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M.A.S.H. (1970)

Before the long-running hit TV series, there was director Robert Altman's riotous 1970 farce, set in Korea as a stand-in for Vietnam. Brilliant ensemble acting is Altman's forte, and MASH is no exception to that fact. Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Robert Duvall, and Sally "This isn't a hospital, this is an insane asylum" Kellerman lead the excellent cast.

Director Robert Altman's, "MASH" is a vivid, dark comedy which has stood up well over the years. Altman received a nomination for best directing.

The stellar cast includes: Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Jo Ann Pflug, and Rene Auberjonois.

#56 on the AFI Top 100.

FIVE EASY PIECES was nominated for the Best Picture award.














M*A*S*H was an enormous smash hit, that inspired an Emmy-winning television series in 1972, that ran for 11 years. The great cast ensemble work, the screenplay, and the fabulous direction by newcomer, Robert Altman, created this American classic. The film juxtaposes wild humor, with bloody operating scenes. It does all this with surprising effectiveness.

The film's script is wild, irreverent, and hilarious. Ring Lardner Jr.'s screenplay, based on Hornberger's book, won an Oscar, for best screenplay adaptation.

Based on the experiences of a Dr. H Richard Hornberger, who served in a MASH unit in Korea, this film explores how a group of drafted Army surgeons hang on to their humanity and sanity, in the midst of the horror, waste and fight for life that swirls around in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The "wildly frolicking lifestyle"of these Army doctors and nurses, their living, loving, and laughing, doesn't take away from their dedication to the goal of saving as many soldiers as they could, during this Korean war.

The group of Army surgeons consisted of Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland), Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt), Colonel Henry Blake (Rodger Bowen), and Trapper John McIntyre (Elliott Gould). While this group of surgeons are the best in the East, they are described as "hell-raising lunatics who make a shambles of army bureaucracy."

Part of this group of doctors, is Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff), who has bizarre powers of sight and hearing, which prove to be invaluable. Not only can he hear choppers carrying wounded coming before anyone else, but also can use his foreseeable talents in the areas of sex and football as well. Gary Burghoff recreated his role on the television series.

Champions of the army way of doing things, were Major Margaret Houlehan (Sally Kellerman) a terrific nurse, and Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall), who both try to uphold army orderliness in vain, much to the resentment of the ant-army medical staff. Margaret is an army brat, who grew up with military discipline, who expects the same discipline in this unit. Major Burns is a borderline nut case, who is close to loosing it completely. He and Margaret have a relationship, which is humorously exposed, when a microphone is placed under Margaret's sleeping bag, during one of their intimate interludes, for the entire camp to hear. "Oh Frank, my lips are so hot!!" Her nick name becomes "Hot lips Houlehan" after this incident.

Another favorite scene takes place outside the women's showers. As Hawkeye and other guys look on, a drum roll is played and a rope is pulled. The wall of the shower tent collapses, revealing a soapy Sally Kellerman, who drops to the ground screaming and frothing. Then it is wonderfully topped by her race to the Colonel's Office - what a wonderful Sally Kellerman moment! This prank well illustrates the irreverent humor of this motley bunch.

The football game sequence was a hilarious, irreverent look at this great game, played M*A*S*H doctor style, complete with a ringer and special weapons. The opposing team was put together by Col. Henry Blake's superior officer, who was investigating Major Houlehan's complaints about the shower incident, and the lack of military discipline under the command of Colonel Henry Blake.

As hilarious as some parts of the movie are, the realistic look at the horror of what war creates is also very present in the operating scenes, and in scenes where these surgeons were on duty. These scenes capture the bloody reality that the doctors were called to deal with, and what they fought so hard to distract themselves from on their off time.

"M*A*S*H will disturb the squeamish, and offend those with a low tolerance for irreverence."

A novelty song, featured in the film, "Suicide is Painless," was a minor hit of the time. Johnny Mandel was the composer. The instrumental version of this song carried over to be the opening theme music to the Television series.

Rated PG, but may be too adult and complicated in nature for children to understand, or benefit from. Parents should preview this film, to see if this film is appropriate for their children.

If you enjoyed "MASH" you may like CATCH 22 and STRIPES.