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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Paramount Studios presents
Hogan's Heroes: The Complete First Season (1965/1966)

Col. Wilhelm Klink: No one escapes from Stalag 13. Not now, not ever.
Col. Robert Hogan: I keep forgetting that.

- Werner Klemperer, Bob Crane

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: March 24, 2005

Stars: Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Richard Dawson, Larry Hovis, Ivan Dixon, Robert Clary
Other Stars: Leon Askin, Jon Cedar, Bernard Fox, William Christopher, Cynthia Lynn, Sigrid Valdis, Parley Baer, Gavin MacLeod, Hans Conried, J. Pat O'Malley
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 13h:36m:26s
Release Date: March 15, 2005
UPC: 097368752245
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-A-A C-

DVD Review

1965 saw the launch of one of the funniest war comedies ever produced in Hogan's Heroes, which ran on CBS for six seasons and scored an Emmy nomination for Best Comedy Series in its first season. While 1962's McHale's Navy covered the war in the Pacific, Hogan's Heroes is set in the fictional Luftwaffe prisoner of war camp, Stalag 13, which, under the watchful eye and iron fist of camp commandant, Col. Wilhelm Klink (Werner Klemperer), is notorious throughout the Third Reich as Germany's most secure prison camp—there has never been a successful escape attempt. What the Germans fail to realize is that the prisoners aren't even trying, they are using the camp as a command center for their secret war effort, right under the noses of their captors. Even when prisoners are caught "outside the wire," it is almost always a diversion to cover another of their covert activities.

Led by Col. Robert Hogan (Bob Crane), the Allies run their operation using an elaborate underground tunnel network, which houses their communications center and allows the prisoners to move in and out of the camp at will—it even includes ammenities like a sauna, a barbershop, and a manicurist! No mission is beyond their ability, from sabotage to kidnapping, aiding in the escape of other prisoners, helping the resistance, or espionage. Each week, they figure out ways to outwit Klink and the German command with hilarious results.

The casting is brilliant. Crane, who was nominated for two Emmys (Best Actor in a Comedy Series) for the role, carries the manipulating Hogan off with suave style, using charm and psychology to always get his way. One minute flattering, the next dropping subtle hints about someone being sent to the Russian front, Hogan is the brains of the operation. He is aided by Cpl. Peter Newkirk (Family Feud's Richard Dawson), British pilot and master pickpocket who has a number of other tricks up his sleeve; Cpl. Louis LeBeau (Robert Clary), master tailor and chef extraordinaire; Sgt. James Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon—who incidentally was one of the first African-American characters to get prominent treatment in a TV series), who is the level-headed communications specialist; and Sgt. Andrew Carter (Larry Hovis), who is always eager to demolish something—including himself, if only by accident.

While the allies always wind up the heroes, it is the iconic duo of Klemperer (who received five Emmy nominations and two wins over the course of the series for the role) and John Banner as the bumbling, corruptable Sgt. Schultz who make this show what it is. Klemperer's Klink is classic—one minute exalting his greatness as the keeper of the most secure camp in all of Germany, the next succumbing to Hogan's manipulations through platitudes and twisted logic. Banner is an absolute riot as Schultz, always stumbling onto Hogan's plans, yet insistent that he remain ignorant of anything that could jeopardize his position. These two, while on the wrong side, are loveable for their multitude of character faults, and the show just wouldn't be the same without them.

The show was produced at a time when creative writing was at its peak. The episodes are extremely uniform in quality, and there is nary a bad installment across the entire 32-episode set. The characters each get the spotlight, from Crane, Dawson, and Clary in drag to Dixon posing as a prince or Banner impersonating his commandant. The first season also introduces a few recurring characters, including Leon Askin as Klink's nemesis, General Albert Burkhalter; Bernard Fox as Col. Rodney Crittendon; Arlene Martel as underground agent Tiger; Kathleen Freeman as Gertrude Linkmeyer, whose husbands invariably end up on the Russian front; Sigrid Valdis (aka Patricia Olsen, who Crane would divorce his wife to marry) appearing as Gretchen in Top Hat, White Tie and Bomb Sight before taking over the role of Fräulien Hilda in the show's second season, and Jon Cedar as Cpl. Langenscheidt. Also look out for appearances from William Christopher (M*A*S*H) in a pair of episodes, Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) as a Gestapo Major in Hello, Zolle, and Hans Conried as Major Bonacelli in The Pizza Parlor.

Hogan's Heroes is the ultimate fantasy war scenario, and its sheer absurdity should provide a clue that this isn't at all based in reality. The bad guys are invariably idiots, and the good guys always win. The true evils of Hitler's Germany are never mentioned (for which the show has taken criticism over the years), other than the menacing presence of the Gestapo or a quick promotion to the Russian front for German soldiers who dare embarrass their superiors. The show is a comedy, and a fine one at that, which unlike most that have come afterwards, still holds up forty years later.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: For a forty-year-old TV series, this release looks great. Colors are vibrant, black levels solid, and detail is high without being overly sharpened. Grain looks natural, only really standing out during stock footage. There is a bit of minor dust and some light scratches in the source, but overall things are very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Mono audio is excellent, with a nice clear transfer, and little in the way of defects. The sound is fairly full, there is no excess sibilance, and dialogue is easy to understand. No problems here.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Original pilot episode
  2. Original tags
Extras Review: Not much in the way of extras other than the original pilot, which unlike the series proper, is in black and white. The presentation is quite good, and it is nice to have this included. There have been reports that there was a longer version made available through Columbia House.

One thing Paramount has been good about in their TV series is including the original slugs, and Hogan's Heroes is no exception. Each episode opens with the "CBS in color" tag, and the ending has the CBS logo tag.

Also noteable are the five chapter stops per episode, including one immediately following the opening credits. These aren't indexed, but it is nice to have them.

The set comes in a box with five Thinpak cases inside. Each contains an episode synopsis and the original airdate.

There was a mistake on some of the early pressings that had the artwork for discs one and two reversed. Corrected versions are available to customers who received these by calling Paramount customer service at 1-866-627-8201.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

"I see nothink! Nothink!"

Hogan's Heroes remains a brilliantly funny sit-com, despite what the politically correct crowd may say about a comedy set in a POW camp. I loved this show as a kid, and still love it today, and Paramount has given this first season a respectable, if bare bones, release. This is classic television, and highly recommended.

 


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