The Hindenburg (1975)


The Hindenburg (1975)I remember catching the end portion of The Hindenburg (1975) before the inevitable explosion, from what I remember at least. I had to take the chance to see it again and understand what was going on in the film. I was only really aware of the incident sadly only a few weeks ago fully whilst watching a documentary on the War of the Worlds hoax  (1938) caused by Orson Welles that happened two years later that saw a nation that had become so used to breaking news bulletins of terrible events such as the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

What the film provides us with is a blend of fact and fiction that built up to the disastrous event as the hydrogen filled passenger airship was about to land in New York in May 1937. Already the secret services in both the United States and Germany knew of a bomb plot, all made possible due to a woman (Kathie Rauch) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who predicts it’s destruction. The F.B.I are powerless to really do anything but investigate the rumour to a point. Whilst in Nazi Germany the ministry for propaganda put Luftwaffe Colonel Franz Ritter (George C. Scott) in charge of the investigation, given all the power that he needs to stop any bomb exploding on the first flight of the season to New York. A man who has grown bitter since he lost his son in the line of duty to a regime he is starting to hate. He takes on the mission to keep his mind busy, where he bumps into an old friend The Countess (Anne Bancroft) who is one of a number of 36 passengers. All of whom are mainly German, or American, all with their own lives to lead, some with their own agendas and deadlines to meet. Ritter has to investigate them all along with the crew who maybe the possible bomber. Making for a less then thrilling first half as the investigation gets under way.

What keeps my attention is the scenes which takes places inside the hollow hydrogen filled structure itself, amazing the sculpture in me to the possibilities, the design and the engineering that went into such aircraft. When the second half gets going we learn who the plotter is, catching a glimpse of only their hands before. We learn the reasons behind the plot as well. It’s just a matter now of getting to the bomb and defusing it in time to save all on-board from a near-certain death.

The climax is a blend of archive and new black and white footage that slows down the events to seem far longer as the aircraft is eaten alive by flames in seconds. Within this time we see our characters run for safety and freedom from the fireball that could kill them. Added to that the radio broadcast of Herb Morrison which captured the events for a nation who had never heard of such things happening on their land in a life-time.

It’s all about the inevitability of the explosion, we know it’s going to go off, we know how it looks. Its filled with espionage, entertainment and love. All of which feels like filler and build up, making it into a film-able event. No longer is the event just a memory and a few minutes of camera but there are faces, building onto the event making it cinematic for an audience.

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2 responses

  1. I can’t watch movies when I know there’s a tragic end coming. I get too emotional. Weird, I know.

    November 11, 2013 at 2:37 am

    • I guess its the build up to something that you don’t want to see, sometimes the inevitable can be avoided… if that makes any sense?

      November 11, 2013 at 6:39 pm

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