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The Hindenburg [DVD] [1975]

Release Date:10/27/1998
The Hindenburg (1975), directed by Robert Wise, was one of the first older Universal titles to appear direct from Universal Studios Home Video on DVD -- up until 1998, the studio, unsure of precisely how big the DVD market might become, had allowed most of its back catalog titles to be released under license through Image Entertainment and Good Times. The Hindenburg was also one of the earliest films in the Universal library to appear with bonus supplements on DVD, since neither the Image nor Good Times discs had any extra features. The DVD is a essentially a direct conversion of the letterboxed laserdisc edition, with approximately a 2.35:1 aspect ratio that captures the movie's Panavision theatrical image; the latter is essential, as airships are among the most horizontal visual subjects that it is possible to film, and most of the movie's images involve either the vast internal workings of the vehicle or exterior shots of it making its way across Europe and the Atlantic. There are some subtle digital artifacts in the image (in the shots containing a lot of picture information), such as large numbers of faces in medium-shot, which probably wouldn't show up in a contemporary film-to-video transfer. On a large-screen monitor, these anomalies can prove distracting, especially to viewers who aren't accustomed to such flaws in newer releases. Seeing the movie in its proper aspect ratio is also a mixed blessing, firming up the visual appeal and the value of the special effects and production design, but also reminding viewers of the film's fundamental problems, which consist principally of a ponderous script and a cast (led by George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft) that tries to make even the lightest dialogue seem profound -- all of this weighs the action and suspense down far more than any ballast being carried by the Hindenburg. It is an interesting idea for a movie, and the suspense elements are worked in reasonably well, but the DVD is a reminder of why the whole picture just failed to hang together. The movie has been treated respectfully, with 16 chapters -- adequate, though barely -- in a 125-minute film and a bonus section which includes a fair selection of cast bios (and that of director/producer Wise) along with production notes that try hard to make the movie seem more exciting that it actually is. The Hindenburg might be due for an upgrade with a new transfer, and perhaps an interview or commentary track by Wise; it may not be a perfect movie, or even a terribly good one, but it's a far better film and a far more interesting movie than its "cousin" production, Earthquake. The movie begins automatically on start-up, and the menu must be accessed manually. The triple-layer selection of features is easy to use and to enter or exit, and there are optional French and Spanish language tracks and subtitles. Although the packaging claims a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it seems that the producers cheated just a bit on the letterboxing, cropping the sides of the images very slightly to make the letterboxing less extreme.

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    Ratings & Reviews

    Overall Customer Rating:
    100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (3 out of 3)

    Special Features

    • Production notes
    • Cast & filmmakers' bios
    • Film highlights
    • Web links


    The Hindenburg
    "The German Air Force is not at all what it used to be," says Anne Bancroft's Countess, about 16 minutes into The Hindenburg, pausing and then adding, "But then, nothing is these days." That seems to sum up the ponderous, irony-laden script and plot of Robert Wise's movie, which is posited -- in true post-Watergate fashion -- upon notions of conspiracy and cover-up behind the destruction of the German airship. The movie opens with a handy Universal newsreel that gives a vestpocket history of lighter-than-air flight, and that carries us to 1937 Germany. Colonel Franz Ritter (George C. Scott), a former hero pilot now working for military intelligence, finds himself assigned to the flight of the Hindenburg as chief of security; reports and rumors about the destruction of the zeppelin have circulated both in Germany and America, and the Nazi government takes these very seriously. What Ritter walks in on is a "Grand Hotel" of the air, several dozen passengers and crew whose ranks contain enough red herrings to keep Ritter (and us) jumping through hoops for most of the first half of the film, when we're not watching glorious shots of the zeppelin in flight. The answer to the script's presentation of the plot against the airship,and theidentityof the bomber and his motivations, are actually presented in the first 15 minutes, but there are so many false leads, subplots, and blind alleys put before us that the solution will probably pass by unnoticed. In the meantime, Ritter dances around with his ex-paramour (Bancroft), scheming businessmen (Gig Young), and passengers with skeletons in their closets (Alan Oppenheimer), an entertainer (Robert Clary) with a knack for offending loyal Nazis, several officers and crew with known "political" differences with the Nazi Party, a Gestapo man (Roy Thinnes) who's got an agenda of his own, and two genuine mystery men (Burgess Meredith, Rene Auberjonois) who don't seem to have any reason for traveling on this particular voyage. It's all a little tiring, or would be, if the setting and special effects weren't that interesting, and the cast wasn't so entertaining to watch in these relatively thankless roles. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • George C. Scott
      George C. Scott - Col. Ritter
    • Anne Bancroft
      Anne Bancroft - Countess
    • William Atherton
      William Atherton - Boerth
    • Roy Thinnes
      Roy Thinnes - Vogel
    • Gig Young
      Gig Young - Douglas

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.