M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H

4.4 5
Director: Robert Altman

Cast: Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt

     
 

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Although he was not the first choice to direct it, the hit black comedy M*A*S*H established Robert Altman as one of the leading figures of Hollywood's 1970s generation of innovative and irreverent young filmmakers. Scripted by Hollywood veteran Ring Lardner, Jr., this war comedy details theSee more details below

Overview

Although he was not the first choice to direct it, the hit black comedy M*A*S*H established Robert Altman as one of the leading figures of Hollywood's 1970s generation of innovative and irreverent young filmmakers. Scripted by Hollywood veteran Ring Lardner, Jr., this war comedy details the exploits of military doctors and nurses at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War. Between exceptionally gory hospital shifts and countless rounds of martinis, wisecracking surgeons Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper John McIntyre (Elliott Gould) make it their business to undercut the smug, moralistic pretensions of Bible-thumper Maj. Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and Army true-believer Maj. "Hot Lips" Houlihan (Sally Kellerman). Abetted by such other hedonists as Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt) and Painless Pole (John Schuck), as well as such (relative) innocents as Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff), Hawkeye and Trapper John drive Burns and Houlihan crazy while engaging in such additional blasphemies as taking a medical trip to Japan to play golf, staging a mock Last Supper to cure Painless's momentary erectile dysfunction, and using any means necessary to win an inter-M*A*S*H football game. M*A*S*H creates a casual, chaotic atmosphere emphasizing the constant noise and activity of a surgical unit near battle lines; it marked the beginning of Altman's sustained formal experiments with widescreen photography, zoom lenses, and overlapping sound and dialogue, further enhancing the atmosphere with the improvisational ensemble acting for which Altman's films quickly became known. Although the on-screen war was not Vietnam, MASH's satiric target was obvious in 1970, and Vietnam War-weary and counter-culturally hip audiences responded to Altman's nose-thumbing attitude towards all kinds of authority and embraced the film's frankly tasteless yet evocative humor and its anti-war, anti-Establishment, anti-religion stance. M*A*S*H became the third most popular film of 1970 after Love Story and Airport, and it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. As further evidence of the changes in Hollywood's politics, blacklist survivor Lardner won the Oscar for his screenplay. M*A*S*H began Altman's systematic 1970s effort to revise classic Hollywood genres in light of contemporary American values, and it gave him the financial clout to make even more experimental and critical films like McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), California Split (1974), and Nashville (1975). It also inspired the long-running TV series starring Alan Alda as Hawkeye and Burghoff as Radar. With its formal and attitudinal impudence, and its great popularity, M*A*S*H was one more confirmation in 1970 that a Hollywood "New Wave" had arrived. Special Edition VHS includes the entire restored, and uncut version as well as the "AMC Backstory" featurette.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Robert Altman's commercial breakthrough after more than 20 years of industrial films and TV work felt like an joyous shout of liberation, not just for its director but for the film industry in general. MASH was proudly, gleefully, gloriously rude as few previous Hollywood films had dared to be, not just in using four-letter words but also in a hilariously casual disrespect for religion, the military, American foreign policy, and authority as a whole. While more than a few war movies had centered on men who served despite personal misgivings, MASH put us in the middle of an Army field hospital in the Korean War, where draftee doctors openly decry the "regular Army clowns" as they try to patch up the butchered bodies of soldiers from both sides. The cynical disrespect and mordant wit of Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper John McIntyre (Elliott Gould) was a breath of enjoyably foul air, especially at a time when America was knee-deep in the ongoing Vietnam War, the obvious analogue of the movie's Korean conflict. Also, the film's willingness to set its cheerfully vulgar humor (often involving sex and nudity) against the bloody horrors of surgery and the unpleasant realities of war was both brave and appropriate; it gave the film a moral balance that allowed the comic and tragic elements to temper each other. If MASH seems more controlled than much of Altman's later work, his trademark free-floating, catch-things-on-the-sly ambience is very much in evidence, as if he'd been wanting to make this sort of film his whole life and wasn't going to blow his chance. He didn't. Also, if you know MASH as a TV series and not as a film, prepare yourself for a shock; there is nothing warm and fuzzy about this movie, which makes its bitter humor all the more effective.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/07/1997
UPC:
0086162103834
Original Release:
1970
Rating:
R
Source:
20th Century Fox

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Elliott Gould Trapper John
Donald Sutherland Hawkeye
Tom Skerritt Duke
Sally Kellerman Maj. Hot Lips
Jo Ann Pflug Lt. Dish
Robert Duvall Maj. Frank Burns
Roger Bowen Col. Henry Blake
Gary Burghoff Radar O'Reilly
David Arkin Sgt. major Vollmer
Fred Williamson Spearchucker
Michael Murphy Me lay
Kim Atwood Ho-Jon
Indus Arthur Lt. Leslie
John Schuck Painless Pole
Dawne Damon Capt. Scorch
Carl Gottlieb Ugly John
Tamara Horrocks Captain "Knocko" McCarthy
G. Wood Gen. Hammond
Corey John Fischer Capt. Bandini
Stephen Altman Hawkeye's 5-Year-Old Son
Cathleen Cordell Nurse Corps Captain
Ben Davidson Actor
Dale Ishimoto Korean Doctors
Jerry Jones Motor Pool Sergeant
Ted Knight Radio Announcer (uncredited)
Harvey Levine 2nd Lieutenant
Weaver Levy Actor
Marvin Miller Offstage Dialog
Lloyd Nelson Actor
Ken Prymus Pfc. Seidman
Fran Tarkenton Actor
Bobby Troup Sgt. Gorman
Timothy Brown Corporal Judson
Bud Cort Pvt. Lorenzo Boone
Danny Goldman Capt. Murrhardt
René Auberjonois Dago Red
Buck Buchanan Football Player (uncredited)

Technical Credits
Robert Altman Director
L.B. Abbott Special Effects
Michael Altman Songwriter
Art Cruickshank Special Effects
Leon Ericksen Associate Producer
Bernard Freericks Sound/Sound Designer
Danford B. Greene Editor
Ring Lardner Screenwriter
Arthur Lonergan Art Director
Johnny Mandel Score Composer
Ingo Preminger Producer
Stuart A. Reiss Set Decoration/Design
Walter Scott Set Decoration/Design
Jack Martin Smith Art Director,Production Designer
Herbert Spencer Musical Direction/Supervision
Harold E. Stine Cinematographer
Dan Striepeke Makeup

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