What's not funny about Nazi POW camps? If Hogan's Heroes is to be believed, nothing! In fact, judging by the way things go down in this series, life in Stalag 13 wasn't too bad for our group of American prisoners of war, sentenced to serve in the camp under the watchful eye of one Colonel Klink. Sure, he may have been a bit of a curmudgeon sometimes, but there's nary a firing squad, or interrogation chamber in site.
But if you put the merits of this completely bizarre premise aside and through historical accuracy out the window and try really, really hard to forget everything you learned about the horrors of the Nazis and what was done to the prisoners who were crammed into their camps during the second world war, Hogan's Heroes is pretty funny stuff. Shamelessly goofy, utterly predictable, very repetitive and not exactly the definition of high brow or intelligent humor, but still… it's pretty funny stuff.
The basic premise of Hogan's Heroes is a simple one, but it worked, as it provided the writers plenty of opportunity to get the cast of characters into all manner of wacky hi-jinks. Essentially, Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane) leads a group of miscreant American soldiers captured by the Nazis during the second world war. They're tossed into Stalag 13, a prison of war camp, run by Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) and Sergeant Shultz (John Banner).
What the German's fail to realize is that the American's aren't really meant to try to escape the camp, despite how they may talk about it and act when they're around. They are in fact in the camp to act as spies and to send information back to the Allied forces to aid in the war effort. Hogan, along with Newkirk (Richard Dawson), LeBeau (Robert Clary) Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon) and Carter (Larry Hovis) must keep up appearances so that the German's don't catch on to their plan without making too much of an effort to get out of the camp and ruin the intelligence gathering. Thankfully, the German's aren't the most intelligent lot, at least these ones aren't, which makes things a little easier for Hogan and his crew.
The following episodes, comprising the entire first seasons of the show, are contained in this set and are presented in the following order:
Hold The Tiger
Kommandant Of The Year
The Late Inspector General
The Flight Of The Valkyrie
The Prisoner's Prisoner
German Bridge Is Falling Down
Movies Are Your Best Escape
Go Light On The Heavy Water
Top Hat, White Tie And Bomb Sight
Happiness Is A Warm Sergeant
Oil For The Lamps Of Hogan
Reservations are Required
Anchors Aweigh, Men of Stalag 13
Happy Birthday, Adolf
The Gold Rush
It Takes a Thief... Sometimes
The Great Impersonation
The Pizza Parlor
The 43rd, A Moving Story
How To Cook A German Goose By Radar
The Prince from the Phone Company
The Safecracker Suite
I Look Better in Basic Black
Cupid Comes To Stalag 13
The Flame Grows Higher
Request Permission To Escape
Each of the episodes is presented in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio, as it should be. The pilot episode is in black and white, the rest of the episodes are in full color. Overall, the quality of the video in this set is pretty solid. There is some minor print damage noticeable throughout in the form of specks and the occasional scratch but other than that, these all look quite good. The black and white episode looks a tad dark but has nice contrast and a good level of detail noticeable in it. The color episodes are a slightly more mixed bag, in that some episodes look better than others in terms of picture quality and overall clarity. A few spots look a little bit on the soft side and in some scenes the colors are a little more washed out than in other scenes. As a whole, however, the image is perfectly acceptable and the episodes are always very watchable and of decent quality. There aren't any mpeg compression problems, and edge enhancement is mild, though noticeable.
Hogan's Heroes is presented in a fairly nice sounding Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, in its original English language with an English closed captioning option. There are no foreign language subtitles available on any of the episodes in this set. Aside from some really mild background hiss that is present on pretty much each and every one of the episodes, this set sounds good. Music is properly balanced against the dialogue, which is consistently clean, clear, and easy to understand. While this one isn't going to blow you away, it does get the job done without any problems and it sounds better than you'd probably expect a four decade old television series to sound.
Unfortunately, there are no extra features at all on any of kind whatsoever aside from the menus and the chapter selection and quite frankly, they don't count. At least the packaging is nice, and there is a "play all" feature on each of the five DVDs in the set. It's unfortunate that Paramount didn't put any effort into this, especially given Bob Crane's unusual history and the fact that to this day the series still has a very solid following.
While it's rather disappointing that Paramount, once again, couldn't be bothered to put any extra features at all on this set, at least the episodes look and sound pretty decent when you take into account their age. The show, despite it's rather unusual premise, holds up really well and even forty years after the fact remains pretty funny stuff. Taking that all into account, the set comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.