Fictionalized account of the lives that were lost and those who survived after the German airship Hindenburg crashed in flames just prior to landing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey on May 6, 1937, having just completed its first round trip between Europe and North America. Director Robert Wise delivers a handsome film here, yet humorless, methodical Wise was probably the wrong filmmaker to take on this melodrama. Despite his effective usage of actual newsreel footage that gives the picture its third-act punch, "The Hindenburg" is basically a disaster movie in the sky, recognized on its release as part of the disaster movie cycle popular in the 1970s. But these movies were popular because they were trashy, popcorn entertainments. Wise doesn't stoop to such vulgar lows; he wants his film to be prestigious, a masterpiece, but after spending two arduous hours with the various 'colorful' characters on the guest list, one isn't inclined to be emotionally involved in the who-lived-and-who-died wrap-up. Most of the actors are miscast, anyway, particularly Anne Bancroft as a German Countess (by way of the Bronx) and Joanna Moore as a pregnant Broadway show-person with a Dalmatian (the Hindenburg did have two dogs aboard, but their fates differ from the happy ending given this screen pooch). Charles Durning has a thankless role as the ship's captain, barking commands until the disaster arrives, when he suddenly becomes human and shouts "No!" George C. Scott is effective as a colonel assigned to board the airship as a security officer in response to a bomb threat and Roy Thinnes does a good job as the ship's photographer who may not be what he seems. The cinematography by Robert Surtees is indeed marvelous, but the picture just doesn't deliver the genre thrills or suspense you may be hoping for. Wise mounts the proceedings carefully but without any flair. The idle chit-chat up in the air seems monotonous and pointless, and the only thing to look forward to is the finale, a long time in coming. ** from ****
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A film that chronicles the events of the Hindenburg disaster in which a zeppelin burst into flames.
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April 11, 2019