Who would have believed that you could do a situation comedy based on Nazi Germany and a group of POW’s in World War II? It wasn’t an easy sell. When Albert S. Ruddy first came up with the idea, it was a contemporary story about a group of guys in a normal U.S. prison. There were a lot of problems, mostly with the idea of making your main characters criminals. Of course, that’s not so much the problem today. But this was the 1960’s, and those kinds of “heroes” were not quite as accepted. Eventually the concept developed to put the characters in a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany during the World War II. Remember that we were only 20 years removed from the end of the war and the discovery of the concentration camps and all of the horrid images these things evoked in people. Any smart betting man would have given the chance of getting such a series to air at somewhere between zero and Hell freezing over. And when the show was pitched to CBS, that’s exactly what the execs had to say.
Somehow they were convinced enough to do a pilot episode. It was too funny to pass up, even with the more sober circumstances. By the end of that first season Hogan’s Heroes was one of the top rated shows on television. Larry Gelbart often credits the success of Hogan’s Heroes as the precedent that allowed shows like MASH to be sold. Suddenly it was okay to find laughter in such places. The show ran for 6 seasons from 1965 to 1971. The cast would remain completely intact throughout the show’s run. The show would also have to hold off a plagiarism suite from the writers of Stalag 17.
Stalag 13 was run by the incompetent Col. Klink (Klemperer) and his right hand man Shultz (Banner) who never saw a dessert he didn’t like. While Shultz was directly responsible for the prisoners, he really didn’t want to know what they were doing. When asked if he saw or heard something his pat answer would always be “I know nut’ing. I see nut’ing”. Unknown to their German captors, the prisoners have been sent there by Allied Command. They have an intricate system of tunnels and secure communication with the Allies. They can get in and out of the camp with ease. Their missions often involve getting some vital piece of information or smuggling a person or equipment out of Germany.
The ranking Allied officer among the prisoners is Hogan (Crane). He’s the brains behind the outfit. A little debonair with the ladies, Hogan often charms his way out of trouble. He lets Klink think that he keeps getting the better of the boys. To keep the bad management in place they assure that Stalag 13 is the only POW camp that has never had a successful escape. The team also includes British officer Newkirk (Dawson), Frenchman LeBeau (Clary), munitions expert Carter (Hovis) and communications expert Kinch (Dixon). Bob Crane’s real life wife, Patricia, appeared in a recurring role as Hilda, Klink’s secretary who was working for Hogan. They were in the middle of a divorce when he died. Robert Clary was actually kept in a concentration camp during the war, and Klemperer’s family fled Germany in the 1930’s.
The series always maintained a high level of writing owing to the fact that the same five man team remained in place for the entire run of the series. The show boasted some very good acting. Not a single character could be considered a weak link. Often the best laughs occurred when they were actually playing it pretty straight. The show became an international success except in Germany where the portrayal of the German’s as nitwits was severely protested. It was the only country that bought television shows to boycott Hogan’s Heroes. Eventually the series did make it to Germany, but it was rewritten. While the live action film was kept, a new dialog was added that made the show appear more contemporary and removed the bumbling of the Germans somewhat. It has appeared in syndication somewhere for an unbroken 45 years, making it one of the most popular shows in the world.
Each episode of Hogan’s Heroes is presented in its original broadcast full frame format.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track serves the dialog, and that’s really all there is. The theme does tend to sound distorted at times, but this is obviously comparable to other shows this age.
You get the ENTIRE 6 year run. Every episode in a nice looking box. This would make a great gift for Hogan fans on your list.
The episodes are gathered in cardboard sleeves with little protection for the discs. Mine were in good condition when they arrived. I will likely store them some other way long term. Some of the seasons featured extra content, and it’s all included here again. There is a bonus disc that contains the following:
Extended Pilot: It features an intro from the cast of Gilligan’s Island.
Clips From CBS Fall Preview Show Featuring The Cast Of Hogan’s Heroes: (5:34) Back in the 70’s when fall seasons all started around Labor Day, the networks would do a Friday Night preview show the week before the season started. It featured clips and cast members from new and returning shows. This clip features some Hogan action on one of those preview nights.
Clip From Hollywood Palace Featuring The Cast Of Hogan’s Heroes: (4:50) Bing Crosby hosted this variety show. Here the Hogan cast has tunneled out of Stalag 13 and right into the stage of the show. The escaped prisoners are followed by Klink and Shultz.
Richard Dawson Remembers: This is a three part interview with Dawson focusing on The Cast, The Early Days, and Fond Memories. He often goes off on strange tangents that I’m not sure whether they are intentional or not.
Photo Montage: Production photo slide show is accompanied by Bob Crane’s band performing the show’s theme music.
2 Emmy Acceptances (1968/1969) by Werner Klemperer
Digital Version Of Mad Magazine’s Parody – Hockum’s Heroes
A Conversation With Albert S. Ruddy – Co-Creator Of Hogan’s Heroes: (11:56) Ruddy talks about trying to pitch the show and how it was run for the six years it was on the air.
German Version Of The Nutcracker Suite: This is one of those changed episodes that appeared in Germany. You get subtitles and an optional intro with Albert S. Ruddy.
Bob Crane was the subject of a Hollywood murder mystery when he was bludgeoned to death in his hotel room in June of 1978. To this day the killer has never been identified. Richard Dawson and Robert Clary are the only surviving members of the cast. Klemperer and Banner worked together previously on an Alfred Hitchcock episode. Here they play the best “bad guys you ever saw. In fact, “With enemies that that you don’t need any friends”.