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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Fourth Season
Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Fourth Season
Paramount // Unrated // August 15, 2006
List Price: $38.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted August 22, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The most notable thing about Hogan's Heroes: The Complete Fourth Season (1968-69) is that there's absolutely nothing notable about it. It's exactly the same show it was when it first aired, and was pretty much the same show when it finally went off the air. It didn't get any better, but then again it didn't get any worse, spiraling into the abyss like so many other sitcoms, though some would argue that Hogan's Heroes started in the abyss so that there was nowhere to go but up.

In any case, where other shows freshened up tired situations with new locales, such as Lucy and Ricky's move from their New York apartment to a house in Connecticut during I Love Lucy's last season, or nurtured characters and developed their back stories (The Dick Van Dyke Show), became increasingly experimental (Green Acres), or shifted direction altogether (M*A*S*H), Hogan's Heroes was a stuck-in-the-sixties sitcom well into 1971, a year when Mary Tyler Moore and All in the Family were shaking up CBS's line-up and Hogan's Heroes had become a dinosaur.

The fact that the Vietnam War had taken a major turn for the worse during Hogan's run must also have struck many as perversely, painfully ironic. On the evening news were daily reports of American soldiers getting their arms and legs blown off while on Hogan's Heroes enthusiastic demolitions expert Carter (Larry Hovis) gleefully talks about explosives as if they were firecrackers. (And, improbably, Hogan's Heroes actually prefer to use firecrackers instead of bullets when creating diversions and such. No point in anyone getting hurt.) In Vietnam, American soldiers are witness to (or in some cases, participants in) unfathomable atrocities, while Col. Hogan (Bob Crane) and co-conspirators Sgt. "Kinch" (Ivan Dixon), Frenchman LeBeau (Robert Clary), Cockney Cpl. Newkirk (Richard Dawson) fight a singularly bloodless campaign against easily fooled Luftwaffe and SS officers that are almost endearing.

Though season three featured an episode about D-Day, thus placing the action sometime after June 1944, the German civilians and soldiers, as well as the POWs, all seem well-fed - no starvation here - and there's no talk about the fire-bombing of Germany. POW Kommandant Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer) and cuddly guard Sgt Shultz (John Banner) aren't concerned that they may be charged with war crimes, nor is Howard Caine's exasperated SS Major Hochstetter rushing off to expedite the Final Solution.

No, it's pretty much a party at Stalag 13 but then again, what else could the show's writers do? End the war and have the Allies and Germans trade places? Turn the show into a Nuremberg trial drama?

No, they were stuck, and since the show was still popular they pretty much adhered to the same formula, week-after-week. One week the Heroes had to blow up nearby munitions factories, the next smuggle valuable agents or top secret plans out of Germany.

Because Banner and Klemperer were the show's most popular supporting characters, the writers pretty much ignored Kinch, Newkirk, LeBeau, and Carter, the one area that might have been developed over the run of the show. Instead, audiences never learn much about this foursome, and though in a few episodes one character would be given a bit more to do than usual, they remained pretty much interchangeable.

Beyond the semi-regular presence of General Burkhalter (Leon Askin), Col. Crittendon (Bernard Fox), and Russian spy Marya (Nita Talbot, very funny ), the great line-up guests stars this season include Gavin MacLeod, Naom Pitlik, Dick Wilson, Ned Glass, Milton Selzer, Richard Erdman, James B. Sikking, John Hoyt, Harold J. Stone, Laurie Mitchell, Jack Riley, Alice Ghostley, Ben Wright, Vito Scotti, and Barbara Babcock.

Video & Audio

Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Fourth Season looks very nice, on par with previous seasons: strong colors, sharp image. The 26 episodes are complete and not time-compressed, running 25-26 minutes apiece. The season is spread over four discs packaged in two slimcases, making the whole shebang the size of a paperback book - not bad. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono sound is clear, but there are no subtitles or alternate language tracks. This time there are no Extra Features.

Parting Thoughts

Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Fourth Season is for fans of the series only; others will be unamused or perhaps even appalled. The performances and production values are still good but fresh ideas are in short supply.

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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