Guest Post -James M's Review of Hogan's Heroes + Retrospective
Salutations fellow historians and fans of anything related to the Second World War, CrazyGamerHistorian1999 here and we will be taking a look at the 1960s-1970s American WWII-themed sitcom, the campy and sometimes serious Hogan's Heroes.
By the time the 1960s rolled about, World War II was partially a distant memory, yet movies and television shows set during the time of the war were very common, shows such as Rat Patrol and movies like Great Escape and The Longest Day are prime examples.
But one show stood out in particular, Hogan's Heroes. Set during World War II from 1942 to sometime in early 1945, the show focused on Colonel Robert Hogan and his crew -consisting of Staff Sergeant James Kinchloe (later replaced by Ken Washington's character Sgt Baker), French Corp Louis LeBeau (played by holocaust survivor Robert Clary), English Corporal Peter Newkirk and Sgt Andrew Carter- as they engage in hit and run surgical strike sabotage missions against the Nazi regime of the Third Reich.
Hogan and his crew's main base of operations is the seemingly inescapable Stalag 13, which is run by Kommandant Wilhelm Klink (played by Werner Klemperer), who is a strict and tough, yet bumbling, loyal German Luftwaffe-Wehrmacht officer and a veteran of World War I and accompanied by Sgt. Hans Schultz (played by John Banner), also a WWI veteran and the main sergeant of Stalag 13. Schultz loves chocolate and can be an idiot too, he also looks a bit like Goring.
Being a bit incompetent and bumbling as well as fearful of being shot or sent to the Russian front, Schultz provides a bit of comic relief. Whenever he learns about Hogan's plans or sees something like the emergency tunnel, he freaks out and says, "I know nothing, nothing. I see nothing, I hear nothing!" One time, when he saw the tunnel and it was open, he chuckled and told Hogan, "You better fix that hole in the floor or somebody might fall in."
However, while most of the Germans are incompetent and not as dangerous as they usually should be, providing for some great comedy, there are still times where things really get serious whenever Klink's boss General Burkhalter (played by Leon Askins) and the SS/Gestapo, lead by Major Hochstetter (played by the great Howard Caine) get involved. Burkhalter, like Schultz, is fat and almost looks like Herman Goring, except he has a scar on his face. In some episodes, whenever he shows up, Burkhalter will attempt to get Klink to hook up with his sister Gertruda. As for the SS, their involvement can provide some major complications for Hogan's plans.
Despite Hogan and his crew's best efforts not to be caught, they did almost got exposed numerous times, Hogan's had a few spies infiltrate his group and then there was that time where the Germans got their hands on a device that could detect radio frequencies. While German dictator Adolf Hitler does not appear in the show, despite being mentioned numerous times and the fact Klink and somebody else has photos of the fuehrer, his influence and his presence can be felt throughout, even when the SS get involved. When you think about it, Hitler's probably off-screen somewhere either giving a speech, hosting a meeting or sitting down to drink his tea. Whenever the German war machine is sabotaged or there's a successful Allied air raid and it reaches Hitler's ears, he probably gets mad, throws a temper tantrum and likely orders somebody shot.
In a few episodes, however, Carter has dressed up as Hitler a few times, so Hitler does show up but its either somebody mimicking his voice or impersonating him in general. In the episode "Will The Real Adolf Please Stand Up", in order to get a film out of Stalag 13, Hogan had Carter dress up as the crazed dictator to hilarious results. Schults gave Carter/Hitler the Nazi salute and Klink acted like a Hitler fanboy, excited that Germany's "great leader" was visiting Stalag 13. In another episode, Carter did dress up as Hitler again and Klink's office did get turned into "Hitler's office". Either way, the show, running for 6 seasons and 6 years (just like WWII) from 1965 to 1971, is awesome.
Hogan's Heroes has a legacy, a legacy that will never be forgotten, and has been referenced in other media off and on throughout the years. Shortly before his passing many years after the show ended, Werner Klemperer reprised his role as Colonel Klink, whose ghost made an appearance in an episode of the Simpsons. In his brief appearance, Klink finally learned about the secret tunnel under Stalag 13 as well as the coffee pot radio from Homer, who was a big fan of Hogan's Heroes....
In the Summer of 2014, my pop and I were discussing WWII when he brought up the show and he told me a little bit about it, even telling me about the episode where Carter dressed up as Hitler. It took a while, but I was eventually interested. Months later, in November/December of 2014, pop and I watched the pilot episode on TV, (a rerun) and after that, we started watching more episodes (including the one where there was a Colonel Hoffman who wanted to defect from the Third Reich). I was into the show so much, mum got me the first two seasons for Christmas and we were soon watching almost all the episodes.
During Christmas season 2016, my pop and I did get our hands on Seasons three and four, they also took a while to get through. Afterwards, especially after we got our hands on the last two seasons, I became disconnected from the show and it was a while before we got back into it, again. Then in 2018, we got back into the show and, yes, it did take a while to get through season five. Finally, in 2019 (this year as of this review), we finally finished the show. Was it a fun ride? Yes. Did I have fun? Yes. Is it worth a watch? Go ahead, buy the whole series and watch it.
See you next time, people.