Hogan's Heroes: The Sixth & Final Season – DVD Review

DVD available at Amazon.com

Created by:
Albert S. Ruddy & Bernard Fein

Cast:
Bob Crane….Col. Robert E. Hogan
Werner Klemperer….Col. Wilhelm Klink
John Banner…Sgt. Hans Georg Schultz
Robert Clary….Cpl. Louis LeBeau
Richard Dawson….Cpl. Peter Newkirk
Larry Hovis….Sgt. Andrew Carter
Kenneth Washington….Sgt. Richard Baker

Paramount Home Video presents Hogan’s Heroes: The Sixth and Final Season. Twenty four episodes on 4 DVDs. Episodes aired from Sept. 20, 1970 to April 4, 1971. DVD released June 5, 2007.

The Show

While Sgt. Schultz might still see nothing, quite a few people are rejoicing at the sight of this box set escaping the Paramount vaults. Often times many hit TV shows take their sweet time arriving on the video shelf, but we’ve received all six seasons of Hogan’s Heroes in a little over two years. This was an unconventional comedy. Who could predict a sitcom about a band of allied soldiers in a Nazi POW camp would last 168 episodes? Nearly 20 years after World War II, America laughed at the antics of the Gestapo as they became the stooges of the witty Col. Hogan. The evil Germans had no clue of all the tunnels beneath their feet or their tapped phones. Hogan and his crew turned Stalag 13 into a command base for Allied operations.

This is a series that under today’s standards would be chased off a network by the torch and pitchfork crowd. How can you make a comedy involving Nazi troops? How can you make a comedy that features guest stars being mowed down by machine guns? But the show became a hit for its entire run. The ax came down as part of Fred Silverman’s purge of CBS shows that played to the rural viewers. Hogan’s Heroes was dumped from the slate along with Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Hee Haw. What a slaughter. This season of Hogan’s Heroes wasn’t marred by weak scripts and indifferent performances. If you enjoyed season one, you won’t be disappointed by this final season.

There was one casualty among the crew. Ivan Dixon left the show in order to focus on directing. Kenneth Washington came on board, but thankfully the producers didn’t try to pull a Darren switch. Washington played Sgt. Baker, the new radio guy. Although since he’s the new guy in the large ensemble, he doesn’t get that many lines. None of the guys talk about Sgt. Kinchloe. It’s like he never existed. The season’s opening episode, “Cuisine a ‘la Stalag 13” has LeBeau wanting to split the camp in order to join Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces in England. Hogan isn’t sure how he can swap out LeBeau without ruining Klink’s perfect no escape record. What’s confusing is the fact that Hogan figured out someway to swap Kinchloe for Baker. They also have to find a replacement for LeBeau’s chef skills. This leads to nasty meals devastated by Sgt. Carter.

“The Gestapo Takeover” has Col. Klink losing control of the camp to the dreaded Gestapo. Major Strauss plans on embezzling from the camp’s budget. Klink has to turn to Hogan to keep from being shipped off to the Eastern Front. It is amazing when you find yourself feeling slight sympathy for a Nazi officer. Strauss is played by the always creepy Joseph Ruskin. “Lady Chitterly’s Lover” was a two-parter that gave a little cliff hanging action. Sitcom legend Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay on Bewitched) double dips as Col. Crittendon and Sir Charles Chitterly. Turns out the royal wants to sign a letter of surrender to Hitler and be the Benedict Arnold of England. Hogan engineers a switcheroo of Chitterly with Crittendon to foil this ugliness. But to pull off the charade he has to seduce Mrs. Chitterly. Bob Crane was a stud behind barbed wire.

You might be expecting a big spoiler warning when talking about the final episode of a series. But since Hogan’s Heroes was unexpectedly shut down, “Rockets or Romance” isn’t a fond farewell. It’s just another great mission when Hogan and the guys destroying missiles before they’re launched at England. While taking out the rockets, Hogan gets friendly with a female underground agent. It’s only appropriate that this series didn’t try to have a real ending. How much comedy can there be in seeing Klink and Schultz put on trial for war crimes? What would be the point in seeing Hogan and his crew escape since they already ruled Stalag 13? If you want to see the destruction of Stalag 13, watch Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. The disturbing sex and violence epic was the final production to use the P.O.W. camp.

It is a thrill to look upon the video shelf and see all the episodes of Hogan’s Heroes. For many, this is a comfort TV show like a bowl of mac and cheese. Maybe this series is more of a guilty pleasure. How can you resist the charms of Col. Hogan? Who wouldn’t want their bunk beds to reveal a ladder that leads to a secret underground tunnel complex? “I see nothing!” is a mantra that many repeat in their best Sgt. Schultz accent. Who didn’t swear their boss idolized Col. Klink? For a show that came under a lot of heat by critics, it’s still funny after four decades. While season six didn’t wrap it up or answer all the questions, why should it? There was no need to end it like MASH, Cheers or Mary Tyler Moore. This is a show that never ends. You don’t need to know the history of the series to enjoy this historically inaccurate series. Hogan’s Heroes broke the rules of sitcoms by making us laugh at the execution of spies, bombing of bridges and sending Nazis to the Russian front.

The Episodes
This final season episodes included “Cuisine à la Stalag 13,” “The Experts,” “Klink’s Masterpiece,” “Lady Chitterly’s Lover (Two Parter),” “The Gestapo Takeover,” “Kommandant Schultz,” “Eight O’clock and All is Well,” “The Big Record,” “It’s Dynamite,” “Operation Tiger,” “The Big Broadcast,” “The Gypsy,” “The Dropouts,” “Easy Come, Easy Go,” “The Meister Spy,” “That’s No Lady, That’s My Spy,” “To Russia Without Love,” “Klink for the Defense,” “The Kamikazes Are Coming,” “Hogan’s Double Life,” “Look at the Pretty Snowflakes” and “Rockets or Romance.”

The DVD

VIDEO:
The picture is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are clean and sharp. You can almost read the reports on Klink’s desks. The stock footage used for explosions and bomber raids is scratched up.

AUDIO:
The soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono. The mix is off in a few episodes. The laugh track comes off higher than the dialogue track. But there’s no nasty defects in the track.

EXTRAS:
None. Only the second season box set had bonus features. But if you want a Behind the Scenes story, feel free to pick up Auto Focus the biopic about Bob Crane starring Greg Kinnear.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Hogan’s Heroes: The Sixth and Final Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

8
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

0
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)