5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Still works...You'll have a great time!,
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This review is from: Hogan's Heroes: Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Whether it was morally right to set a light hearted comedy in a WW2 German prison camp is, of course, questionable. It's the same question as was asked about 'Dad's Army' in 1968. Making comedic mileage out of times of great hardship, threat and tragedy is always going to raise eyebrows.
However, it's always amusing to see history turned on its head and to see the oppressors bested by the oppressed. It's been done over and over, so it must find audiences.
In UK TV and films we've had Porridge, Dad's Army, 'Ello 'Ello and so on. In the US they had Hogan's Heroes: Of course MASH is somewhat the same kind of premise, conscript doctors dragooned by the Army, which they then outsmart at every opportunity. The US probably had other shows along these same lines that we never saw in Europe. Mel Brooks has made something of a speciality of this strand of comedy with material like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers etc. I think Mel was maybe a writer on Hogan at some stage?
So, Hogan's Heroes. A prison camp in Germany in WW2, run by egomaniac Idiot Colonel Klink (excellently played by the dapper Werner Klemperor). The camp is host to a load of captured allied airmen and soldiers. Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane) is the senior officer among these men.
Due to the lax regime in the camp (exemplified by John Banner's excellent numbskull Sergeant Schultz) the 'captives' build extensive underground facilities that allow them to live in some comfort - for example they have a dry cleaner and a tailor's shop making German uniforms and suits down there! These facilities also allow prisoners to come and go from the camp as they please and assist other prisoners to escape to freedom. Klink's captives are in fact the core cast, and a constantly changing set of downed allied airmen who are en route home. However, Klink's superiors (and, initially at least, Klink himself) are convinced that the camp is escape proof and run with iron discipline. Naturally, the prisoners frequently assist Klink in maintaining this illusion!
So after all this time (made in the late 1960s remember - by Bing Crosby productions, no less) how does it all look now in the 2000s? Well, some of the episodes are still just superb, most are very watchable, a very few are embarrassingly bad. Mostly the comedy still works, it's almost all in colour (good colour too) and the quality is good. This means that kids will watch it without any problem and they will LOVE the visual gags even if they are not initially 100% informed about the premise.
So, yes, well worth reissuing these on DVD. If you remember it from way back, have another look now. If you watch it sympathetically, you'll have a great time.
FOOTNOTE: If you ever get a chance to see the terrific James Garner film "36 Hours" (1964) you will see John Banner (towards the last third of the film) playing almost the same character as Schultz, but not for laughs, this time he's serious. Of course this pre-dated Hogan.