on 21 October 2010
Like most people who have seen this series I am so pleased to see it finally get an official release. Like many I have been stuck with poor copies made from multiple generation VHS recordings that it will be a joy to see it in reasonable quality. I do hope it has been cleaned up a bit and that the BBC haven't cut anything (they seem to have a habit of carving up series for 'copyright reasons').
This is a fantastic series with most escapes and attempts based on real events (though all the names have been changed). The acting and scripts are fantastic with a great balance of emotions from fear and boredom to occasional hilarity. The final episodes are especially moving (even more so if you have seen the Channel 4 series "Escape from Coldtiz" Episode 3, currently available on the channel 4 on demand website, with the glider reconstruction a few years ago and seeing how well it flew with some of those prisoners involved watching ). Tweedle Dum has to be one of the real standout episodes though.
It is also interesting to see how the German guards and commandant are portrayed in a mostly positive manner. Too often drama forgets that many people on all sides of the conflict didn't really agree with what was going on but were caught up as career officers or conscription. The balance of frustrated conscripts, strict discipline, humanity and genuine admiration of the prisoners' ingenuity is very well captured.
UPDATE 15/11/10: Just got the set and watched the first episode. Quality looks pretty clean to me and very good for a 70s production. There is a sticker saying 'remastered' on the outside. Inside there is a glossy booklet and a few black and white cards. The DVDs seem to be subtitled (English only though). All in all looks good.
on 22 September 2010
At last, after years of waiting, this fantastic series from the early 1970s is now available. It's very well written with historical accuracy (from the same stable as that other great series, Secret Army). Character driven, with fine acting from many well known actors of the time, including a notable and moving performance from Michael Bryant, as Wing Commander George Marsh, who feigns (or is it real?) insanity in episode 10 'Tweedledum'. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. Highly recommended.
The cast includes:-
David McCallum (Flight Lt. Simon Carter)
Michael Bryant (Wing Commander George Marsh)
Paul Chapman (Capt. George Brent)
Edward Hardwicke (Capt. Pat Grant)
Jack Hedley (Lt. Col. John Preston)
Richard Heffer (Capt. Tim Downing)
Bernard Hepton (Kommandant)
Hans Meyer (Hauptman Franz Ulmann)
Christopher Neame (Lt. Dick Player)
Peter Penry-Jones (P.O. Peter Muir)
Anthony Valentine (Major Horst Mohn)
Robert Wagner (Flight Lt. Phil Carrington)
Watch out for a young Dennis Waterman as a German Propaganda Ministry man in episode 6. Other familiar faces include Geoffrey Palmer, Michael Gough, Patrick Troughton, Peter Barkworth, Kenneth Griffith, Ronald Lacey, Ray Smith, Willie Rushton et al. The list is almost endless. A veritable Who's Who of acting talent of the time. Peter Penry-Jones is the father of Rupert Penry-Jones(Spooks).
The picture quality of the DVD is perfectly acceptable, if perhaps not quite up to modern day standards. Most studio scenes are video, with filmed inserts in the 'courtyard' etc. In fact, I find that any slight imperfections there may be actually add to the 'period' atmosphere of dark claustrophobia.
On the final disc, there is a short interview, from the early 1970s, with the late Major Pat Reid MBE MC, Colditz escaper and author of 'The Colditz Story' and 'The Latter Days', upon which the TV series was based. Major Reid was consultant to the series and Edward Hardwicke's character, Pat Grant, is based on him. The interviewer is Frank Gillard, himself a famous BBC radio war correspondent during WWII.
Sadly, Edward Hardwicke, a fine actor also well known as Doctor Watson to Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes,died on 16 May 2011.
on 30 October 2010
I have been waiting for this for many many years. I was so obsessed with this when i was a child in the 1970's that i tried to dig a tunnel from my parents garden shed under a wall & escape into a neighbours garden! I took me days & was never completed but gave me a very small insite into the effort needed for such a feat. Even if the guards on duty were my parents..
Well i am now in my 40's & have been to Colditz castle for real. It is a truly stunning place sitting high above the small weaving town. That now famous view of the battlements is just as powerfull as i thought it would be.
This series was a real landmark for the BBC & it's viewers. It was a starkly accurate portrail of life within the POW camp. They even had Major PR Reid, a survivor of the castle, on board as technical adviser.
Well done BBC for getting round to releasing this, albeit 30 years to late
on 17 November 2010
Having endured bad vhs dubs of this series for years, it is simply wonderful to get an official BBC DVD release. With apologies for the cliché - they simply don't make TV like this anymore. The many characters depicted throughtout the 26 episodes are rounded, believable and played by an astonishing array of talent. One reviewer states that Coldiz comes across like Greyfriars school rather than a POW camp and is full of overgrown school boys. Yes there is some banality and frivolity amongst the prisoners at times and the nature of the real life escapes can appear a little "Boys Own", but if you have read any of the books about the real castle, every escape depicted on screen is based on an actual event. The individual episodes do vary in terms of mood, some are adventure tales, a couple are mildly comedic and others are essentially set in a single room featuring only a few cast members. The benefit of having different directors for most of the episodes created a wonderfully diverse set of stories and although there is continuity and a beginning, middle and end to the whole saga, they can be watched out of sequence quite effectively.
The stand out episodes: Lord Didn't it Rain, Tweedledum, Ghosts, The Gambler and Odd Man In (for example) are anything but "Boys Own" in terms of story and really delve into the psychology of being a prisoner and indeed war in general, looking at claustrophobia, mental breakdown, desperation and even death. Many of the cast are in nearly every episode and on first glance David McCallum, Bernard Hepton and Jack Hedley's characters are outwardly the same at the end of the series as at the outset, but look closely and the subtle character changes are there.
Well done BBC
on 19 August 2014
Having watched the original series I can now allow the memories to come back again. Dramas at this time were full of well-known and up and coming actors. You will either know them or also their off-spring in various guises throughout! As this came from the same stable as Secret Army I knew I wouldn't be disappointed and I wasn't. With the quality of my Blu-ray player and my SMART TV all I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised at the picture quality I was able to view. So much is done to the image through pre-processing these days I can't vouch for how it will display on your equipment! I was extremely happy with mine anyway.
To produce such quality period drama now is too expensive most of the time. I love this period and at the time more equipment, costumes and vehicles of the period existed. It also has to be remembered that these were made at a time of strikes and power cuts in the 1970's! What this series also brought back was my having had the "Escape From Colditz Action Man Set". I spent many hours making additional forged papers and accessories to compliment it! I always did prefer the German uniform though.
I have already watched the series once, but I know I shall continue to do so again in the future! Recommended.
on 8 February 2013
One of the finest things about this series is the portrayl of the Germans. In fact, because the Germans are depicted so sympathetically, Colditz becomes a very powerful anti-war drama (particularly when you remember that many of the characters and story lines are based upon the memories of actual prisoners and guards). One of the highlights is the interaction between the German and British commanders (Bernard Hepton is outstanding): two intelligent, educated, civilized human beings who retain their old-world, chivalrous standards of behaviour in a war that is destroying European civilization.
Within this series there is a masterpiece of an episode to watch out for; it is called Tweedledum and is about a British POW's descent into madness. Brace yourself before you watch it. The scene in which a German guard, usually stiff and brutal, is overcome with pity for the agony of the prisoner and cannot help hugging him is one the most moving things I have ever seen in a TV drama (made this full grown man almost tearful).
on 24 May 2013
The title for this review says it all, because there is no word that can describe this 70s TV gem with more honesty. It is simply superb in every way, as is the DVD package that brings this back to life for your plasma.
With a host of the very best actors from the Golden Age of British television, and excellently scripted stories and interactions between allies and Germans, 'Colditz' makes for unmissable entertainment.
The DVD package is also brilliantly done. picture quality is crystal-clear; it is hard to believe this series was shot so long ago and, I imagine, left on a shelf somewhere while the Beeb obstinately refused to release it, for whatever reason. The CD collection comes in a beautiful box set with a few extras that will sit in pride of place o anyone's bookshelf.
This is a series of impeccable quality and at about 20 quid it's a steal. I am so glad this was released!
on 3 January 2011
Having visited Colditz 18 months ago and seen some of the episodes on 'Yesterday' I went for the boxed set.
Yes,of course, we know it was filmed in Stirling due to the Cold War, and there were four Commandants, not one. But the performances of Bernard Hepton, Hans Meyer Anthony Valentine, Jack Hedley, David McCallum, Robert Wagner, Edward Hardwicke 'et al' were brilliant; backed up by powerful script writing Absolutely timeless. Went and ordered 'Secret Army'.
on 28 October 2010
To echo the sentiment of at least one of the other reviewers to date, YEEEEEESSSSS!! At last!!
For anyone interested in World War II films and TV drama, this really is not to be missed and is a real treat awaiting for first time viewers. I watched every episode of the original BBC series in the 1970s, many during my A-level year when TV was otherwise out-of-bounds, and was riveted by it.
Many but not all of the episodes are based on the narrative of Pat Reid's trilogy, `The Colditz Story', The Latter Days of Colditz' and `Colditz: The Full Story', and do full justice to the original stories. The character of Pat Reid is shown as `Pat Grant' played by Edward Hardwicke in the series.
The series benefited greatly from a very strong cast which included David McCallum, Jack Hedley, Christopher Neame (a regular in `Secret Army'), Robert Wagner, Richard Heffer and Edward Hardwicke as some of a long list of POWs and, most notably, Bernard Hepton (Kommandant) and Anthony Valentine (Major Mohn) as two of many Germans cast for the series. Hepton is particularly outstanding in his portrayal of a well-rounded German character and, for the most part, the Germans are treated very fairly. The scripts allow the characters to breathe, show very many and mixed emotions and act like real people, often in situations quite mundane and unrelated to escaping.
My only, very slight, criticism is that the first real-life British escape from Colditz, made by Airey Neave and company in 1942 (recounted by Neave in his book 'They Have Their Exits'), was not, from memory, included in or alluded to in the action portrayed in the series. But, in the context of this review, a minor criticism.
The quality of the recording is excellent for a 1970s product and, as far as I can recall, all episodes are included and complete.
For World War II devotees, a definite BUY.
on 6 April 2013
I have been watching this on Yesterday having not bothered with it when it was originally on BBC. It is showing it's age and most of the sets are obviously studios but I was so impressed with it on Yesterday that we have started watching it over again. Even though it is dated it was when the BBC produced some good programmes unlike now when we are inundated with cooking, antiques, game shows, soaps, repeats and celebrities making prats of themselves. The latest being sewing. The BBC have lost their way in my opinion and seem unable to produce good entertainment, seeming to prefer to leave it to the Commercial channels who still seem able to produce good entertainment at times. Perhaps if the BBC spent more on good performers and less on huge salaries we would get some value for our license fee.