Hogan's Heroes - The Complete First Season
Year: 1965 - 1966
Length: 13 Hours, 42 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono)
Special Features: None
Estimated Street Price: $30, USD
I should point out up front that I’ve only been a casual watcher of this series over the years. Premiering on CBS a few years before I was born, I missed the original series run, and only caught occasional reruns after school as a child when much of the humor went over my head. Until I received this set, I hadn’t seen an episode of Hogan’s Heroes in well over twenty years. Feeling a little underqualified, I won’t delve into a detailed analysis of the program - although a brief description for the uninitiated seems warranted.
Hogan’s Heroes follows a ragtag band of Allied prisoners in a World War II German prison camp. Bob Crane stars as Colonel Robert Hogan, the American commander of a group of Allied prisoners at Stalag 13. The Allies mission is not so much to escape, but to gather intelligence and pretty much undermine the German war effort in any way possible. He is aided by prisoners LeBeau (Robert Clary), Newkirk (Richard Dawson), Kinchloe (Ivan Dixon), and Carter (Larry Hovis).
The camp commandant is Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) and the bumbling Sergeant Shultz is played by John Banner.
Wholly unbelievable, Hogan’s Heroes doesn’t make any attempts at portraying War as Hell, like MASH did even in the funny episodes. Instead, Hogan’s Heroes is simple humor... consistently funny, slapstick and situational humor. Even though the same situations are played time and time again, it somehow never gets old. As many times as Shultz says, “I know NOTHING,” it still manages to be funny.
Packaging and Menus
Hogan’s Heroes comes on five discs, packaged in individual slim cases, which are in turn housed in a cardboard slipcase.
Each disc’s menu displays the titles of six or seven episodes, and has a “Play All” feature. There are no other options.
Each episode is prepended by the original “CBS In Color” bumper, and has the original “Bing Crosby Productions” bumper after the episode’s end credits.
On the episodes that I screened, there was a chapter stop immediately after the opening credit sequence.
I should note that screener copies went out with a packaging error that is supposed to be corrected before these sets hit the store shelves - Disc One and Disc Two labels are swapped.
(UPDATE: 3/17/05 - It seems some sets have made it to the store shelves with the labeling error. Paramount has a customer service line set up to report this problem and arrange for a replacement. The number is: 1-866-627-8201)
I should note that I watched the pilot episode, and picked four other episodes at random for this review. Since the pilot episode is the only one in black and white, I’ve covered it separately from the rest.
Video / Audio: Pilot (The Informer)
The pilot episode is nicely rendered in black and white. The full-frame picture is sharp and detailed, with a hint of grain from the original elements. While it looks very nice for its age, there are occasional specks which mar the print - though I’ve seen worse on far newer material.
Contrast is good, with acceptable shadow detail, although the image has a dark appearance overall - though I realize that the show is predominantly dark by design.
Audio is in the original mono. It is cleanly delivered with good frequency response and clear detail in the dialog. A slight background hiss can be heard throughout - most likely a limitation of the original recording.
Video / Audio (General)
The color episodes appear the slightest touch softer than the pilot episode, and also show less grain. Still, these episodes have good detail and sharpness, with only occasionally apparent ringing.
The image enjoys good contrast, with a neutral-to-warm color palette. Saturation is acceptable, wandering from mild to moderate between scenes of the same episode.
Occasional scenes seem to be pulled from differing sources, since some cuts will have noticeably more noise or other differing qualities from the cuts in the scene surrounding them.
Audio is in the original mono. Frequency response is good. Dialog is consistently clean and clear. A slight background hiss from the original recordings can be heard throughout.
Overall, this 40 year old show comes across very nicely on DVD, with a nice transfer and a faithful mono soundtrack.
There are no special features.
Priced around $30, there’s no reason for fans to skip on this set. It looks and sounds good, and these appear to be original length, uncut episodes. As for the extras... “I know NOTHING.”