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Film / Zeppelin

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Zeppelin is a 1971 British World War I action-drama directed by √Čtienne P√©rier in Panavision and Technicolor. The film stars Michael York, Elke Sommer and Anton Diffring.

The outbreak of World War I places Scots officer Geoffrey Richter-Douglas in an uncomfortable position. Although his allegiance is to Britain, his mother was from an aristocratic Bavarian family, and he spent his summers in Germany as a child. When Geoffrey is approached by a German spy who offers him a chance to defect, he reports the incident to his superiors, but instead of arresting the spy they suggest that he accept her offer—and become an Allied agent. In Germany, among old friends, Geoffrey discovers that loyalty is more complicated than he expected, especially when he finds himself aboard the maiden voyage of a powerful new prototype Zeppelin, headed for Scotland on a secret mission that could decide the outcome of the war.


  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: The climactic raid and subsequent race to try to reach German lines sees most of the German characters dead and the zeppelin crashing and blowing up. The only survivors are Richter-Douglas, his Love Interest, and her father (the designer of the zeppelin).
  • Conflicting Loyalties: Geoffrey does his best to fulfil his mission, but finds it increasingly difficult and ends up shooting down a British fighter that's attacking the zeppelin. He's quite relieved when the zeppelin crashes in neutral territory because it means he'll be interned for the rest of the war.
  • Cool Airship: A secret mission is undertaken by a Prussian Germany prototype zeppelin, the "LZ36", to sneak an assault team into Britain and steal or destroy various historical documents, such as the Magna Carta. The plan goes bust partially thanks to The Hero, a mole sent by the British to infiltrate the team.
  • Dread Zeppelin: The zeppelin (and with them ''LZ36") are played as perfect weapons of terror because they can carry a lot of bombs (or men) to the area of operations, they can mobilize virtually undetected at night, and they fly so high that airplanes of the era cannot get to them (their machine gun fire can, but bullets alone don't do enough damage, hence why a tiny sub-plot is the development of incendiary bullets to make them true zeppelin-killers). Of course, when the element of surprise is gone, the zeppelin has a few problems — namely, being a very slow vehicle trapped behind enemy lines.
  • Fake Defector: Geoffrey Richter-Douglas, a Scotsman of German descent, is a lieutenant in the British Army. He meets Stephanie, a German spy to whom he is attracted. She suggests that he escape to Germany, where the other members of his family and his friends are. He reports this contact to his commanding officer, Captain Whitney, who also wants Geoffrey to go to Germany, but on a secret mission to steal the plans of the LZ36, a new type of Zeppelin under development at Friedrichshafen. Geoffrey pretends to be a deserter and travels to Germany, even getting shot in the arm by fellow British agents to sell the Germans the ruse.
  • Kill It with Fire: A subplot involves the British racing to develop an incendiary bullet that will enable Britsh soldiers armed with regular rifles to shoot down zeppelins.
  • Last Breath Bullet: During the raid on Scotland, Geoffrey is able to slip away and contact a British guard post who are naturally skeptical, until German commandos burst into the bunker and shoot everyone. As he's about to leave the bunker, the hero is wounded by a dying British solder who is now convinced he's a German spy.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: A politician is angrily slamming a prototype incendiary bullet on the table, saying they don't have three months to wait until these bullet have been perfected while Britain is being attacked by German zeppelins, when a general points out that the bullets are rather unstable. The politician then tosses the bullet aside, making the general wince.
  • Spanner in the Works: The climactic raid on British soil goes to hell partially because the doors to the document vaults are too strong for the Germans to bust open - by the time they have made enough headway to try to toss something small like a grenade in the vaults, the alarm has been raised and the subsequent Blast Out with the guards sees many characters dead.
  • Staged Shooting: Geoffrey is boarding a boat so he can be smuggled to Germany when a sniper gives him Only a Flesh Wound so his cover will be more convincing. Apparently he hadn't been informed of this aspect of the plan.
  • Trust Password: Once in Germany, Geoffrey goes into a tailor shop and asks for "blue bunting". The tailor doesn't know what he's talking about. In some confusion he leaves, then abruptly re-enters the shop and says, "Bunting blue!" The tailor snaps back in English, "It's about time; I've been waiting for you for weeks!"
  • Vehicle Title / One-Word Title: Zeppelin.