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Believe it or not, I've never actually seen a full episode of the TV series M*A*S*H. However, if it's the same type of humor as the movie, I don't think I'll like it that much. Perhaps the comedy would have worked better if this film featured college frat boys, but these were grown men—combat surgeons, even—acting like a bunch of perverted teenagers. This movie is a series of bland jokes and predictable sketches carelessly cobbled together—and it hasn't aged well.
While the film occasionally lost me (especially at its first 30 minutes), and the crass humour was a bit too much for me, I found my first Altman quite smart and risk-taking black comedy. It's often criticized as dated, but you can find out it's in fact timely and timeless satire, only if you look closer. I slightly enjoyed it, but I can't deny that I appreciate its subtle social commentary, subtle humour, and witty dialogue. I think Altman's other films will work for me more than this.
It's missing something. Well at least the tv show found it.
I am a big fan of Robert Altman's films, Nashville (1975) and Fool for Love (1985), but I don't see this one as having aged particularly well and it is unfortunate because it has been hugely influential. I have seen some episodes of the television show and found them mildly amusing but I didn't even titter when watching this nearly 2 hour comedy and I felt that there should have been at least one moment that elicited a giggle. The performers involved are also very talented as Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland and Tom Skerritt play major roles. I can appreciate that this film is historically important but it is not an enjoyable viewing experience and it's unsubtle barbs at the Vietnam war are not as clever as they should be.
During the Korean War two renegade surgeons, Captain Hawkeye Pierce, Donald Sutherland and Trapper John McIntyre, Elliott Gould, are drafted and cause major trouble with their mean pranks. Their two targets are nurse Hot Lips Houlihan, Sally Kellerman, and Major Frank Burns, Robert Duvall, who are in a relationship and irritate the two surgeons with their ordinance. They face a difficult and depressing job as they struggle to treat an increasing amount of patients but they try to drown out this sadness in wacky antics.
I have to say that the first scene pulled me in as we see shots of horrifically maimed and dead bodies being carried by helicopters to the sound of Johnny Mandel's "Suicide Is Painless." This set up how depressing the situation these men are stepping into is but the lyrics of the song promise us a smart, funny satire that is able to walk the line between making hard statements on the state of the Vietnam war and providing broad comedic punch lines. Unfortunately the rest of the film didn't manage to keep this almost breezy tone going as sexism and unfunny gags bog it down.
The worst scenes in the film involve the female characters as we see both Houlihan and Lieutenant Dish Schneider, Jo Ann Pflug, degraded and humiliated for the audience's enjoyment. Houlihan is embarrassed when the sound of her having sex with Burns is broadcast over the airwaves in the camp and later has her naked body revealed to an audience of leering, predatory men against her will. I was horrified by both scenes as there was a clear hatred for women in both of them, we are meant to have disgust for Houlihan because her way of treating patients is different to that of our male leads, but the savagery of their pranks is too much to accept as justified "punishment" for her actions. Schneider is a total male fantasy as we are meant to believe she is attracted to Pierce despite his horrid behavior and later see her "satisfied" after having a sexual encounter with a near suicidal, unattractive shlub who was forced on her by Pierce. I wanted so much more for these characters than having them presented first as objects to be abused and later as literal cheerleaders to the men.
The big jokes in the film either come from slapstick moments including the scary shower scene or sly asides from supporting characters that hint at the bleakness of war. The second form of humor works much better than the first as one of the best moments in the film comes when Houlihan wonders aloud how Pierce was ever allowed into the army as the chaplain responds "He got drafted." The slapstick moments don't work quite as well as they are at first a pleasant reprieve from the goriness of the other scenes in the film but they begin to wear as we continue to see them be not that funny. I know that comedy is hugely subjective but this film didn't make me laugh out loud at any point and for a film consistently ranked as one of the funniest of all time that's not good enough.
Would I say that you should watch this film? No. I think that there are plenty of funny comedies out there that make smart critiques on American policies relating to war that don't contain the rampant sexism of this film. Watch Starship Troopers (1997) or Wag the Dog (1997) before seeing this dated flick.
I really loved the TV show, so I thought I would watch the original movie. I was disappointed. The movie never really had any real storyline. it was almost like three or four tv episodes pasted together.
Horribly dated. Barely funny. I think the new found freedom of the New Hollywood was often an excuse for adolescent, misogynist humor, passing as ‘daring’ and ‘inventive’. Only valuable as the first real Altman film.
Some funny scenes especially those featuring Elliott Gould however overall doesn’t quite teach the heights it expects.
Altman's satirical war drama depicting the inner non-mentioned exaggerated fumbles of a camp is a long effective whip whose intentions to aid the war memories does work.
Altman's satirical war drama depicting the inner non-mentioned exaggerated fumbles of a camp is a long effective whip whose intentions to aid the war memories does work. And even though it exaggerates and is a goofy version of a camp, it is a smart comedy. It doesn't necessarily rely upon verbal sparrings but also uses the entire frame of the screen and physical sequences to draw in most of the laughs. It mocks each aspect of the storyline and characters with such sincerity that you do invest in these long sketchy sequences, you do feel like a part of this camp, you do wish to quote the punch line, you do wish to pull the string of the prank, and on that note where the Altman's world is the perfect host for such a tale, it is a trumpet harmonizing triumph.
Having said that, with all the cheats and tricks that are taken lightly, the core of the movie, the professional life of the characters in here are eerily taken seriously and grows intense both politically and emotionally that creates a long lasting impression. Sutherland as the convincer that is easily influenced scores majestically on both physical and verbal comic timing that goes through the roof, his body language itself tickles you.
Gould on the parallel role is much more confident and is in his A game throughout the course with his alluring schemes that always works. It is basically a series of various gags culminated into one big season of camping gone right and wrong, both with goofy characters and sleazy jokes that surprisingly bodes well to the light hearted tone of this armored world. MASH is not a sweeter, soothing or a mellower aid to the war genre, it is blatantly a raunchy expressive experience of a group civilising their way up to the ladder in the least civilized place.
MASH is a 1970 American satirical black comedy war film directed by Robert Altman.
The original movie which inspired the TV series, contains some memorable characters and funny scenes.
Considered one of the best movies of all time, and one of the top comedy films of all time.
AAN GGWC PdO 1001
I come from the most peaceful time militarily in number of years. I've always known the stigma around Vietnam, and lord knows the concept of vulgar comedies has thrived in my lifetime. South Park, anyone? And though I know little of the Korean War, I get that M*A*S*H was groundbreaking when Robert Altman unleashed the film version of the book in 1970 because it not only made light of war, which, when the book was released in 1968, was a hot topic, but also because of the unique pacing of the film and the astoundingly vulgar situations, by even today's standards. The film, I didn't know, was originally given an X rating. However, I always thought the TV series was painfully boring. I still think it is one of the most overrated shows ever. So the desire to see the original film was not in me. Yet, I did. My take is that there is vulgar and there is disturbing. If I took M*A*S*H contextually at its time in history, I get it's relevance. I realize there was nothing like this movie at the time, and has been little like it since. I praise it for being such a groundbreaking film, but to watch it for the first time in 2012 is a hard thing to do. Especially as a Gen-Exer, who can't appreciate why making fun of war so strongly is a humorous thing. Why being so insensitive to women, blacks and authority in general while at war makes absolutely no sense to me. I found the movie dull. I may have chuckled a couple of times, but maybe this movie's genius is that it is such a strong portrayal, albeit unrealistic, of what war does to its participants and the inhumane conditions it expects modern people to accept, so the way they cope is to cure the boredom and sadness with as much outlandishness as can entertain them. I understand that the book was meant to be a satirical and over-the-top comedy about war told from someone who was very much against war, but had to participate I war, but calling it a comedy is stretching things a bit far. At best, it's an inside joke. To me, it just wasn't funny.