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Frederick De Cordova
Nurse Lt. Ruth McGara is assigned to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit near the front lines of the Korean War. There she meets and is roughly romanced by Major Jed Webbe, one of the unit's surgeons. Webbe is pushy and seems to care only for momentary pleasures, but McGara falls for him just the same. Their romance blossoms in the midst of overwhelming numbers of casualties, threats from the enemy and from the weather, and emergency evacuations that test the mettle of even a unit whose very name suggests quick mobility.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film originally had a different title but the studio and the director thought that title would mislead audiences, so "Battle Circus" was instead chosen. The original title that was rejected was "MASH 66," which referred to the same Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit in the Korean War later made famous in both the film MASH (1970) and the TV series _"M.A.S.H." (1972)_. See more »
The aircraft strafing the hospital at the beginning of the movie have USAF markings. See more »
This is an interesting movie. It's not the best war movie you'll ever see; it's not the most exciting movie you'll ever see and it's not one of Humphrey Bogart's best movies by a long shot. But it's still very interesting in its own way. I was intrigued by it at first because it's the story of a MASH unit in the Korean War - long before MASH the TV series or MASH the movie or MASH the book. To be honest, I really hadn't been aware that a story that focused specifically on a MASH unit had been done before that. I have to say that I enjoyed this much more than I enjoyed "MASH" the movie. This seemed to take a far more serious approach to the subject, and it seemed to stay on topic far better. It makes many of the same points that author Richard Hooker would make in his 1968 book (and that would be the inspiration for the later movie and TV series of the same name) - the pointlessness of war, the heroics of the medical teams and the need for those involved to just find a way - any way - through, whether that meant alcohol or sex (or, I suppose, anything else.) It's different, though, in that it portrays a much more positive picture of the military.
Bogart played Major Webb, second in command of MASH 8666. He's a bit of a lonely figure with a past that doesn't really get explored much, but he's obviously a superb doctor. Into his life comes Lt. Ruth McGara (June Allyson) and they develop an interesting relationship that both sometimes fight against, that sometimes neither takes very seriously and that seems to eventually develop into something real. There wasn't really much passion (or chemistry) between them, but the relationship seemed believable to me in the circumstances, where such relationships probably come and go pretty quickly depending on who gets transferred where and when. It's a cautious relationship understandably, and so perhaps the emotional connection that sometimes seems lacking actually works. It's that relationship that's the plot device that moves this forward.
Interspersed are vignettes of war. The hospital comes under fire on occasion, it's constantly on the move to keep up with wherever the front happens to be, there's some reflection on the impact of the war on Korean civilians, and the most exciting scene of the movie is probably the North Korean prisoner who manages to smuggle a grenade into the hospital. It's not an exciting, action-packed war movie. It seems to simply give a look at the life of those serving in a MASH unit, and it seems to be one of the many "tribute" sort of movies that were made in the era. Although casualties are certainly present throughout, it's also not at all graphic in its depictions, and (even understanding the greater sensitivities the industry at the time had to such things) I found it ridiculous that Webb could perform chest surgery on a young Korean boy which included an open heart massage and yet apparently not get a spot of blood on him while doing it!
It's not great. I would call it interesting, mostly for its look at a MASH unit before M*A*S*H*. (5/10)
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