DVD Review: Hogan’s Heroes (The Complete Series)

Will there ever be a TV show as outlandish and successful as Hogan’s Heroes? Could any broadcasting network executive in the 21st Century sign off for a comedy that takes place beneath a Nazi prisoner of war camp? Barely twenty years after the end of World war II when its veterans were in their 40s, arrived a sitcom that sets a grim experience into a hotbed of chuckles without ignoring the mortality of war. Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series holds together a unique accomplishment that didn’t merely get on the air, but lasted 168 episodes.

Stalag Luft 13 is one of the finest of the prisoner of war camps in Nazi Germany. No allied prisoner has successfully escaped its barbed wire perimeter. This achievement ought to be attributed to Camp Commandant Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) and Sgt. Schultz (John Banner). However there’s a reason no POW has escaped. Turns out they can come and go as they please. Colonel Robert E. Hogan (World’s Greatest Dad‘s Bob Crane) and his crew of Allied soldiers are running underground missions out of the camp. Staff Sergeant James Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon) is in charge of communications. Technical Sergeant Andrew Carter (Larry Hovis) is the chemist in charge of various explosives. Corporal Louis LeBeau (Robert Clary) is a chef who works well undercover. Corporal Peter Newkirk (The Family Feud‘s Richard Dawson) is the safe cracker, pick pocket and all around con man. It’s an amazing crack team that can perform a nearly impossible mission in barely half an hour. The key to their missions is that beneath the Stalag is a series of tunnels like the New York subway system that leads to various buildings and out of the camp. Even Hogan’s bunkroom has a few secret devices including a coffeepot that allows him to listen into important meetings in Clink’s office. Where’s the microphone bug in Clink’s office? How about on a photo of a microphone with Hitler himself talking behind. That’s right, Hitler is part of the show as an off camera character.

The War is not completely swept under the rug in pursuit of hi-jinks. Most of Hogan’s missions involve stopping the German war machine. What happens to the Nazis who find themselves disgraced? There are a few comedic ones where the guy just keeps coming back for more humiliation including General Burkhalter (Leon Askin) and Major Hochstetter (Howard Caine) of the SS and Gestapo. But there are times when character get killed off screen. There probably isn’t a sitcom with a higher body count in the history of TV than Hogan’s Heroes unless you count all the people who died in the operating room in M*A*S*H*. Although nobody gets bloodied up. Nothing gets too maudlin with Klink and Schultz in constant fear of being shipped of to the Eastern Front to freeze to death in Stalingrad. This was a completely different world from Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. which was shot next to Stalag 13 on the Desilu backlot.

Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series is a must for fans of the unorthodox series. The sitcom could have easily fallen flat and been canceled after an episode or two. But the show’s most impossible mission was to survive six seasons with a crew that had chemistry far more potent than any bomb mixed up in the underground tunnels. This is a show that you come back to enjoying so many times over the course of a lifetime.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the detail in the production design and costumes. You will see everything. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix is good for hearing Schultz’s great lines. The episodes are subtitled.

Gag Reel (5:28) was cut together by Bob Crane.

Rare home movies of Bob Crane’s wedding to Patricia Crane (Sigrid Valdis) and the set. Patricia proves a commentary.

CBS Promos (0:50) are two ads.

Air Force Now (1:28) is a film that must have been sent out to bases. Hogan and the crew talk of issues facing Air Force members.

Jello/Dream Whip Commercial with Carol Channing (2:21) is brilliant as the Broadway star breaks into the POWE camp to bring them a tasty treat.

The Leslie Uggams Show (2:20) is a sketch with Hogan and the crew.

Air Force Recruitment Spots (2:09) has Bob reminding the kids that they can enlist during the Vietnam War.

Audio Commentaries include Robert Clary on “Art for Hogan’s Sake” and Patricia Crane on “Hogan Gives a Birthday Party.”

The Lucy Show “Lucy & Bob Crane” (2:36) has him drop by the bank. Strange seeing him in a blue suit jacket rather than the bomber jacket.

Bob Crane Radio Material is a variety of interviews with Crane and various cast members.

Photo Gallery contains dozens of shots from the show.

Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series brings together all the joy that was never expected from inside a Nazi POW Camp.

CBS DVD presents Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Series. Starring: Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, Robert Clary, Richard Dawson. Boxset Contents: 168 Episodes on 27 DVDs. Released: March 8, 2016.