Hindenburg (1975): All-Star Disaster Movie

Robert Wise’s lavishly produced but emotionally vacuous movie is nominally set in 1937, but it reflects the zeitgeist of the mid-1970s, when it was made, specifically the cynicism and irony of the post-Watergate era.

The movie begins with newsreel footage before switching to Germany of 1937.  George C. Scott, fresh off from his Best Actor for “Patton,” plays Colonel Franz Ritter, a former hero pilot now working for military intelligence, assigned to the flight of the Hindenburg as chief of security.

The Nazis are concerned about reports about the destruction of the zeppelin, which have spread in Germany and America.

The plot against the airship, the crash of the German dirigible in New Jersey, and the identity of the bomber-saboteur are implied in the first reel, but there are enough subplots and characters to keep us engaged—for a while.

The melodramatic (truly soap opera) tale centers on a group of passengers and crew members.  Among them Ritter’s former mistress (Anne Bancroft), a Countess, who’s given one of the best lines: “The German Air Force is not at all what it used to be. But then, nothing is these days.”

Then there are a scheming businessmen (Gig Young), an entertainer (Robert Clary) who offends loyal Nazis, a Gestapo man (Roy Thinnes) with an agenda of his own, and two mysterious men (Burgess Meredith, Rene Auberjonois).

The setting and the Oscar-winning special effects are consistently intriguing.

 

Oscar Nominations: 3

Cinematography: Robert Surtees

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Edward Carfagno; Frank McKelvy

Sound: Leonard Peterson, John A. Bolger Jr., John Mack, Don K. Sharpless

Oscar Awards: 2 (noncompetitive)

Special Achievement Oscar for Sound Effects

Special Achievement Oscar for Visual Effects

Oscar Context

Barry Lyndon won the Cinematography and Art Direction Oscars.

Jaws received the Sound Award.

Credits

MPAA: PG

Running time: 126 minutes.