It's set during the Korean War, in a mobile army surgical hospital. But no one seeing M*A*S*H
in 1970 confused the film for anything but a caustic comment on the Vietnam War; this is one of the counterculture movies that exploded into the mainstream at the end of the '60s. Director Robert Altman had labored for years in television and sporadic feature work when this smash-hit comedy made his name (and allowed him to create an astonishing string of offbeat pictures, culminating in the masterpiece Nashville
). Altman's style of cruel humor, overlapping dialogue, and densely textured visuals brought the material to life in an all-new kind of war movie (or, more precisely, antiwar movie). Audiences had never seen anything like it: vaudeville routines played against spurting blood, fueled with open ridicule of authority. The cast is led by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland, as the outrageous surgeons Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre, with Robert Duvall as the uptight Major Burns and Sally Kellerman in an Oscar-nominated role as nurse "Hot Lips" Houlihan. The film's huge success spawned the long-running TV series, a considerably softer take on the material; of the film's cast, only Gary Burghoff repeated his role on the small screen, as the slightly clairvoyant Radar O'Reilly. --Robert Horton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.