'Secret Army - Series One'
(Jamie Draven, Kerrie Hayes, Matthew McNulty, et al / 4-Disc DVD / NR / (1977) 2014 / BFS Entertainment)
Overview: Inspired by real events, the classic BBC period drama series, Secret Army, is a gripping and authentic portrayal of the lives of a secret group of Belgian resistance members, aka Lifeline, during World War II.
DVD Verdict: Did you know that if Gerald Glaister hadn't pitched the series to the Controller of BBC1 when he shared a lift with him at the BBC Headquarters, by the time the lift had reached the Controller's floor, Glaister wouldn't have gotten himself a deal!
The characters OF 'Secret Army' are all very well drawn and the series views World War II from many angles. We don't only get to see the heroic and valiant efforts of the allies and resistance - the Germans, the Belgian police and ordinary citizens of the Low Countries are all represented, and more than anything else the series shows that the war affected different people in vastly differing ways.
Nothing is black and white. Albert, our hero in the series, is a flawed hero: he can be greedy, dominating and possessive (Albert is a far cry from Hepton's role as a Nazi Commandant in Colditz, some years earlier). Major Brandt of the Luftwaffe is a German but not like Kessler, a Nazi. Brandt is simply a member of the armed forces who is only doing his job. Secret Army can be commended for not presenting the heroes and "villains" as mere stereotypes.
Special mention must also go to Clifford Rose who play the head of the Gestapo in Belgium, Ludwig Kessler - the inspiration for Herr Flick in the spoof series Allo Allo. Rose is magnificent as Kessler and the character is written as a man who is completely and utterly devoted to the Fatherland and the Fuhrer. Indeed, a 6-episode TV series named 'Kessler' actually followed this one when it had come to a close after four years.
'Secret Army', along with other greats like 'Colditz' and 'I, Claudius' is an example of the great drama serials that the BBC no longer produce. These days we seem to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of police and hospital drama serials. 'Secret Army' was transmitted at prime-time on BBC1 when it was first shown: how many period dramas do we ever see on our screens these days? At very best we get a Jane Austin type adaptation, and that would only ever be broadcast on a Sunday night.
Each of the scripts were based on real events and thoroughly researched. On several occasions throughout the series's run, the BBC would reject a script as it was deemed too accurate and potentially upsetting to audiences or too politically sensitive.
As for one final fact, the character played by Christopher Neame was inspired by Group-Captain William S. Randall, who was the technical consultant on the show. Randall donated his fee to charity. These are all Full Screen Presentations (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.