Sunday, 31 July 2011

THE HINDENBURG - Whitlock retraces history

I miss the disaster genre as it made such an impact upon me during the 70's - as I'm sure it did for thousands of visual effects fans and no doubt some VFX practitioners as well.  In that decade I'd live for these things and loved 'em all - at least until they turned utterly dire with mind numbingly shoddy FX showcases as METEOR (1979).  I read in an interview that future ILM'er Dennis Muren was keen to get on board the photographic effects teams of EARTHQUAKE and some others in the mid seventies but couldn't get his foot in the door, though in his words, these big effects shows were largely "in house" affairs with "tried and true" veterans controlling the visuals, so it was always more or less, a closed shop.  Well, Dennis finally got his "go" with another little effects film a year later, and would unquestionably be all the better for it.

Well, I rather liked THE HINDENBURG.  Having taken another look at this 1975 epic yesterday I still think it holds up well as an intelligently written, very well edited and directed espionage thriller with a heck of a good pace with not too many wasted moments, and even without the Whitlock effects would still make a great movie.  The film benefits enormously from Nelson Giddings' excellent screenplay which offers a genuinely fascinating take on what may or may not have occurred on that fateful day May 6th 1937.  The Robert Wise helmed show as much a detective thriller as a disaster picture, with the always outstanding George C.Scott perfectly cast opposite the under rated William Atherton and the wonderful Charles Durning, with each of these three key characters being unusually well drawn beyond the normal disaster cliched characters we generally get.

Bill Taylor
Albert Whitlock
As a special effects film THE HINDENBURG, is a treat to behold.  Being a Universal production it came fully loaded with resident movie magician Albert Whitlock and his dedicated team - several of whom were to mark this film as their first film in Whitlock's esteemed workshop.  
Matte cinematographer Bill Taylor (who is credited as William Taylor here) had known Whitlock personally for many years since the mid sixties and was seen by Al as the ideal replacement for career Universal matte cameraman Roswell Hoffman who retired after EARTHQUAKE.  
Syd Dutton also came on board for HINDENBURG - his first film - as Whitlock's assistant and apprentice matte painter.  Dennis Glouner would also join the team shortly afterward as matte and optical cameraman.

THE HINDENBURG would be Whitlock's biggest film. with over 70 mattes and complex blue screen composites required to realistically present the true events as credibly as possible.  Aside from the many matte paintings were several classic Whitlock gags such as moving painted skies, animated shadow overlays across the zeppelin, lightning effects and even a rainbow gag.  I'll outline these as they crop up as best I can below.  The special mechanical effects also played a major part in the film.  MGM veteran Glen Robinson who had just won an Oscar for his excellent miniature work in EARTHQUAKE was in charge of the model construction, with fellow EQ Oscar winner Frank Brendel on physical effects with Andrew Beck.  Veteran visual effects cinematographer Clifford Stine who worked as far back as on the Willis O'Brien KING KONG in the thirties, would take charge of the miniature shoot, as he had done so brilliantly the previous year on EARTHQUAKE (1974).  Both Robinson and Whitlock would be honoured at Oscar time (along with sound editor Peter Berkos) for the effects work on HINDENBURG, and the work was deserving on all counts.

Whitlock wrote of his utmost admiration for director Robert Wise on this (and other projects) as being "the kindest, most appreciative man I've worked for in the whole history of my very long career.  He was understanding of our problems, patient about the delays and tremendously appreciative when we finally - if ever - did come up with something which he felt was good for him."

A note on the imagery here:  my disc is an NTSC region 1 import edition - and an utterly appalling transfer it is at that! Abysmal, grainy, scratches, dirt, colour fluctuations and artifacts galore.  The PAL region 2 Universal edition from Europe is much cleaner and anamorphic, BUT, as with several similar region 2 pressings on this label, the film is severely cropped down from 2.35:1 to 1.77:1 - thus losing alot of the (scope composition in the process.  The John Badham DRACULA (1979) suffered under similar circumstances, and I can't understand why the same company releases different aspect ratio editions of the same film in different territories??  Most of these frames are the 'manky' 2.35:1 American transfer just for the sake of including the full cinemascope frame as intended.

*Many thanks is due to Bill Taylor for answering numerous questions I had on the matte effects.

Albert Whitlock's matte department at Universal.  The top left is either a photo cut-out or a Whitlock oil rendering mounted on glass which would be moved multi-plane style in front of a rear glass painting of sky etc.  Whitlock would resort often to photo cut outs of the miniature Hindenburg as a time saving measure as, in his own words, "repeatedly painting the damned thing from scratch would have been just so tedious".  Just out of interest, on the bottom left picture, Bill Taylor told me recently that the majestic MAN WHO WOULD BE KING painting has vanished and nobody seems to know what happened to it!

The vast internal metal skeleton of the airship - a large glass painting with live action insert in foreground and a second small insert further back with guy climbing ladder.

An example of one of Whitlock's new three dimensional cloud gags, created as I understand it primarily during the making of this film.  Bill Taylor would integrate elements of light coloured smoke shot against black velvet and doubled into composite painting vistas.  Shadow gag effects as clouds passed by the airship cemented the realism of the shots.

A before and after Whitlock composite of the airship on the ground at Frankfurt.

A tremendous effects shot.  Substantial painting with moving truck rotoscoped as it moves across frame.  Bravo!

Another wonderful example of the multi-layered cloud effects and such a beautiful painted sky to boot.

Two early shots - one of Milwaukee 1937 and the other Washington DC - which may (or may not) be Whitlock enhanced shots.  The shot at right was re-used by Spielberg I think in the third INDIANA JONES picture.  Bill has since told me that no, these were not effects shots.

Real hanger with painted airship, sky, people in distance.

Whitlock with original painting before and afters.  The painting itself is incredibly loose and freehand, with no detail whatsoever.  The actual Hindenburg is in fact a photo cut out glued onto the glass.

Another before and after - and not one the audience would ever suspect either.

Liftoff time from Frankfurt, Germany.

Classic Whitlock skies, with foreground laterally drifting cloud element added.

Miniature probably doubled into Whitlock sky.

Syd Dutton's brilliant idea, realised on film.  Whitlock was mulling over just how to represent the lights of Amsterdam as seen through through the clouds from The Hindenburg when new assistant Dutton proposed they try using sugar!  Large granules of confectioners sugar were then laid out on black velvet, carefully arranged in straight lines with a metal ruler and then illuminated.  Albert was overjoyed with this bright idea and the end result is superb with the cloud layer and windows.

Thunderstorm - something that Albert did so well in so many old films, with my favourites being in many westerns such as THE TRAIN ROBBERS, CAHILL U.S MARSHALL, BIG JAKE, THE WAY WEST and many more.

Gorgeous, temperamental skies which show much influence from Peter Ellenshaw to me.

Exquisite multi-layered clouds.
Utterly convincing multi element composite.
Airship and icebergs:  nice shots except that the sea passes under the bergs and doesn't break on the ice.

Zeppelin making good time.  It wasn't all 'peaches and cream' at the effects camera side of things as I found out from Bill Taylor on the subject:  "I was determined to shoot the miniature airship in sunlight; no phoney stage lighting for me!  I experimented with an odd scheme for matting the miniature that I thought would work in daylight that in retrospect sounds 'Fultonesque'.  (In those days a day-lit blue screen was not saturated enough to give a good result.)  I shot the model airship against black velvet, with the sun as the key light.  I filled in the with a row of arc lights with deep blue filters, balanced so that viewed through a blue filter the ship appeared to be flat lit. Black detail like the swastica was painted blue.

My intent was to print a silhouette matte from a  blue positive separation,  which I hoped would have uniform density throughout. Then the foreground detail would go on with the green separation used twice, through blue and green filters, and with the red separation. This of course was a sort of simplified Vlahos color-difference dupe. The highlights and shadows and the red patch around the swastica reproduced normally on the green and red seps.  Don't think anything like this had been tried in color.

Clever scheme, eh?  In practice, a disaster!   The grey airship just soaked up the blue light, and even with arc lamps cheek by jowl, it proved to be impossible to light the shadow side uniformly enough so there were not translucent areas in the matte.  To try to get the sun intensity in balance with the arcs. I had the grips hang a net over the airship.  If there was more than one layer of net, there were beautiful moire patterns cast on the ship.  There was a little wind on the back lot on one day, which ripped the net, and down it came, where the arc lights burned holes in it.

 It was thanks to Al Whitlock's enormous clout at the studio that I got to try this in the first place, and did not get fired as a result!

I began to re-think shooting the miniature against blue screen on the sound stage, which we finally did.  On Universal's biggest stage,stage 12, which was right outside our door, I could back the single key light 200 feet away to get really hard, parallel shadows.  (I loved those old arc lights, which were close to being point sources of light.)   A great big wrap-around diffuser produced shadowless fill and a ground cloth produced the appropriate bounce from land, water or lower clouds.  We dollied the camera on rails which rested on a carefully screeded sand bed, so the camera move was dead smooth"

I'm not entirely sure here, but I suspect the NYC Police Dept was augmented with an upper painting maybe?  So, I asked Bill Taylor on this:  "Only the  building has been worked on (think it's somewhere in DC), to eliminate non-period signage, streetlights, etc. The patches are badly mis-matched, one of several shots I would have given good money to go back on.  Another is the iceberg shot with the giant matte line!  We must have been in a great hurry".
A fine frame by frame example of Whitlock's drifting cloud layers, done with white smoke against black, and then bi-packed (and sometimes tri-packed) using 35mm colour wedges to maintain an opaqueness of certain clouds over zeppelin matte footage for great effect.

"Iceberg...dead ahead"... oops, wrong disaster movie quote. Some of the water is real plate footage while some is fabricated 'painted' water manipulated with a ripple device - an old Whitlock trick used in dozens of films such as SHIP OF FOOLS, MAME and HISTORY OF THE WORLD to name three.

The rescue of Atherton atop zeppelin accomplished with small set and  many mattes.  Skies moving by Whitlock's tried and true soft split screen technique where successive bands of sky are exposed being moved at different speeds according to distance from camera to give illusion of great distance.

The actual set at left, with the Whitlock composite at right.

Note the shadow animation passing over The Hindenburg
The best trick shot in the movie... note how the sun 'wraps' around the tail of the zeppelin as it moves across frame.

A strange one this one - a tilt down rainbow matte shot with what looks almost like the top of the painting/easel visible at top of the frame.

More clouds and atmosphere...

Lakehurst, New Jersey: preparing for the grand arrival.  The Whitlock skies have more than a hint of foreboding.

The mooring mast at Lakehurst - almost all painted.

Hindenburg cruises above New York City, 1937.  Actually a large photo blowup of the city with substantial repainting and touching up by Whitlock.  The airship is a separate rendering on a foreground glass and is moved frame by frame right to left.  Cloud elements also added by bi-pack to compliment the effect.
Subsequent blue screen shot as seen through the windows, with more cloud movement shown.
She appears...with grace and beauty from the Whitlock sky.
Full painting with small live action crowd insert and classic Whitlock sun coming out across the airfield overlay.

A quartet of matte shots which effectively add amazing production value to the impending climax.

A slightly tighter Whitlock shot with more claustrophobic skies setting the scene.

A good quality, though inaccurate aspect ratio frame of one of the previous matte shots.  The region 1 NTSC disc has astonishingly bad colour grading whereas this frame from region 2 PAL disc is crisp and well balanced.

"Welcome to Lakehurst....we're nothing could possibly go   w o r n g " (sic)

Coming in to dock..... the tension rises.  These scenes when intercut with the dramatic narrative going on inside the ship are brilliantly realised by director Robert Wise.

Blue screen shots by Bill Taylor.
The big bang!  George C.Scott's bomb disabling technique wasn't as good as he thought.  A superb sequence with nail biting build up - the actual detonation shot is an amazing optical combination which neatly diffuses colour from the film, leading us into the original black and white newsreel footage climactic set piece.  I was most intrigued by this great effect and asked visual effects cinematographer Bill Taylor about just that:  "George Scott did not want to be hung from wires against a blue screen, and I can't say I blamed him.  So we put him on a bicycle seat, leaning against a tilting rig covered in black velvet.  He  could lean back in some comfort, move his arms and legs freely, and so on.  We lit his highlight side with a white key light, the shadow side with blue light, gave him a blue necktie, blue socks and painted his black shoes blue.  He found this all exceedingly mysterious.  "I don't know what they're doing," he told a visitor, "but it's got something to do with the blue tie and the blue shoes." We zoomed him back with a 20-1 zoom lens.  The background consisted of artwork, pyro elements and a fire extinguisher discharged at the camera.   I knew there would be holes in the matte in the shadows of his jacket and so on, but the thought was to fill in the holes with roto. Everyone liked the quick pre-roto test where the holes in the matte gave more definition to the silhouette.  So we declared victory and moved on to the next shot".
Universal's explosion, which according to Whitlock's article in American Cinematographer: "The explosion was shot in the high reaches of the Universal backlot against a night sky, which served the same purpose as a black velvet backing.  The special effects man made up a bag of explosives which had everything in it, including gasoline.  The problem lay in the fact that you were trying to reproduce an effect on an enormous scale from an explosion that was not more than ten feet across". Whitlock went on to say:.."The scene was shot at five times the normal speed, which is about as far as you can push a camera without risk of a camera jam that would ruin the whole thing [...] so it was necessary to put the scene into an optical printer afterwards and make a three times extension, in other words, each frame printed three times in order to extend the scene and slow down the action by a factor of three".  I asked matte cameraman Bill Taylor about the shot which had perplexed me for decades, and here is what he said;  "The  miniature explosion was shot at 120 FPS, then the highest rate that could be had from a reliably pin-registered camera owned by Universal. Photosonics 4E cameras were available for outside rental that could have gone 360 FPS,  but they were very expensive to rent and somewhat temperamental.  The explosion that Glen and Frank created for us was gigantic, and we were convinced that 120 would be fastenough.  It wasn't.   The slow-down was created by a primitive form of frame blending, a staggered triple exposed series of dissolves from one frame to the next.  There was no need for a roto matte; a luminance mask was easy to get off the explosion.  Of course these days we could interpolate the extra frames digitally.  We also shot a big black cloud explosion in daylight to back up the night explosion, but I don't think the shot ever got far enough for the black smoke to show.

The other elements are: live action foreground with the actors shot on marks in overcast and in backlight to give the illusion that they are lit by the explosion, painted sky and upper portion of the mooring mast, and a retouched still of the miniature mounted on an oversize foreground glass.  The oversize glass was eccentrically pivoted so that the airship would seem to fall from a point within its own mass.  The pivoting action was driven by a lead screw maybe 24" long, which had a pointer attached to the traveller and a scale on the body.  The lead screw was driven in stop motion by a hand crank from a calculated move on a count sheet, a certain number of turns per frame.  By counting turns accurately to reset the pointer, we could repeat the move perfectly.

Attached to the pivoting glass was an animation peg bar.  I can't now remember whether the peg bar was simply out of frame or behind the mattes on the matte camera that were used to make the sky move (also in stop motion).  There were cell overlays on the peg bar (I think there were three overlays) on which Al painted the progressive damage to the envelope.  As the airship fell, we dissolved on the overlays one after another (thus the importance of a repeat move)".

Combination miniatures, matte art, live action, blue screen conflagration effects. The falling man in flames was rotoscoped frame by frame.

Shooting the full scale physical effects for later intercutting with the newsreel footage.

I feel it's essential to include some frame blowups from the original on the spot newsreel account as used in the film, to demonstrate the sheer ferocity and speed of the hydrogen fed inferno....images which are truly heart stopping, even 80 years later.  It's easy to appreciate why Wise decided to forego a visual effects interpretation of the moment and to go with the actual eyewitness account.
The aftermath - invisible matte additions.

Art director Edward Carfagno, director Robert Wise  and George C.Scott with the miniature airship.
Miniature shoot on the Universal stage.
Effects cinematographer Clifford Stine preparing a miniature shot on stage.

The original 25 foot miniature, now on display I believe at the Smithsonian.

A selection of Whitlock before and after frames.

For those interested in disaster movies, I heartily recommend Jim's amazing site dedicated to these great (and sometimes not so great) epics.... well worth the visit.


  1. What a wonderful article, Pete! As well as naval ships, I'm also a big airship fan, and whilst I don't particularly admire 'The Hindenburg' as a film (it's rather ponderous), I do admire Albert Whitlock's visuals enormously, and this is a worthy tribute to his sterling work.

  2. Amazing. Just amazing. I must go back and see this film. I've always loved airship effects in films (I"m crazy about Island at the Top of the World).

  3. Love the bicycle seat gag, from a time when Hollywood had to be inventive, and when there were still acting giants like Scott. What a pale, bloodless CGI thing that town is now. Retreads, remakes and simpering, whiny little beta males like Matt Damon. Disgusting and sad.

  4. It's a shame that this film is underrated by critics. The visual effects are as realistic as they could've been in the 70s. I personally think the film should've also gotten the Oscars for the beautiful cinematography and the very accurate art direction (minus the baby grand piano).

  5. Hi Chris

    Yes, I think the film actually improves with age and my recent re-viewing I found it exciting, well paced espionage thriller with an excellent cast. Oddly, I was never that keen on Robert Surtees' cinematography as it all seemed to have a curious blue-greenish hue. I did think the editing was top notch as was the character interplay between the principals.


  6. Wow! This is so amazing, especially for the time of the movie which was only in 1975! The incredible detail in making this so realisitic....and we just watched it on glorious HD recently, thus making two new fans of the film with my 12 year old son and his friend. I have such a thing for disaster films and this is my favorite of all time! I cannot thank you enough for letting us look "behind the curtain," so to speak! Well done!

  7. BTW, {{SPOILER ALERT!!!!!}}...UH....anyone else laugh out loud at the "Dead/survived" list that listed the dog? Don't worry; it's nothing bad...really!

  8. Great article! I've just watched this for the first time and I'm amazed at the number of effects shots. The cloud layers look a bit ropey now but some shots are totally convincing. Albert Whitlock is a genius. I rented this film based on his work on The Thing. I'm hoping for a blu-ray release now.

  9. Fantastic article - a very interesting and informative piece.

  10. Thanks for that feedback. I do give it my best shot, and even with that a certain well known, though anally retentive web forum chewed me up and spat me out as a 'hack' for getting a couple of dates wrong (by one year!!!) and a typo (a typo...OMG...!) in my big (and very comprehensive) John Fulton career tribute. I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time.

    All the best


  11. Thank you for this amazing article, it's great to see all the different layers for the matte shots. The Hindenburg is one of the movies where almost nothing has been released about the (post-)production. ANd I'm also hoping for a bluray release.

  12. Superb blog.
    Lost count of the number of times I've seen this film but I still enjoy it every time. Whitlock's matte paintings combined with the fx team's visual effects, the cast, the music score all combine to make a quality 'disaster' movie with an unending sense of doom.

  13. Great article! I was just rewatching The Hindenburg and wanted to find some background on Whitlock's work for the movie. Where did you get the stills of Whitlock working on the production? Is there a behind the scenes doc out there for the making of the movie?

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article! No, as far as I know there wasn't any doco on the making of the film - at least not one on the VFX. My material comes from a variety of sourses, some pictures from American Cinematographer, who did a full issue on the film and an article by Whitlock on his effects work. Whitlock's cameraman, Bill Taylor was very helpful and told me a number of stories and technical details not previously published.

      Some of my screengrabs are from the actual DVD (lousy transfer, needing a BluRay treatment some day!) and the grabs of Al are from the wonderful 1981 doco on Whitlock titled Master of Illusion, where we see alot of behind the scenes footage of him at work, mostly doing all the mattes for HISTORY OF THE WORLD.


    2. Interesting, thanks! I need to find that doc and check it out, any idea where it can be found these days? I remember years and years ago seeing footage of him talking to Mel Brooks while they showed dailies of his matte work, dunno if that was part of the same doc as I can't remember what the show was I was watching.


    3. Also, I agree on needing a decent Blu transfer of The Hindenburg, I just ordered the Anchor Bay import from Amazon as from what I've read it's the best we've got for now. I'm surprised at the amount of big-budget pictures such as these that haven't received the HD release they deserve.

    4. Yes, the Mel Brooks dailies was THAT doco and half of the 30 mins covered Mel's HIST OF WORLD matte work and the other half lots of rare Whitlock shots from the Hitchcock films, EARTHQUAKE, DAY OF THE LOCUST, BOUND FOR GLORY and more.
      I taped it live off tv back in '81 and have nearly worn out the vhs from a thousand viewings. It used to be available (at a hefty $ price tag) on some website, I think sold directly by the doco maker (?). It was on YouTube too for a time.


  14. That documentary 'Master of Illusion' was shown a long time ago on Discovery Channel. It was on Youtube back in 2011. If you search for 'albert whitlock' on youtube, there are three segments from some other program about his work, but it is dubbed in German. I read that there was a Hollywood Promotional Making-of Featurette filmed durng the production of the movie titled 'LTA Means Lighter-Than-Air Craft'. Those are short films usually shown on Turner Classic Movies in between features to fill up time. I've never seen it, that should have been included on the DVD. I've searched high and low on Internet, but haven't been able to locate it anywhere. In past recent months, THE HINDENBURG was just shown on TCM, very surprised they didn't show this promo or even the trailer, they have done it for other movies.

    Ted - Buffalo, NY

  15. That documentary 'Master of Illusion' was shown a long time ago on Discovery Channel. It was on Youtube back in 2011. If you search for 'albert whitlock' on youtube, there are three segments from some other program about his work, but it is dubbed in German. I read that there was a Hollywood Promotional Making-of Featurette filmed durng the production of the movie titled 'LTA Means Lighter-Than-Air Craft'. Those are short films usually shown on Turner Classic Movies in between features to fill up time. I've never seen it, that should have been included on the DVD. I've searched high and low on Internet, but haven't been able to locate it anywhere. In past recent months, THE HINDENBURG was just shown on TCM, very surprised they didn't show this promo or even the trailer, they have done it for other movies.

    Ted - Buffalo, NY

    1. Hi Ted

      Yes I'm very familiar with that Whitlock doco and have a pristine 16mm film print as well as my original tape from tv way back in 1981 or so. Fantastic doco.

      I'm ever hopeful the Universal remaster HINDENBURG for BluRay as they did a very nice job with EARTHQUAKE. The Region 1 DVD of HINDENBURG is deplorable. Just plain awful, with the Region 2 edition much better, but cropped in error to 1.85:1 - ommitting a chunk of side action. I'd love to see a doco on the film some day. Here's hoping.


  16. Wonderful article!

    The Blu-Ray was released in Germany just a few days vago. It appears to be a good transfer overall but lacks contrast in some scenes and unfortunately some of the flaws with the mattes become obvious. For example in the fin-repair scene it becomes more obvious the icebergs are paintings and the water is moving underneath them without disturbance. The dark edges of the matte paintings of the airship also become more obvious, as well as the lack of spinning propellers in many scenes (I assume the illusion is that the propellers spin so fast you don't see them). It's also the normal version, so the disaster scene is monochrome. I doubt we'll ever see it in colour.

    Do you know if the explosion scene (the recreation of the initial fire with the mooring mast beside it) was ever shown in colour? The sepia-tinted still in your article is from one of the Whitlock documentaries which seems to show a few seconds more than the film.

    Great visual effects overall but I think they should have researched the Hindenburg's final approach in more detail. Visuals are spot-on but the ship comes in at the wrong direction, drops ballast at the wrong end etc. I saw the model at the Smithsonian a few years ago. Save for a few minor errors, it's one of the best Hindenburg models I've seen.

    As you probably know I made the Hindenburg tribute on YouTube with selected scenes from the film. I'll redo it with the new transfer.


    1. Hi Frank

      I've been hoping this film would make it to BluRay for ages, and I'm delighted to learn that it has.
      As far as I know none of the climactic crash was ever shown in colour, even though the theatre front of house stills were all in colour back when I saw it in 1975. I can't recall the sepia, but I know the shot at the mooring mast you refer to was a superbly executed Whitlock photographic effect that worked a treat.

      All up, a great movie to my mind, very tense and well paced throughout, with excellent work by George C.Scott as well.


    2. Yes, I just read on social media (Facebook) that this was getting an overseas BluRay release. I hope it sees an eventual release here stateside. Looking forward to the updated Hindenburg Tribute on Youtube. If Robert Wise were still with us, then maybe we would be looking at a cleanup transfer of this movie or something on the order of what he did with STAT TREK THE MOTION PICTURE.

    3. Here is a montage of selected matte scenes of the film in HD:

      Unfortunately YouTube seems to compress videos more now so even at 1080p there's some pixelation noticeable.

      Do you have any details about the scene where the nose is on fire? On IMDB someone wrote how the fire went out of control and the full sequence was abandoned but I'm not sure how much of this is true.

  17. Yes, I just read on social media (Facebook) that this was getting an overseas BluRay release. I hope it sees an eventual release here stateside. Looking forward to the updated Hindenburg Tribute on Youtube. If Robert Wise were still with us, then maybe we would be looking at a cleanup transfer of this movie or something on the order of what he did with STAT TREK THE MOTION PICTURE.

    1. It's available as a Region B release, which means it's playable throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand etc. I have it and, aside from some light scratches here and there it looks terrific, especially when compared with the awful DVD editions that came out previously on region 1 (grainy, dirty transfer) and region 2 (nice clean transfer BUT authored in the wrong ratio at approx 1.77:1 instead of scope 2.35:1, with tons cropped off the sides.

      The BluRay finally shows Whitlocks superb Oscar winning matte work to maximum effect. If I can get my blog difficulties sorted I may end up doing a 'Hindenberg redux' blog with all HQ effects shots.


      I'm not sure how the licensing thing works when certain major studio shows get a "rest of the world" release, but not USA??? Strange, but it does happen.

  18. Thank you for your work here. Clifford Stine was my uncle and it's nice to see him recognized.

  19. When I was 12, my parents somehow managed to line up a tour of Universal Studios--just them and me. I vividly remember seeing the hangar, and being told that it was for a movie called "The Hindenburg." I eventually saw the movie, and there was the hangar--but the actual airship was in it! So wait--it was a matte painting?

    For decades, I've questioned my own memory. Did I really see the hangar? Thanks to your article, I finally know the truth: I DID see the real hangar... but the Hindenburg inside it was a brilliant matte merged with the live plate. Thank you for solving this 45-year-old mystery!

  20. Just watched the movie and then stumbled onto this post, how fascinating to see how they made this look so good so long ago!

  21. BTW, NYPD HQ really NYC Municipal Building near NYC City Halj