6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2002
If you're buying this DVD because you want to see MASH as it was seen at the theater...forget it. This DVD is the cut version that was use for broadcast TV. If you want to see the original MASH as seen at the movies, try to find an old VHS copy of the film. I had planned to buy this DVD for my collection, but not now. Hollywood has been doing allot of this lately...claiming the DVD is the original uncut movie when in reality the movie was butchered by a crazed editor. It is so sad because the original MASH was so funny. Luckily I have an old VHS copy of the original film.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2002
Had Altman not given the people of Califonia a sneak-peek of M*A*S*H it would have been shelved and locked away in the Fox Vault, never to see the light of day. But Altman, like each member of the M*A*S*H cast, was a rebel. He and his cast and crew dared to tell the truth in a time when Hollywood was supposed to be a dream factory.
M*A*S*H is a black comedy that takes a stab at everything from the definaition of humanity and medical ethics to the reasons and methods of war. 5 miles from the Korean Front Line, the M*A*S*H characters are violently pushed to the brink. Some break. But others survive by pushing back with humor, love and blackmail. The movie opens with the arrival of Hawkeye Pierce and Duke Forester at the 4077, a number that has been immortalized by the movie and the series that followed in it's footsteps, and follows them as they try and survive their tour of duty.
The bonuses on this DVD are outstanding and are well worth watching. Make sure you have the time to soak everything in, because the interviews with Altman and the cast are filled with M*A*S*H facts that will amaze you. For example: In some night shots of the Speaker you can see the moon in the background. The night those sceens were shot was the same night American astronaughts landed on the moon.
I should probably watch this again, since so many consider it a
masterpiece. Maybe I was over-prepared (Hey, it took me a second
viewing of 'Citizen Kane' to get my past pre-set expectations!). But while
I could see why M*A*S*H was groundbreaking and important for a
Hollywood film of it's day (lack of the usual clear narrative line, anti-war
stance, overlapping, improvised dialogue, sexuality, bloody operating room scenes
serving as ironic counterpart, etc), it felt pretty dated and
unfocused. There are some very funny moments, but a lot of the ironies
seem easy, and there's a lack of a true darker underpinnings and ideas,
unlike, say, 'Dr. Strangelove'.
A lot of the humor is juvenile, cruel and silly. And while I get that's
the point - nothing can be more deeply juvenile, cruel and silly than
war, it got repetitive and heavy handed after a while. The performances
are good, but beyond Robert Duvall, none of the characters have much in
the way of dimensions. People stay exactly what we think they are from the
moment we meet them.
Walter Chow makes a good argument on the web site 'Film Freak Central',
that the sexism, homophobia, etc are the whole point. Altman is saying
we're ALL beasts at heart, even if we act like we're bucking the
system. It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure I buy it's what
Altman was intending.
"I have just left your fighting sons in Korea. They have done their best there, and I can report to you without reservation that they are splendid in every way.
I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Goodbye" -- Gen. Douglas MacArthur
This is the Korean War (1950-1953). We are visiting and passionate on the front line and observing the many lives of the very people that make the M*A*S*H (The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit possible. This film is touted as a thinly veiled Vietnam War satire.
Some great one-liners as "You forgot your shingle doctor "as he holds up a piece of toast with creamed chipped beef on it. Or as Frank Burns is being hauled off in a straight jacket, the loud speaker is playing "it's time to say sayonara" May military inside jokes and even the clichés have a basis in reality. Although this film takes place, in Korea, it draws a very close parallel to the environment I was in Vietnam and I suspect there have been other wars with other environments similar and may again in the future. It's the laughs that we clean out of these types of films that make those situations tolerable.
For many movies especially older ones Blu-Ray is really just a gimmick and does not really add to or subtract from the storyline or the acting itself. However occasionally the visuals and sounds of Blu-Ray can contribute to earlier movies that were designed before Blu-Ray was conceived; this is one of those movies. This review may be under a different version but it is for the Blu-ray version so be sure to listen to the commentary by the late Robert Altman, AMC Back history, Enlisted: The story of M*A*S*H, M*A*S*H: History Through the Lens, Remembering M*A*S*H: 30th anniversary, Theatrical Trailer, Portuguese Trailer, and Still Gallery.
Through early morning fog I see
The visions of the things to be.
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize, and I can see.....
That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card, I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
The sword of time will pierce our skin
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it brim..
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
"Is it to be, or not to be?"
And I replied, "why ask me?"
But suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
And you can do the same thing if you please
If you enjoyed this and other Robert Altman films you may like a more esoteric film by Robert Altman called Quintet ((1979).
Quintet ~ Paul Newman
on June 6, 2004
At the same time, Robert Altman's "M*A"S*H" came out. It, too found an audience, and truth be told many who enjoyed "Patton" enjoyed "M*A*S*H". It was just plain funny, and the anti-military theme was subtle. Altman walked a brilliant tightrope between a pro-American and unpatriotic premise. There is no doubt that Altman intended it as an anti-Vietnam movie. It was written by former Communist Ring Lardner, Jr. Lardner had been Blacklisted, and this fact featured prominently in the politics of the film's aura. It was based on a sexy paperback novel about surgeons in Korea. The film was set in Korea, yet made every possible attempt to convey the image that it was actually Vietnam. Many of the movie's set pieces were deliberately Vietnamese in nature and costume, for that very purpose. To the extent that it was unpatriotic, it subtly described "regular Army" officers as unyielding, intolerant Christians, utterly blinded by stupid jingoism. The draftees, however, are funny and attractive as they drink and love their way through a bevy of good-looking nurses, all while saving lives in the style of comic Galahads. Altman showed genius as a filmmaker. The movie avoided real controversy because it was just so darn good.
"M*A*S*H" spurred a television show that ran for years. In the 1970s it played for its time and audience. Re-runs, however, strain its credibility beyond Altman's original themes. Two doctors played the "bad guy." The first was a complete buffoon. Frank Burns was prominently identified as a Republican. He is given zero good qualities. He is ugly, a bad doctor, a coward, a racist and all-around mean SOB who cheats on his wife with Major Margaret Hoolihan, who at least is given some character. She is half-Vixen, half-Fascist, naturally Republican, a patriotic American in the "worst way," who worships the idols of war. Over the years the writers gave Margaret a little development. Very little. Burns was replaced by Major Charles Emerson Winchester, a Boston Brahmin, naturally a Republican whose father "knows Truman. He doesn't like him, but he knows him." Winchester, like Hoolihan, is allowed a touch of humanity when the liberal writers felt charitable, but generally was available for all possible bashing. Two hero-doctors anchor the show by showing their intelligence, medical skills and tolerance as direct contrasts to the war effort. The CIA is lampooned, and a military effort that in reality featured MacArthur's Inchon campaign, perhaps the most brilliant invasion in history, is also played as foolish. In the end, the TV show and the film avoid being really and actually unpatriotic because they do feature an emphasis on the basic goodness of the American spirit under stress, but you will not catch me tuned in to those old re-runs(...)
on December 31, 2003
This is one of the finest films ever made, 'countercultural' or otherwise. It's antiwar, antiauthoritarian, irreverent, sacrilegious, and utterly without anything conventionally regarded as a Redeeming Feature.
It is, in short, a great, great piece of cinematic art. When it's over, not a sacred cow is left standing. And its antiwar satire, though full of wonderfully crass and tasteless comedy, is also quite serious and spot-on.
If you haven't read the book by 'Richard Hooker' (Dr. Richard Hornsberger), do so. It's a good book, and it's very different from the TV series you're probably familiar with if you were alive during the 1970s. The original tale centered on three surgeons, not two, and it wasn't (as the TV series became) a vehicle for the smarmy phildonahuing of sensitive-'70s-guy Alan Alda.
In fact the book and the movie are both 'racist' in the same sense as Mark Twain's timeless _Huckleberry Finn_ -- that is, not at all, but also not exactly designed to slip in under the radar of the PC Police, who wouldn't recognize _real_ racism if it bashed them in the heads with a billy club. (Likewise 'sexism'.) In developing the TV series, developer/scriptwriter Larry Gelbart toned a lot of this stuff down, but here in the film you can see it in all of its original glory.
And then some. The film actually partakes more of the spirit of Joseph Heller's great _Catch-22_ and, along those lines, develops the Hooker novel's mild irreverence to the level of a take-no-prisoners martial art. (The film officially takes place during Hooker's Korean War, but just as with Heller's nominal World War II setting, everybody knew the Vietnam War was the unofficial target. And at an abstract level, _M*A*S*H_ is a better screen adaptation of _Catch-22_ than the film version of that novel itself.)
Even other satire isn't immune from 'meta-satire'. This film was produced at a time when other countercultural books and movies regularly relied on Christian imagery (_Cool Hand Luke_, _One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest_, _The Omega Man_) to turn their central heroes/antiheroes into savior-figures. Here, Robert Altman and Ring Lardner, Jr., had the temerity to skewer even its artistic allies by turning the Painless Pole (John Schuck in his first major film role) into the central figure at a suicidal 'Last Supper'. (Even here, in thus expanding on Painless's suicide, they took a lead from the book's own irreverence. In the novel, the guys paraded around the South Korean countryside with a longhaired and bearded Trapper hanging from a cross.) _Nobody_ is safe around this cinematic buzz saw.
You probably already know who's in it, but I'd better give a quick nod to the marvelous performances by the Big Three: Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, Elliot Gould as 'Trapper' John McIntyre, and Tom Skerritt as Duke Forrest. (I particularly call your attention to Skerritt, who seldom gets the credit he deserves for this role because -- under the influence of the TV series -- people tend to think the movie is mainly about Hawkeye and Trapper.) Everybody else is wonderful too, and I won't try to mention the entire cast by name here.
In general this rambling masterpiece isn't susceptible to easy summarization. So rather than try to tell you about all of the cool stuff, I'll just tell you to see it if you haven't done so already.
The DVD release is wondrous to behold. The movie is restored to perfect color and clarity and presented in widescreen format. The second disk has lots of cool features including cast interviews and stuff about the making of the film (and its groundbreaking cinematographic 'techniques').
on September 25, 2003
Oh what a difference the decades make. This groundbreaking film, released in 1970, is inevitably found on everone's short-list of all-time greatest comedies. Director Robert Altman hit the bigtime with this one. And, many great films later, it's still widely considered his best. It should be seen especially by the young. Because it should be remembered that once there was a day when a film could be the director's personal vision, without regard for the social compacts of a given time. The 70's broke the written rules from before only to eventually succomb to the unwritten rules that were to follow.
At it's release, MASH was received as an overtly left-of-center showcase for the most urgent progressive causes: the anti-war movement, sexual liberation, integration, anti-authority, 70's style feminism.
The MASH version of feminism is particularly ironic. As in the later TV version, feminism is mostly expressed as a woman's "empowerment" to engage in promiscuous, premarital sex. Men and women engaged in open, frank and raunchy dialogue and interaction was then considered sexy, fresh, and indicative of the "new lines of honest communication" between the sexes. Today, men who talk to women as do captains Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland) or Trapper John (Elliott Gould) would be run out of the officer corps and sued for sexual harrassment. The famous Hotlips' (Sally Kellerman) shower scene would never make the final cut in today's Hollywood.
The liberal minded irony behind the handle "Spearchucker Jones" is now considered too subtle or esoteric to ever be trusted to modern audiences. A new movie would never risk such a character name in today's hyper-sensitive times.
The suicide-spoof scene is of a resounding political incorrectness. The linked lyrics in the original theme didn't even survive to see the TV series (which featured only the score). "Irreverence" in today's cinema is usually code for scatalogical humor.
The substance abuse/heavy drinking is portrayed off-handedly, incidentally and for comic effect. Today's director would need not even a prompt to self-censor himself through either: (a) direct, negative consequences for such behaviour, or (b) confining the imbibing to secondary, "idiot" characters.
The characters meant to show the Establishment's backside are only slightly more extreme than characters that are back on today's Good Guy rosters. In fact, some of the sanctimonious drivel from none other than Major Burns (Robert Duvall) is very similar to what, today, is uttered in all earnestness.
Like Welles' "Citizen Kane", Altman pioneered many fresh cinematic and soundtrack innovations here. Also, the viewer is flattered with nuanced characterizations and an absence of spoon-fed audience "lessons". More importantly, the viewer is presented a gut-splitting riot of comedic scenes that entertain throughout.
on February 23, 2003
For the generation that grew up with the television series, "MASH" the film is a little disorienting. Sure, all the names are familiar: Hawkeye, Trapper John, Hot Lips, Frank Burns, Col. Blake, and Father Mulcahy. Yet, the faces from your memory do not match the names. The only recognizable face is that of Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff). It, therefore, becomes quickly apparent that the film is a completely different creature from the television series and must be judged on its own merits. In that regard, "MASH" is a pretty good film.
Robert Altman's film opens with with doctors "Hawkeye" Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and "Duke" Forrest (Tom Skerritt) arriving in Korea. They are told to report to the MASH 4077th but can't find any available transportation. They decide to steal a jeep to solve their problem and the fun begins. Soon "Trapper John" McIntyre (Elliott Gould) arrives on the scene and the drinking, partying, and womanizing kicks into high gear. Like the early seasons of the television series, the targets of most of the swampmates' practical jokes are the uptight duo of Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and nurse "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Sally Kellerman).
"MASH" essentially is a series of comedy segments patched together to come up with the 116 minute running time. Some of these segments are hilarious while others fall flat. The shower tent victimizing of Hot Lips and the visit to Japan are probably the two high points of the film. The film's satire also seems a little tame compared to today's standards. When it is compared to the satire of the recent South Park film, you can see just how much edge the film has lost. Yet, Altman has included enough quality material to keep you entertained. Sutherland and Gould make a good comedy team and there's enough wackiness from beginning to end to keep a goofy grin on your face. In terms of cultural impact, the film version of "MASH" will never match the legacy left behind by its television counterpart but it is still an amusing film taken on its own.
on February 13, 2003
The other day it struck me what an incredible intellectual concept MASH is: a war movie without any combat, without a gun being fired onscreen (save for the referee's pistol in the football game), a movie about the futility of war where no one talks about the futility of war, a movie that protests Viet Nam without ever mentioning Viet Nam. Has anyone else ever made such a daring and unconventional war film?
MASH was the first time director Robert Altman made a rambling, ensemble piece without a storyline, but it was not his last. For many years, however, I could not figure out why I felt the approach worked so much better here than in other efforts, either by Altman or other directors.
One day I realized the very simple answer--the structure, or *lack* of one, compliments the point of the story. Simply, Altman managed to make a film that showed the aimlessness, waste, and futility of war, without ever having a character SAY that the action they were involved in was aimless, wasteful and futile. Instead he SHOWED it, with a spontaneous camera technique and a script that (deliberately) went nowhere. It's as if he is saying our boys wasted two years of their lives over there (and were also then wasting years of their lives in Viet Nam, if they weren't losing them) and he showed this waste on the screen through the series of unconnected, seemingly pointeless stories--an example of form matching function perfectly. And that's the fundamental reason I think MASH is one of the great films of all time. Unlike films such as Thin Red Line, unlike the very TV series that came from this movie, there is no moralizing here, and no irony. It isn't needed, and would have brought the movie down.
Also interesting is how many of the then-radical techniques have now become part of everyday film and TV language. With ad-libbed dialogue, "floating" camera in the documentary style just gaining in popularity, and the absence of "movie" lighting (and probably move makeup for that matter), this film must have looked bold in 1970, although today you can see these techniques on everything from commercials to crime dramas. True, some of the crude sexual humor and the obsession with "bedding the nurses" dates the film badly, and there are a few too many substories that deal with the obsession with reproductive organs. I understand these were young men away from home for the first time, in a unit with young, attractive nurses, and it doesn't matter if you're married or engaged, what are you going to do between shifts? Still, I think the one misfire is that Altman hit on the sex theme too repetitively. There are times where the film is in danger of becoming insignificant and childish.
But there are also some unforgettable moments: the first visit to the OR (shocking then and still shocking now), the moment where they face a critical blood shortage in the OR because of bureaucratic conflicts, the scene where Hawkeye and Trapper perform an operation to save a little Japanese-American baby, the vignette where Hawkeye is interviewed on the street by a TV reporter and says hi to his dad, or a few moments later where Ho-Jon is inducted into the Korean army, despite Hawkeye's crude attempt to keep him out. *These* scenes speak out against war in a way that the preachiness of later anti-war films never could, and for this reason I think MASH is the best anti-war film, period.
The DVD release is excellent, with a beautifully-restored film (soundtrack is as good as can be expected for the time) and lots of goodies: not one but several documentaries, of varying quality. There is a lot of overlap--some of the interviews are the same in each one--and they probably were not all necessary, but I'd rather have too many extras than not enough. One documentary has a lot of material on the real Korean War and shows actual MASH unit footage that you can compare to the movie. There's even a short that contrasts the restored print of MASH with the faded original. The final program, a cast reunion 30 years later in which Altman is given an award by Fox, is the weakest, but it's amusing to see that at 64, Sally Kellerman thinks she can still dress like a 21-year-old. (She almost gets away with it; she's had so much plastic surgery it's amazing she doesn't melt under the lights.) The directory commentary track is fairly useless, as Altman tends to talk slowly, pause a lot, and repeat himself. (He is the proverbial absent-minded professor-type.) Still, this is overall a superb release; I wish all classic films would get this kind of thorough treatment.
on January 11, 2003
I personally hated the television series MASH, but came to this movie trying to learn more about the groundbreaking movies of the 60's and 70's (The Graduate, Chinatown, etc.). I think that MASH is a good movie, and I think that the people who have given it one star have, as usual, missed the point.
Mysoginistic, maybe a little racist? Yeah, it kinda is - but so is the army. People shouldn't attack a film just because it shows an uncomfortable truth. Admittedly, the laughs don't come hard and fast. This is primarily because much of the movie was improvised - it depends more on sharp dialogue and throwaway lines than on sight gags and obvious punchlines. If you enjoy modern shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or the old "Gary Shandling Show", you'll appreciate the humor - even 30 years later.
MASH created an image of the disaffected, cynical soldier that could not have existed before World War II. As a prototype, it's obviously a little flawed - but it laid the groundwork for some of the truly great war movies (comedies and dramas) that would follow it.
(Note: The DVD comes with several features, like a behind-the-scenes documentary and commentary by the director, that make it even more worthwhile).