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Hogan's Heroes: The Complete Third Season

Paramount // Unrated // March 7, 2006
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted March 20, 2006 | E-mail the Author
There's not much to add to a discussion about Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Third Season that wasn't already addressed in this writer's review of season two. If you enjoyed the program's first two years - and were able to get beyond its ludicrous premise - then you'll almost certainly enjoy Season Three, which is more of the same. Those who find the show unfunny, if not outright offensive, need not apply.

And more of the same is exactly what Hogan's Heroes: The Complete Third Season offers. Each week wise-ass POW Col. Hogan (Bob Crane) and co-conspirators Sgt. "Kinch" (Ivan Dixon), Frenchman LeBeau (Robert Clary), Cockney Cpl. Newkirk (Richard Dawson), and dopey American explosives expert Carter (Larry Hovis) plot to steal top secret Nazi plans, blow up nearby munitions factories, and smuggle valuable agents out of Germany. Oblivious to all this is Stalag 13's spineless Kommandant, Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer), and cuddly guard Sgt Shultz (John Banner).

Like many '60s sitcoms, Hogan's Heroes painted itself into a corner from the start building a series around a singularly restrictive premise. It's basically the same show week-after-week, and if anything by its third year Hogan's missions became even more outrageous and implausible - an early third season show has Hogan flying to London to receive orders about D-Day, no less. Though some scripts allude to their captors' growing suspicion that these weekly acts of sabotage, all within a few miles of the P.O.W. camp, are the work of Hogan and his men, they certainly don't put much effort into searching it, where the intricate maze of elaborate tunnels and high-tech surveillance equipment would seem to be easy to find. Then again, to question the plausibility of Hogan's heroes dressing up as Nazi officers and easily fooling real Germans by speaking to them in English with phony German accents is beside the point.

The program's repetition is greatly compensated by the heretofore discussed performances of the show's cast, especially Werner Klemperer's hilariously realized Col. Klink; the actor's timing and gestures are marvelous. From a production standpoint, however, the repetition was getting pretty obvious after five dozen or so variations of the same story: whenever they leave camp, Hogan and his men inevitably wind up on the same 100-foot stretch of backlot road and at the same local pub, all to the greatly overused music cues of Jerry Fielding, Fred Steiner and others.

Curiously, as the show went on, Kinch, LeBeau, Newkirk, and Carter only faded further into the background, partly to beef up screen time for Col. Klink and Sgt. Shultz, far more successful and popular supporting characters, but also to make room for various guest stars and the show's growing list of semi-regular characters. Indeed, almost every episode seemed to feature either Leon Askin's gluttonous General Burkhalter or Howard Caine's exasperated SS Major Hochstetter, neatly contrasting foils for Hogan and especially as a source of comic tension with Col. Klink. Bernard Fox's cliched British twit Col. Crittendon, who made two appearances in Season 1, Nita Talbot's Russian spy Marya, who debuted the previous season, and Kathleen Freeman, as Burkhalter's sister, were by now coming back to Stalag 13 for annual visits.

The line-up of guest stars visiting the POW camp is quite impressive for fans familiar with that era's great character actors. The aforementioned D-Day show alone features Gail Kobe, John Hoyt (another semi-regular), Harold Gould, J. Pat O'Malley, and Ivan Triesault. Other guest players this season include Cliff Osmond, Victoria Vetri, John Doucette, Joyce Jameson, Lloyd Bochner, Woodrow Parfrey, Karl Swenson (playing a character named Karl Svenson), Barbara McNair, Ben Wright, Theodore Marcuse, Antoinette Bower, William Christopher, and Gavin MacLeod. A plurality of third season shows were written by Laurence Marks and directed by Gene Reynolds.

Video & Audio

Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Third Season looks quite good, with strong colors and a sharp image. The episodes are complete and not time-compressed, running 25-26 minutes apiece. The previous seasons' "CBS presents this program in color!" is gone, and around this time Desliu was sold to Paramount, also noted in the credits. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound is clear, but there are no subtitles or alternate language tracks.

Extra Features

After last season's feast of supplements, Year Three reverts to a minimum of extras, beginning with a Photo Gallery this reviewer had great difficulty accessing. (One of which wouldn't open at all.)

Much better is a short but charming appearance by Werner Klemperer on The Pat Sajak Show, with the actor discussing everything from his famous classical conductor father Otto to the theft of Klink's beloved monocle, a memento Klemperer carried around with him for years after the show was cancelled.

Parting Thoughts

Hogan's Heroes is moderately funny though few today will admit to watching it, even though it was extremely popular when it was new. Fans of the series will enjoy this set, others will simply avoid it.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune and Taschen's forthcoming Cinema Nippon. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.

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