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4.8 out of 5 stars
99
4.8 out of 5 stars
Secret Army - The Complete BBC Series 1, 2 & 3 [DVD]
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on 19 March 2016
Superb. It's a pity they seem to have lost the will to make dramas like this today. The quality and attention to detail is first class.
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on 23 July 2017
THROUGHLY ENJOYED IT
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on 21 October 2017
Delivered as promised in good time.No problems at all.
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on 30 July 2015
If you are always complaining there's nothing worth watching on TV, and you wonder what you're paying your BBC licence fee for, this DVD collection might just remind you what good value the fee once was. Unlike me, my wife didn't watch the series when it was originally shown on TV (she was only 6!) but she can't believe how good it is, bearing in mind it's almost 40 years old. The gripping story lines and excellent acting make for compulsive viewing. This was a big series in its day - there was even a section of the Imperial War Museum dedicated to it at the time. Once you've adjusting to the pace of the programme (there's no fancy camera work and not any incidental music - not until the second series at least) you find yourself being totally absorbed by the tales that unfold. It does take the first 2 or 3 episodes to really start to get into it but after that, we were hooked! If you like watching the old war films like 'Where Eagles Dare', full of surprises and twists and turns, you'll almost certainly love this series.
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on 31 July 2013
Secret army is a brilliantly acted and directed drama series. I was too young for secret army the first time it came around but watched it on Sky TV when they ran the series again. I later bought this DVD set as i had missed a few episodes and wanted to watch them over and over again. You just never get bored of it. I hope you have plenty of time on your hands to watch the series because i don't get as much as i used to - worse luck.
This DVD set contains every episode so you can watch the series all the way through.
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on 28 December 2013
John D Collins, one of the silly RAF men from Allo Allo, did panto at the Hackney Empire in 1997, giving me the chance to ask him if anyone from the silly French Resistance spoof had also been in the very serious drama that inspired it. He replied that he himself had; 'I was the Belgian police prefect in Series Two. Gerry Giaister was very angry about Allo Allo because it meant that Secret Army would never get repeated, and he wouldn't get any repeat fees'.

I'm sceptical to this day that that was the only reason for his annoyance; Allo Allo is light-as-air, seen-one-seen-the-lot twaddle, trotting out the same gags, same situations, week in week out, and parodying pretty much everything it can out of Secret Army. Charges of artistic turpitude would surely be rebutted with high-flown reasons of 'it is always all right', but the relentless lampoonery is not kind.

But imagine Allo Allo this way: Turn Herr Flick's fetishistic campness down a shade and let him really kill people whenever he likes with absolutely no comeback. Change Rene's name to Albert Foiret, make him, on the one hand, genuinely in danger of torture and death but almost nervelessly brave, and on the other perfectly capable of killing in cold blood, taking human life with no more thought than he'd give to wringing the neck of a chicken - and make him, on the quiet, extremely mean.

And Michelle of the Resistance; just consider her 'Pay attention, I shall say zis urnly wurnce' catchphrase, what if they are the words of a courageous patriot on which someone's life may depend?

From all this you may gather that one thing that Secret Army isn't is funny, in fact the first series takes itself so seriously that real veterans of the Resistance asked 'Where are the laughs? We laughed all the time'. It may become more inclined to smile after this, but the surrounding darkness is undiminished.

The story is of 'Lifeline', a Belgian-run resistance group dedicated to repatriating airmen (typically RAF) before the Germans catch them. While it doesn't aspire to taking on the full force of the Wehrmacht - in fact it would very much prefer to have no contact whatever with Germans - Lifelines work is important, and highly dangerous for all involved, and while the Luftwaffe Polizei are formidable opponents, the SS are considerably nastier, and seem to have finely rehearsed each nuance of calculated villainy 'And zen you snatch der cigarette from his mouth, and hit him in the face...'

It is very finely acted throughout, with Bernard Hepton, Angela Richards, Juliet Hammond-Hill and (in the first series) Jan Francis sharing centre stage as Lifeline, with Valentine Dyall lending medical support as Dr Keldermans*, and Ron Pember bringing food and providing shelter as farmer, Alain Muny.

On the side of evil (and this is not just political partisan cudgel-bearing - they are not just 'reactionary' or 'right wing', Nazism *is* evil) Clifford Rose in the once-in-a-lifetime-if-you're very-lucky role of Ludvig Kessler - ideological Nazi, and model of cold Teutonic efficiency. So much power should never be given to anybody, least of all Kessler.

He's supported, at least most of the time, by the Luftwaffe Polizei's Major Brandt (Michael Culver), who dislikes his methods, and gets better results from prisoners by being nice to them. Brandt takes his own life at the end of Series Two, and is replaced by Major Reinhardt (Terrence Hardiman) for Series Three.

The good guys are even more divided; the Communists being particularly keen to take over Lifeline for themselves, and the British Secret Service are by no means trusted - although they're generally impressive. Stephen Yardley plays sneaky Communist interloper, Max Brocard in Series Two, while Christopher Neame is daring spook, Curtis, in Series One, and Paul Shelley, Major Nick Bradley in Series Three.

One of Bradley's finest japes is to dispatch a man following Natalie by luring him to a factory, killing him with his bare hands, and hiding the body in a massive empty silo - won't be found til the place is pulled down! Curtis's final flight from Belgium is a stylish tour d'impudence, and Max's interrogation of a supposed double agent by means of chaining a weight to his feet and then drowning him in a canal lock is expressively sadistic.

Visually, the series does an excellent job of de-glamourising war. Unlike Colditz (also by Mr Glaister) this is not an extension of boarding school high jinks, nor is it Johnny Bull sporting his fives against the beastly Bosch, flying the flag, doing the right thing, playing a straight bat and the White Man. There are no brave forlorn hopes, glorious cavalry charges, daring climbs up the side of perilous crags. Quite often it's just a shabby looking little man with a droopy moustache, a revolver in his pocket, and no sense of compunction whatsoever, not just in killing Germans, but any of his own countrymen that might know too much, fall into Nazi hands, and talk - and the Germans will ensure that they do talk - that's a given. One of the most shocking aspects of this story is the absolute necessity to kill people on your own side.

The desired impression is that all the location stuff is filmed in Belgium, but the reality is that unless you recognise it as Brussels (the exterior of the Candide restaurant is a real one on the Grand Place, and presumably also quite expensive!) countryside may well be East Anglia, though Southall Gasworks features at one point, as does the Borough Market. Bradley gets killed on some stone steps that are actually on the side of London Bridge (built in 1973!).

There are some notable cameos: Paul Copley, Ian McCulloch, Peter Barkworth (dies well), Duncan Lamont, Stephen Chase, Prentis Hancock (kills well), Maurice Denham, Davyd Harries and Ralph Bates, though generally there are relatively few 'names' for a TV series of its time.

I think the most important aspect is that much of this happened - Gerald Glaister wasn't making it up - from the old man smuggling people in the specially adapted sidecar of his motorbike, to Kessler inviting all of his informants to a garden party, and then having a file of prisoners shot in front of them all - one of the very great strengths of Secret Army is that it shows just how very difficult it can be to do the right thing, and how easy to do the wrong one. It is very good television indeed.

(Incidentally, John D Collins was not the only Secret Army actor to go on to Allo Allo; others include Richard Marner, Hillary Minster and Guy Siner)

*Kessler, if you try to torture the Black Guardian, bad things will happen to you.
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on 29 March 2013
I first saw this in the 70s when it came out.It was brilliant then.It still is. I have only watched a few episodes so far so can't comment on the remaining 20 hours of dvd viewing but it will surely live up to my expectations.
This is a grim tale.This is what it must have been like for ordinary people who found themselves in such terrifying and extraordinary situations.There is nothing triumphalist about these stories No macho posturing.Just terror and raw courage.
You feel for these characters as the story develops.The fear.pain, moral dilemmas.betrayals and deadly mistakes are all there Each episode is beautifully acted.
It is also good to see many Germans as ordinary decent people just doing their job.These Germans also hate and fear the gestapo officer who is a ruthless,efficient and superbly portrayed example of Nazi efficiency. A part played quietly and with none of the histrionics one often sees in modern film and TV villains. And then there are the collaborators ......
One of the best television series ever to be aired
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on 22 April 2017
I remember seeing a couple of Episodes of this when they were shown in the USA (on their PBS Channel) on a Sunday evening, but they were broadcast inconsistently and I eventually forgot all about it. Back home in Blighty, I finally ordered this Box-Set as soon as I saw it and had my memory jogged.

I gave it 5 Stars because the first Series is delightfully entertaining, and almost addictive viewing.

However, I lowered my score to 4 Stars after the Second Series, which exposes the flaw - the obvious “repetition” of the basic story lines, with nothing more than just a slightly different “twist” on basic events. How matters are dealt with becomes the main audience attraction.

It does have a slightly Pantomimic feel about it at times. I admit to being perhaps one of many viewers who might shout out “He’s behind you….” at their Screens or - more reservedly - simply wonder to themselves how the Germans can be so incompetent and their inability to uncover the “LifeLine” does seem to be highly improbable. Perhaps it is Series 2 that ignited the "Allo, Allo" nonsense... and the perpetual "Good Moaning" that many people adopted at the Office. Very sad !!!

Only in the Third Series, with a new nasty-Nazi Character, do they actually realise the error of their former ways, in so much as the answer has been right under their noses all the time !! (We all knew that...) So I reverted to 5 Stars when the final episodes became unmissable.

You may, quite rightly, call me cynical, but if the Gestapo couldn’t spot (like the Audience could) the obvious movements of even ONE individual they may even have suspected, then it’s no wonder they lost the War.

Yes… I know it’s only a TV Show… but being based on some true stories, it is a very compelling one for the more discerning viewer. Take it for what it is... which is something to watch and enjoy - but not something that you'd discuss with workmates. Whereas there are some people who (for example) actually believe that Coronation Street is REAL, and indulge in work-day-long conversations about their inane worries over characters, cry at its staged Funerals and Weddings... etc., etc... ad nauseum !!
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on 5 February 2017
Superbly crafted, and 40 years on since its release this series is still powerful and evocative. Nothing two-dimensional here. This was made when British television produced a quality that is sadly rarely experienced now. OK, we may have better technology today, but see this with an open mind and you will not be disappointed. The characters have a depth to such an extent that even some of the guys on the other side command a respect that up until that time was hardly touched. The writing (in most cases) is superb, and you get real feel of claustrophobia as the net tightens on our group of friends that are Lifeline, the Belgian volunteers who risked everything to spirit away downed Allied aviators from under the noses of the Gestapo. An incredible series.....
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on 13 November 2013
I personally think this is the best drama the BBC have ever produced. It has never dated over time due to the wonderful script writing and the superb quality of the acting. The characters are so real and believable. It gives one a great insight into what it would have been like living in those times and an interesting view from the German perspective which I had never really appreciated before this series.
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