing sequence is interesting just to watch how a crew really landed an 800-foot Zep. (If you've been to Friedrichshafen recently and taken a ride on board the new Zeppelin NTs, you'll know how differently these craft handle today.)

    If the visuals are well-done, the presentation is not. This has to be the worst transfer to DVD I've ever seen--was this the best copy Universal had in their vaults, or did they just not look very hard? The picture is scratched and grainy; contrasts are bad, and colors are faded--everyone is a little green in the gills. (Or do the actors just look vaguely ill from being trapped in this turkey?) But there's more. The sound is poorly mixed--the voices are too low, the airship roar too loud. Then at the end the volume of everything suddenly gets very very loud. And despite this being presented in widescreen, and despite my having a widescreen TV, the edges of the credits are slightly cropped.

    There are virtually no extras, not even a trailer. Just a few slates that you can click through containing background info on the production. Given the technical award the film justly won, you'd think they'd include a gallery of production stills at the very least. But it would seem Universal is not too proud or fond of this movie. And it's hard to blame them. Much like the event it portrayed, the picture was a disaster that helped bring about the end of an era--in this case, the era of big-budget, glossy disaster epics. So at least the destruction of the Hindenburg served some good!...more info
  • Beautifully photographed and very well directed!
    I haven't seen the widescreen version of this film yet, but I still love the movie. I had heard of this film, but didn't think anything of it until I saw the end of it on cable one morning. I remember that I was always fond of those old zeppelins, so I decided to rent the movie. Amazing special effects by veteran special effects maker Albert Whitlock that won on of the films two Oscars, beautiful Oscar nominated photography by veteran cinematographer Robert L. Surtees, a beautiful and memorable score by David Shire, and brilliant directing by Citizen Kane editor, Oscar winning director Robert Wise. I hope to have this DVD version of this wonderful film, so that I can see its real splendor....more info
  • A great film
    This has always been one of my all-time favorite films. Yes, I am aware of some liberities taken with the facts surrounding the Hindenburg's last flight (the tear in the skin of the ship's fin, for example - that actually happened to the Graf Zeppelin some years before, not the Hindenburg.) Then again, this film is historical fiction, and should be enjoyed as such. In addition, the Hindenburg flight sequences are stunning, as is the attention to detail throughout the production. A must see!...more info
  • Great movie to watch once
    I loved this the first time that I saw it. It was a suspensful, almost detective-like movie, with George C. Scott trying desperately to figure out who's got the bomb.

    For me, once I had seen it once and knew who the bomber was, it was difficult for me to be fully interested while sitting through it again.

    That said, the special effects were quite good for an old movie like this. It is interesting to see a huge airship in action on the screen. The movie also had a good number of well-established as well as up-and-coming actors. Finally, the explosion scene at the end was interesting. Even though it lasted a while, genuine footage of the original crash in the scene was worth the price of the movie alone. Producer Robert Wise (of "The Sound of Music") has given us another look at incidents of pre-WWII times.

    I wouldn't say that this is historically accurate, though. Most evidence (both in the 1930's as well as in the present day) points to static electricity and the airship's highly flammable outer cover as the culprit. This movie takes the more sensational option of a bomber.

    Still, if you haven't seen this, it's worth your while to watch it once....more info

  • Poor DVD quality, dull film with occasional moments
    First things first: The picture quality on this DVD is horrendous. Although presented in widescreen, the film print is swimming in scratches and dust. The image is often grainy and ugly, with poor contrast, especially during scenes taking place at night. I really expected better from a major DVD releaser like Universal. Anyone who remembers seeing this in a theater back in 1975 will feel very disappointed with this disc.

    As for the film itself, it is another entry in the mid-70s disaster film sweepstakes, although it tries to present itself as more a "whodunit" or espionage mystery; imagine "Murder on the Orient Express" if the trail derailed massively at the finale. George C. Scott, gruff as usual, plays the German Colonel working to determine who onboard the legendary Zeppelin crossing the Atlantic might have a reason for sabotaging the ship. There are plenty of suspects, most of them famous or semi-famous actors (Anne Bancroft, Burgess Meredith, Rene Aberjonois, Charles Durning, William Atherton). Who has the best reason for wanting the Hindenburg to go boom?

    This is a fanciful version of the events leading up to the disaster -- the actual reasons for the event have never been determined -- and I have to credit director Robert Wise for maintaining reasonable suspense in a story whose ending is well-known (the DVD cover itself shows you what happens). But, sadly, "The Hindenburg" is mostly hot air: dull, artificial, and a lot of talk going nowhere, and too typical of the formerly great director Wise ("The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Haunting," "The Sound of Music") in the later phase of his career. Many great characters actors onboard get nothing to do. Burgess Meredith is especially criminally underused. Scott and Bancroft have very little chemistry in their vague relationship, and TV actor Roy Thinnes as the Gestapo agent is laughably bad. The only interesting scene before the big finale is an exciting sequence involving the repair of a damaged fin. David Shire's excellent score really excels here. But otherwise the film is just killing time until the long-anticipated climax.

    And the climax is an incredible let-down, using a special effects cheat that will infuriate a lot of viewers. The effects in the film are excellent up to this point (marred, unfortunately, by the rotten DVD quality), but for the main event, the film cops out on us in a big way, relying on archival footage instead of new effects. A few of the character stories are never wrapped up either, leaving the viewer with an enormously unsatisfied feeling.

    "The Hindenburg" really should only be seen by history nuts and disaster film completists, and they'll be unhappy with poor DVD quality. The casual viewer will be better off with "The Towering Inferno" or "The Poseidon Adventure." (Geez, I just recommended an Irwin Allen film over a Robert Wise film!)...more info

  • George C. Scott is at it again
    A film based on the Hindenburg disaster with all the possiblities portrayed for its destruction included. Contains actual footage of the Hindenburg disaster. Brilliant acting by George C. Scott & Anne Bancroft....more info
  • The hindenburg
    - If All the Guys in the World
    - Torpedo Run - Glenn Ford
    - Interrupted Melody - Glenn Ford, Eleanor Parker
    - S.O.S. Noronha...more info
  • Quite Good Actually
    Yes, the plot was somewhat shallow, not too much excitement, until the very end of course. You were not afforded the opportunity to bond with any of the characters like you do in Titanic. However, this film gives us the opportunity to see and somewhat experience, what it was like to travel during a long gone era in a giant and luxurious airship. The outside views of this giant and majestic flying machine piercing the clouds, flying over icebergs and its arrival in New York city, coupled with the very good stereophonic staccato of the engines are magnificent. The stereo effect of the creaking interior supporting girders worked very well also. Add to this, the fact that the airship dipicted was not a movie maker's dream, but in fact a real flying machine that actually existed in our history and crossed the Atlantic to both North and South America several times. The fact that the Hindenburg did suffer the tragedy, though probably not for the reasons depicted in the film, also adds to the interest. These things coupled together, more than compensate for whatever lack of plot or other types of excitement there was. The insertion of B&W archival film of the actual disaster, with the actual voice of Herbert Morrison of Chicago's WLS into the final scenes worked very well and reaffirmed the reality of this disaster so many years ago. I gave this film 4 stars only because of the shallow plot and characters. I highly recommend it though. I would love to see a Hindenburg film made with 2000 movie technology and a plot "a la Titanic"....more info
  • Authentic-looking film, ok transfer.
    THE HINDENBURG is loosely based on Michael Mooney's book in which he advances his sabotage theory about the destruction of the LZ129. Robert Wise directed this film with an eye to accuarcy of detail -- at least for the airship.

    Accurate details include the bust of Hindenburg aboard the ship, Lehmann's accordian-playing ability, the exitence of Zeppelinheim housing mentioned in passing, designs of the ship's interior and passenger cabins, smoking and dining areas. The vast interior of the ship is well portrayed as is the weighing off. We get a good idea of the scale involved. Some liberties have been taken with facts in order to make the film more dramatic. There was an aluminum-body piano aboard the Hindenburg, but not on its last voyage. There was an in-flight repair made, but on another trip of another airship.

    The film itself looks great with solid performances by its cast. But it falls short of greatness. Perhaps it's the pacing or perhaps it's the script? Nevertheless, this is the single film which has attempted to accurately portray some aspects of passenger travel aboard the Hindenburg. And it does a pretty good job of it.

    The DVD itself has an average transfer. This disk is not 16x9 enhanced -- a pity. The claimed 2.35 widescreen image has been abbreviated to about 2.0 -- witness the cutoffs of a few names in the opening credits on the left and right, the occasional trimming of the airship's tail at the edge of the frame, and the occasional head-crops when people are at opposite ends of the widescreen. The laserdisc release has a wider image -- the Hindenburg needs it!

    The sound mix is generally good but is off in a few places. In some scences of the ship's interior the engine sound is loud enough to almost drown out the dialog -- which is not being shouted. A comparison to the same scenes on laserdisc will reveal that the DVD could use a sound remix.

    Extras are minimal. And where are those weblinks?

    A separate section for David Shire's excellent film score along with the original main title vocals would have been most welcome. Commentary by the director, film crew and/or airship experts would give us some background to what we're seeing on film. I've read that Universal deleted a lot of Hindenburg SFX footage when the film was initialy released in 1975 -- that would have been fun to see. A documentary about airships would have enhanced the disk as well.

    BTW, last year a rocket scientist brought attention again to the fact that the outer covering of the hydrogen-filled LZ129 was doped with a substance that included flamable aluminmum powder --thereby promoting another theory.

    Maybe the next movie team to tackle this subject will contact the AIRSHIP-listserv and get some expert advice.

    Overall, a very good film. And yes, I'd buy the Special Edition if they make one....more info

  • Gripping Final Moments
    This fictionalized account of the real life disaster takes a while to get going, but does deliver some good scenes in the final third of the film. George C. Scott is a Nazi colonel sent aboard the Hindenburg due to threats made about its voyage. He is joined by a cast of familiar actors, including Anne Bancroft as a bitter German countess. As was typical with disaster films of the Seventies, there are several small stories involving the various passengers, but none of them are particularly interesting. I found the set up scenes for the bombing plotline confusing to follow. The film's strength is the terrific set pieces for the Hindenburg and its final thirty minutes. The actual explosion doesn't feature the level of special effects we're used to seeing, but since it combines real footage of the disaster, it made a strong impact on me. By no means a great film, The Hindenburg is salvaged by its final moments and by the audience's knowledge that it really did happen, although perhaps not for the reasons presented in the movie....more info
  • Not Quite A Disaster Masterpiece
    What's interesting about "The Hindenburg" is the theory of sabotage given to a tragedy that shocked human history. Robert Wise handles the idea fairly well. However, I was kind of disappointed to see the scenes of the tragedy mixed together with real footage of the tragedy. I would have loved to have seen more 70's wizardry on that scene.

    I am surprised this movie won an Academy Award for best visual effects, but I have to admit that Albert Whitlock's matte paintings are truly remarkable.

    As for the performances, George C. Scott's performance as a German agent is quite good, in fact he stands out over the rest of the cast.

    All in all, "The Hindenburg" is an average movie. Nothing special....more info