MASH (1970)

MASH-poster-review-robert-altman
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Smartly written, great casting

The war/comedy mix might not fit everyone's taste

Movie Info

Movie Name:  MASH

Studio:  Aspen Production

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  January 25, 1970

MPAA Rating:  R

MASH-hawkeye-trapper-john

Scrubs are for losers

Welcome to the 4077. It’s the Korean War, and the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital #4077 is a hopping place. The doctors and nurses spend as much time goofing off, playing gags, and playing around as they do saving people. When Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) arrives and takes his place at the Swamp with Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt), they are joined by Trapper John (Elliot Gould). Trapper, Duke, and Hawkeye enjoy pushing the boundaries off class and what they can get away with while people like Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan (Sally Kellerman) try to ruin their fun under the blissfully ignorant eye of Lt. Col. Henry Blake (Roger Bowen).

MASH-cast

A night at the 4077 where every card is wild!

Directed by Robert Altman, MASH (stylistically it is sometimes spelled out M*A*S*H because of the poster, but only the TV series was spelled this way) was a big breakout hit for the director and many of the stars. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Sally Kellerman), and Best Film Editing and won numerous other awards like the Palme d’Or and Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy).  MASH is often listed as one of the funniest films ever.

I remember not getting the TV show or the movie when I was young, but now it is quite enjoyable. The humor isn’t like a laugh-out-loud comedy, but it also isn’t high-brow comedy. MASH is a weird movie that keeps you smiling throughout and occasionally gets a chuckle, but it still is a comedy.

MASH-billboard

Japan? Sure…Let me grab my clubs…

Most of the humor from MASH (and the TV series) results of the irony of the situation. The people are surrounded by death, blood, and sadness, but they decide to joke their way through it. From the low men on the totem pole to the top brass, the military is almost forgotten…but the people do care about their jobs and helping people. It is a very unique balance that is difficult to find, but the movie does it.

Altman’s directing also has to be noted. Much of the film was improvised and there is such a mesh of talking and dialogue that you really have to listen carefully to get the humor. Altman had a lot of trouble with this film with backlash from Sutherland and Gould, plus the studios kept trying to interject themselves. His outspoken problems with the studio led to him even losing a percentage of the profit from the film (and ironically his fourteen-year-old son who helped craft the iconic theme song “Suicide is Painless” made a ton from the royalties).

MASH-hawkeye-trapper-john-hot-lips

So, still want me to kiss those “hot lips”?

Altman also shows his skill in casting in MASH. The cast just works great together. Not only are Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould great leads, but they are backed up by a great supporting cast. I wish Duvall’s character had stuck around longer as a foil, but also makes a fun Hot Lips. Radar O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff) was the only actor who really made the transition to the television show. The film also “introduced” many actors and had tons of cameos by people like Bud Cort, Fred Williamson, and Rene Auberjonois.

MASH is an entertaining film. It isn’t my favorite Altman film (that goes to Nashville), but it is still good. If you were like me and stayed away from MASH and M*A*S*H because you didn’t get it when you were young it is worth checking out now.

Related Links:

M*A*S*H—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

M*A*S*H—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

M*A*S*H—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

M*A*S*H—Season 4 Review and Complete Episode Guide

M*A*S*H—Season 5 Review and Complete Episode Guide

M*A*S*H—Season 6 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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