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86 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Let's get the difficult bit out of the way first. It's quite expensive. There are extras, including some very interesting interviews with some of the cast. It's a very attractive boxed set and the viewing notes have some fascinating insights.

But would I enjoy it if I hadn't been engrossed in watching it the first time around?

Yes, I think I...
Published on 28 Aug. 2007 by catsatcastle

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why so very expensive?
Yes, this serial was enthralling, outstanding, and I remember looking forward all week to seeing the next episode when it was first broadcast in 1977. (The signature music is haunting, and fitted perfectly with the serious but thrilling theme of the drama!)

I would love to buy these dvd's, but the price prices me out! I would be interested to know why this...
Published on 1 Jun. 2009 by S. Ramsey-Hardy

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86 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 28 Aug. 2007
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Let's get the difficult bit out of the way first. It's quite expensive. There are extras, including some very interesting interviews with some of the cast. It's a very attractive boxed set and the viewing notes have some fascinating insights.

But would I enjoy it if I hadn't been engrossed in watching it the first time around?

Yes, I think I would.

The scripts are excellent with some very compelling running stories, the production values are high for the time, the acting good.

The three series are actually very different and I think it is worth seeing all three of them.

Series 1 introduces Lifeline, a line founded in Belgium by "Yvette" to get RAF fliers back to the UK so they could continue to fight in the war. Yvette and her helpers take huge risks to do this. They use the cover of the Candide, a restaurant, as they do their work. This series has more interaction with the fliers whose existence is crucial to the plot but who are not really part of the story. They come. They go. I liked the human stories.

Series 2 shows a change in the Candide and more involvement with the occupiers.

As someone else has said, this drama spent as much time on the lives of the occupiers as the occupied. It maybe says something that I can remember vividly what happened to Major Brandt but I had not remembered what happened to Monique. There are still some very thrilling stories and mysteries to be solved.

Series 3 - a new direction again, with a natural end with the end of the war, the break down that followed, Special Operations, communists, it's all there still with human stories.

The moral ambiguities of what the characters do under stress are shown.

I found the end very moving but a bit rushed. However, I think it would have been a mistake to try to make another series. It stands up very well. Yes, there are some clunky moments but the sheer force of the narrative drives it through. Also, at this time, there were loads of serial dramas being made and no intention that they would be kept and re-watched. Still, a lot of effort was clearly put into making this as good as it could be and the actors' interviews make it clear that the cast and crew cared about it very much.

Do I think it's the best tv drama ever? No, but on the other hand it has to have been pretty special for me to remember watching it even after all these years and to have really enjoyed watching it again and to have been impressed by it. It is special and I won't be parting with the dvds.

It's not just nostalgia, it is very good television of the kind that may not be made that much now. If anyone were to think about telling this story now, it would probably be a four-part miniseries, no less good for that but different. This programme has time to develop its story but all the same it is not leisurely - you are in the thick of the plot very soon.

If you can manage to, watch it in single episodes, the way it was originally shown. It will be very hard because you will absolutely want to know what happens next.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Wartime Drama at its best, 20 Nov. 2003
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This review is from: Secret Army: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
Drawing its cast from such BBC classics as "Colditz" and "I, Claudius" to name but two, and set in Wartime Belgium; "Secret Army" tells the story of an underground organisation dedicated to helping crashed Allied airmen return to Britain - and the German forces equally dedicated to stopping them! Remarkably it does so in a way that avoids the worst stereotypes. The putative heroes in Lifeline are not all sweetness and light - Albert Foiret (Bernard Hepton), owner of the Cafe Candide often used as the central meeting place by the evasion line, is not above killing in cold blood if his (or Lifeline's) interests are threatened. He is carrying on an affair with one of his waitresses, Monique (Angela Richards) whilst his crippled wife is bedbound upstairs, and Monique wishes her dead. Nor are the Germans potrayed entirely as the evil monsters of most war flicks. Major Brandt (Michael Culver)in charge of the Luftwaffe's forces comes across as an honourable, decent man who tries to treat his captives well whilst still getting them to part with the information he needs. Even the resident Gestapo Officer (Clifford Rose) has an human side - although it rarely slips past his "official" facade. The storylines were kept realistic, with Lifeline and the German forces probably coming in with a score draw. Once the initial episodes have set the scene, all of the key characters are allowed to richly develop, and the tension towards the end of the series as the net closes in on the evaders is masterfully portrayed, as is the historically accurate dislike between the German military forces and their Gestapo colleagues. "Secret Army" is a classic drama series from the BBC school of wobbly sets and solid acting. It is a crying shame that the series is most commonly remembered as the basis for "'Allo 'Allo".
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fond memories rekindled, 13 Jan. 2004
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This review is from: Secret Army: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
I first saw the series, as a child, in the 1970s when originally broadcast. Then, I could not really comprehend my mother's fascination with the series. Now, some 25 years later, fully appraised of my own family's wartime role in Luxembourg (where on a much smaller scale Allied airmen were sent down the line, in circumstances of great danger to both the handlers, safe-houses and airmen themselves), and having heard many stories of bravery, cruelty and betrayal, not dissimilar to those depicted in the series, I can fully appreciate what happened during those horrendous years of terror.
My mother found the series compelling and accurate: she was, during the war, a teenager living on a farm in Luxembourg (the farm being one of the safe houses) and her future brother-in-law one of the handlers who risked his life in the Resistance, and later became a hotelier, rather like Albert! The village churchyard has two R.A.F. headstones to this day: 2 young men who were, unfortunately, not so fortunate. We still lay wreaths every November.
The series is a fine fictional, but based on true accounts, record of a remarkable achievement by Belgian (and Luxembourgeoise) individuals of great courage in the face of adversity and all of us who enjoy our freedom now owe them a debt of gratitude.
The acting is superb, the storylines accurate, chilling and compelling, and this will count as one of the finest of the BBC's productions of the 1970s.
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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten "must see" classic, 22 Mar. 2007
By 
M. J. Littlewood "saintbobby" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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A truly gripping series that you just can't imagine being made in the fast-paced, channel-hopping television world of today. For people - such as myself - who did not see it when originally brodcast but have clear memories of the (truly awful) spoof 'Allo 'Allo, it takes a little time to judge and appreciate secret Army in its own right.

The pacing is sometimes a little slow - especially in the early episodes, but by halfway through series one you will be watching "just one more episode" into the wee small hours.

The charcterisation is simply superb - with the key Nazis portrayed as rounded three dimensional characters rather than just stereotypical and predictable baddies. The ongoing tensions and differences of approach between the Luftwaffe and the Gestapo constitute a quite brilliant sub-plot.

Also, the key figures running the escape line are not the purist of heroes. Not only do they all have personality flaws, but will pursue morally questionable methods in pursuit of their goal.

My only criticism would be that the British airmen are portrayed as being too hapless and boyish - but as their role in the plot is faciltative rather than central, this is a minor negative.

Most satisfying of all are the genuinely unpredictable twists and turns in the plot. Informed guesses by the viewer as to "what happens next?" are often wide of the mark. This contributes enormously to the tension of each installment - especially as each episode tends to end on a downbeat note. You will find yourself holding yuor breath until the final credits roll.

If you have even a cursory interest in the Second World War and/or are a enjoy movies such as the Great Escape, then this is an absolute "must buy". 40+ hours of some of the best drama ever produced by the BBC and probablyt he best £100 I have ever spent on DVDs. Simply glorious.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best series ever made!, 20 Dec. 2003
This review is from: Secret Army: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
I was far from home, working in Indianapolis, IN, when I discovered a tiny public station run by a small local college. They aired an episode of SECRET ARMY every Saturday at 7:00 PM. I was hooked halfway through the first episode. This series had everything: nerve wracking suspense, unexpected turns and twists in the plots, reaistic dialogue, and a memorable lineup of characters played very ably by outstanding actors. I envy you Brits for having the DVD series available! The other big plus to this series is that it showed how life really was under Nazi rule. While several German soldiers are played sympathetically, the series does show that the Nazi machine was ruthless and efficient, and it was run by men who were ruthless and efficient. If you have secondary level children, this is a great educational tool to show them the way it was under nazi occupation.
I found this series rivetting, thought-provoking, and at times troubling. But it really brought home to me how much was at stake when Hitler was making war, and how so much was given by ordinary people who rose to do extraordinary things in order to save the world from naziism. I wish the series were not so under-appreciated by the BBC itself. It deserves praise for being so well done and remaining such a memorable television experience.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly Brilliant, 18 July 2008
By 
E. S. Williams "Liz" (London) - See all my reviews
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I first watched this when it was shown in 1977-79 (Yes to the gentlemen in N Ireland, I am an "older viewer", not a teenager.) It was must-see viewing then and when the third series was showing on a Saturday night, I wouldn't go out until it finished around 9.00pm. Having bought the box set recently I sat through it, only allowing myself 1 or 2 episodes per night although I could have watched for hours. Brilliantly acted, with storylines based on real incidents and very compelling. You don't need to be a WW2 fan to enjoy this - The characterisation is excellent and we have no black and white heroes or villains, just real people in difficult and life threatening circumstance having to make choices every day that they really would rather not.

They don't make programmes like this any more - if they did, people would realise what dross they get shown now.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real gem of a series, 19 April 2006
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P. Hawkins (UK) - See all my reviews
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I was in my teens when this first came out, and I remembered from watching a few episodes that it ws quite good. Now having just finished watching all three series between Christmas and now (April) I have to say that I haven't seen a better drama series since. This is compelling drama, the development of the characters from series to series is just sublime. Coupled with intelligent plots and some really stand out performances from the likes of Bernard Hepton and Clifford Rose, this has really stood the test of time.

I must admit to a tinge of sadness when the credits rolled on the last episode, though I will certainly watch it again it just won't be the same second time round.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret Army - Series One, 19 Nov. 2003
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This review is from: Secret Army: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
I just can't wait until Series 2 is finally released on DVD. I've always remembered Secret Army as one of the best British wartime series ever produced. Sometimes when you take a look at a series 30 years later you can be disappointed, but not with Secret Army, The writing is tight, the direction taut, and the acting superb. I viewed the first 4 episodes in Series 1 on the day I received them. Seeing them for the first time was my 13 year old daughter who was completely captivated by "this wonderful TV drama".
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another marvellous BBC Series., 7 Mar. 2004
By 
Steve (Leeds) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secret Army: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
The 1970's were to television drama series what the 'reality' crap of TV today is-in the sense that they were plentiful, and millions of people watched them. The difference of course is that quality and originality survive the ravages of time.
'I Claudius', 'When the Boat Comes In', 'Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy'... Drama- which is expensive to produce- was then the high point of BBC production, and Secret Army was amongst the best. The scripts were superb; based on real-life events in Belgium during World War Two, they taught many of us an aspect of the war previously uncovered. And the performances were cracking too. The evil Kessler is etched into one's brain, a tremendous performance by Clifford Rose. Jan Francis is equally compelling as Yvette, the organiser of the escape line, and Bernard Hepton is ideal as the bar owner whose cafe is the base for the at times frantic and risky activity of organising the return of Allied airmen to the U.K.
The sound and picture quality is quite good for this vintage, and there's a cracking theme tune by Robert Farnon. It seems even theme music was in a class of its own in the '70's!
Although there are no extras on the discs, there is an excellent, highly informative 38 page booklet with detailed notes on the production. Highly recommended, and roll on Series 2!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Look Back @ a Great 1970s B.B,C. Drama, 23 Jan. 2004
By 
Mrs. Margaret Robb "Book Lover" (Edinburgh Scotland UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secret Army: The Complete First Series [DVD] [1977] (DVD)
Delighted that Secret Army has been re-released I remember being glued to the TV every week. I can't understand why the BBC has not re-released it but DDvideo has done a great job with the packaging and the accompanying book I sit riveted once again Kessler is just as menacing it is a series that has worn well the acting is superb you find yourself in occupied Belguim of the 1940's Please Please let us know when series2 is going to be released it is a series to watch more than once.
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