Releasing to DVD this week, Anchor Bay oversees the historic disaster that summarily ended the sophisticated age of travel that was the zeppelin, Hindenburg.
Filmed as a German mini-series but shot in English, this excursion is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some really good things about this three-hour epic, and there are some really bad things. If you can get around the bad, which could be difficult, you may actually enjoy this one. That and the weird need to open and close the film with 90s pop-rock instead of period music or score to set the tone of the series… That just struck me as odd.
You see, it was shot in English, using actors who did not speak it as their first language or at all, so the subtleties and intonations you would expect in line deliveries is blatantly missing, accompanied by some bad ADR. Almost all of the German cast have problems with this, and the North American actors cast opposite them seem to be having a tough time.
That is except for one actor who seems to give her all in every scene, the Listener’s Lauren Lee Smith. She shines, and looks great in period costume.
Which leads us into the good things, Lauren Lee Smith, the costumes, and the VFX of the Hindenburg herself, not to mention her infamous end. Filmed for 10 million Euros, you can tell that most of it went to securing locations, wardrobe, and to make sure that the zeppelin and her destruction looked photo real.
The plot, such as it is, follows Merten Kroger (Maximillian Simonischek), a zepplin designer and flight enthusiast, who accidentally meets Jennifer van Zandt (Smith) and then upon intercepting a phone call from Jennifer’s father (Stacy Keach), sneaks aboard the Hindenburg (he’s accidentally murdered Jennifer’s would be fiancée) to convey the message. Once aboard he gets mired in a conspiracy involving fuel and war profiteering that has seen an explosive planted somewhere on the zeppelin, for which Kroger is the prime suspect.
Running out of time, he tries to convince Jennifer he’s telling the truth, and they become star-crossed lovers, while we get to know a number of the other passengers… a family of Jews escaping Nazi Germany, a pair of Luftwaffe pilots, a vaudeville entertainer on his way to New York, and some members of the crew. This adds a healthy dose of melodrama to the show, though once again the line delivery is a little stilted.
Then, my other big problem is the crash sequence, the tie in between the set, the outdoor shoot, and the VFX sequence just doesn’t work. Kadelbach does nothing to actually tie them all together, just has actors appearing in one location, and then in the next, safely off the burning wreck… And while we’re mentioning the directing, I realize television shoots quickly, so one cannot always exercise creativity, but there seems to be a decided lack of it altogether, especially compared to the shots of the Hindenburg leaving its hangar, or the traveling shots of the zeppelin.
As mentioned this is a mixed bag. Lauren is great, and I hope she kept that cap she wears, we’ll ask her to bring it with when she comes back to the studio, the VFX are very good, but the line delivery of the non-English speaking actors (through no fault of their own) isn’t so great. So take from that what you will…
If you come across it on VOD or pick up the DVD (available now from Anchor Bay) you may enjoy it, and I know Listener fans will want to hunt it down just to see Lauren!
Let me know what you think!