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A classic war-is-hell movie
Bill-30831 January 1999
No, not the very wonderful TV series. The Robert Altman film with Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye, Elliott Gould as Trapper John, and Radar as Radar. This is a dark comedy, but it's a delight from beginning to end. And even more effectively than the TV show, the movie illustrates the complete insanity of war. (But even the movie doesn't depict Jesus on the cross hanging from a helicopter. For that you'll need to read the book.) Like most Altman films, this one is episodic. It's also gritty, grim, bloody, offensive, and charming. And Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) is not a character watered down and humanized for television. This is an example of a film so rich in detail (like Altman's "Popeye," come to think of it) that it demands multiple viewings.
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Outrageous, in-your-face black humor
Stanley Strangelove22 August 2007
M*A*S*H is a groundbreaking film. Along with Catch 22, M*A*S*H had the audacity to ridicule two of the pillars of American society: war and religion. Whether you find this appalling, subversive, treasonous, outrageous or funny depends on your political and religious orientation. Surely the religious right will find the film blasphemous and the political right will find it treasonous. No matter what your point of view, M*A*S*H is certainly an in-your-face film.

The irony of the film is that for the time it was considered gruesomely bloody. Yet there are no battlefield scenes; all the blood is in the surgical unit. The CSI TV series shows more carnage than M*A*S*H, but M*A*S*H was filmed over 30 years ago.

M*A*S*H is loaded with bizarro characters. Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Robert Duvall, Tom Skerrit, Loretta Swit, Radar are all insane in their own way. In "M*A*S*H," everyone is cruel, playing mean practical jokes and the anti-heroes Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould are just plain heartless. They absolutely torment Major "Hot Lips" Hoolihan and Robert Duvall. None of the characters in the film tries to be funny. There are no jokes. The humor just grows from the situation which is the grim reality of a mobile surgical unit whose doctors and nurses try their best to repair the horribly mutilated bodies from an insane war. Having worked in a hospital setting, outrageous and black humor is commonplace, especially in the ER, but in M*A*S*H it's taken to a new level.
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One Of The Greatest Films Ever Made
2004RedSox23 February 2006
Some people may think I'm insane for saying this. But this is one of the greatest movies ever made. It was so shockingly different back in 1970 and it influenced war films in the 70s (the "war is insane"-type atmosphere of the film was used by "Apocalypse Now".) The black comedy elements are as original as Dr Strangelove. I have watched this film over ten times and I get astounded each time by it's amazing originality. It's too bad Robert Altman doesn't get as much as recognition as Kubrick or Fellini though I feel he is in the same league. Today the admirable but inferior TV series is more well-known than the movie but I feel the movie is one of the great achievements in film history.
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Clearly an important part of film history, but the years haven't been kind to it (in my eyes)
runamokprods8 August 2010
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.
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Pure Comedy Genius
George Floyd (GF9)3 January 2006
As comedies go, it doesn't get much better than M*A*S*H! Script, direction, casting, music and acting are all at their very best in this satirical take on the Korean War - ironically, there is no army action played out during the movie, just the escapades of Elliot Gould, Donald Sutherland, et al where they are stationed to take in casualties of war.

From the opening shots we feel the slow mood of the film, yet if we look a little closer, we see comedy and havoc all around. This is in my opinion, Altman's finest piece - the film is superbly shot, showing fantastic long shots, typical of the era. Elliot Gould has never been so cool, and Donald Sutherland's dryness is sublime. The cast as a whole are the driving force behind this movie - the actor's clearly have taken time to learn their character's, and it really shows, right down to Radar's communication with the field Marshall (or whatever he is). It is very much a character driven movie.

The football game just shows what these people are really like - fun, scheming, lovable cheats - but it pays off because the opposition is so loathsome.

Beautifully written, shot, acted and the rest. Without a shadow of a doubt this is a 10 out of 10 and one of the best comedies around.
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Strange film
kintopf43228 December 2004
Strange film; basically entertaining, but not exactly a masterpiece. One of the most likable things about Robert Altman is that every film of his has been in some way an experiment, and almost none of these experiments, even the very good ones, work perfectly. This is a great example. As is obvious from the many user comments here, it's difficult to talk about "MASH" without comparing it to "M*A*S*H," and in fact the most important cultural thing the film may have done is establish an aesthetic universe for the TV series to exist in (and that really is the only thing the film and the TV show have in common – as many have pointed out, the tone, style, timing, and even character personalities are quite different between the two). But taken on its own, "MASH" is not really the anti-war polemic it's been made out to be, nor is it the joke-driven movie comedy we might expect from the series' style. Instead, it's a kind of exercise in black-comic tone; it subverts the idea of war not by explicitly criticizing it, even through jokes, but rather by being exactly the opposite of what we expect a traditional war film to be. Here we don't see courage or valor or heroism or honor; we see cowardice and nastiness and vice and stupidity, even from the "good" characters. The movie subtly suggests that war makes ordinary people into silly, stupid, and vicious ones, and Hawkeye and Trapper are no more exempt from this law than Frank Burns; in fact, if anything they are more angry and mean than he is. This unusual approach to the subject matter is well-maintained throughout the film, and never becomes too harsh or ugly – and yet Altman missteps with some oddly chosen episodes (Painless's "suicide attempt," for instance, and the overlong, if symbolic, football game), and the ending of the film is abrupt, making what's come before seem even more pointless and inconsequential. Which may be exactly Altman's point, of course . . . so here we have another Altman film that manages to be simultaneously witty, jokeless, boring, entertaining, confusing, beautifully thought out, artfully constructed and artless, symbolic and realistic. It's recommended, but viewers should ideally go into it with no expectations whatsoever. 7 out of 10.
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Anti-war? Gimme a break!
wuxmup9 August 2009
I thought Altman's "Nashville" was brilliant. "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" was a solidly "different" western. MASH, on the other hand, manages to bore and rankle at the same time.

What's right with MASH: ingenious innovations in technique, like a loudspeaker within the movie helping to announce the final credits and a comic eating scene shot to resemble the layout of Da Vinci's "Last Supper." Clever! Yawn. (These bits neither advance the plot, contribute to characterization or ambiance, or do anything except exist. Some viewers will laugh at the moment of recognition, but playful directing doesn't make a good film all by itself.) Another possible innovation is the use of a Simon&Garfunkly theme ("Suicide is Painless") that has no bearing on the movie or much else in the world. If Altman thought this bit up all by himself, it's clever. Yawn.

The cast does the best they can with so little of interest to work with.

I didn't find MASH funny, for reasons that many others have mentioned. Its worst sin against humor, to my mind, is that the "fun" here is based entirely on a the antics of a few angry and arrogant narcissists. I'd have called them "psychos," but that would make them sound too interesting. The fact that they're also brilliant surgeons doesn't outweigh their mental-health issues, unless you get a lump in the throat just watching SOB's save lives.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is anti-war. "Paths of Glory" is anti-war. You don't need to be told that because they show war itself as cruel and dehumanizing, right up on the big screen.

"MASH" is not antiwar, and would be pretty poor even it were, because most of the dehumanizing is done by the protagonists themselves. It was *marketed* as antiwar (something quite different) because being antiwar *sold* in 1970. The posters that showed a peace sign morphing into a leggy babe had nothing to do with the movie except to convince people that it was "anti-war" and therefore great, sexy, hilarious, and more than worth the price of admission. In fact, MASH is none of these things.

Hawkeye, Trapper John, and their buddies are not against war or even *the* war. They do and say nothing about any war. All they do and say is whatever they feel like, tormenting female nurses, outsmarting superior officers, taking their petty vengeance and unmotivated peevishness out on everyone around them. Sound funny? Wrong. The Marx Bros. might have been able to pull it off, but not this crew.

MASH is anti-authority, but that's a whole lot different from being anti-war. MASH is also anti-military, but in a motiveless way (unless raking in the bucks was a motive). All the army ever did to these distinguished surgeons was to replace, temporarily of course, their zillion-dollar a year civilian careers with the opportunity to play golf, football, and crude practical jokes while occasionally saving of patients whom they obviously do not give a **** about personally.

The primary "anti-war" message here is that surgical operations involve lots of blood squirting around. That's it. Why not say MASH was is "anti-surgery" or "anti-medical profession" movie? Because that would nail the picture for the fraud it really is.

(Note: I know that medical students can be krazy kut-ups, especially when it comes to spare cadavers. MASH is a lot less funny.)
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Theatre of war, theatre of cruelty
Cheese Hoven13 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I'm at a loss to know what the makers of this movie were trying to achieve. The two main characters, Hawkeye and Trapper John, are possibly the two most obnoxious characters ever committed to celluloid, smug, bullying, misogynistic, devious and self centred. That would be fine if Altman had intended to show these ugly traits as being part of human nature brought to the surface by war, but he seems, perversely, to show such qualities as admirable.

The atmosphere resembles that of a school playground with bullying towards non-conformists being much in evidence. Conformity here is of course alcoholism, gambling and womanising. Again, this would be fine if the film makers intended this moral inversion and reversion to adolescence as being a bad side effect of war, in a sort of Lord of the Flies way, but the impression is that the lawless pack are the good guys while anyone who represents order is to be humiliated simply because this is "fun". Doing things by the book is such a drag, maaan.

Robert Duvall is the first to be mocked, simply because he happens to be praying. He is later punched by Trapper on a thin excuse and for which Trapper receives no punishment. Next he and "hot lips" have their passion broadcast for the amusement of all. The slender justification for this is that he is married, although almost everyone else is ignoring their wedding vows. Duvall is soon goaded into a fight and unjustly carted off in a strait jacket. Hot Lips receives a great deal of ritual humiliation simply because she is not popular. And the repulsive part is we are meant to be laughing AT her not feeling any sympathy for her. She soon has her dignity removed by having the curtain pulled away while she is showering, again to the amusement of a cheering mob. Her desperate plea for justice is treated like a joke by the commander (and the director).

All of this is shocking, but is presented as light entertainment. At no point to we get the impression that the descent into the baying mob mindset is a bad thing. Next the dentist who has concerns over his sexuality tells this to the 'hero' Hawkeye (the priest having heard this in the confession virtually breaks his vows in his eagerness to let Hawkeye know about it). Hawkeye then blabs this sensitive info to everyone who jeer at the dentist and laugh at his intention to commit suicide. He is "cured" of his gayness by a mock last supper (with heavy influence of Da Vinci), mock funeral and then a sexy girl. Hey presto all is alright. Hawkeye and Trapper continue their obnoxious antics in Japan where they treat some nurses with contempt, then gas and make compromising photos of a commander who dared to question them.

At this point the audience is expecting the pair to receive their well deserved comeuppance. Alas, this never comes. Instead the movie lurches into a long football match, which includes a black player called "spear chucker", and which they win by cheating. Perhaps this is meant to be some allegory of war? Since we are shown several images of the opposing team sitting on the bench sharing a joint, I guess the intended message is that the best option in war is to sit on the sidelines and take drugs.

This football sequence also points up the inconsistency in the writing. Hot Lips, having previously opposed the playing of football, suddenly becomes the chief cheerleader. No explanation is given. She is still treated to derogatory comments, and ends up meekly sitting at a poker table obediently watching the men play cards. The Stepford Wives has nothing on Mash.

The writing has this inconsistency throughout. Rambling sequences. General sloppiness. Characters who disappear. Duvall goes early on. Then the young boy he was teaching is taken off "for a few days" by a doctor who notices the boy's high heart rate. We never know what happens to him. The dentist disappears after his moment.

This is not a well made film and a waste of the talent of all involved.
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Hardly "clever" - Hardly Dr Strangelove!
AustralianJeremy6 April 2003
I can't believe people here are comparing M*A*S*H with Dr Strangelove. Brilliant satire? Hardly! Apart from the fact that some of its "darkest humour" is patently offensive today - "Hot Lips"' complete humiliation as she's taking a shower, the dentist who thinks he's gay and so has to kill himself (and his decision not to kill himself is only because he finds out he's not gay), etc - the rest of it is really rather obvious and, well, stupid. Ha ha ha, Trapper John has a go at the head nurse in Japan and uses the word "tits!" How terribly risque. (yawn).

And of course, as even those who like the movie have pointed out, it doesn't have a plot. It's a series of rather tedious little vignettes that don't amount to very much before it just suddenly ends. The football game has nothing to do with anything. And what the hell is with Hot Lips' sudden huge character change? She's humiliated by the whole camp when they pull her shower down, obviously distraught she breaks down in front of the CO, who then proceeds to agree with the General to just ignore her complaint - and then suddenly she's a brainless bimbo cheerleader supporting the boys and thinking that the referee's gun has just shot someone. Hello? What the hell?

If you want a brilliant movie that satirises the futility and stupidity of war and the military establishment, watch Dr Strangelove. Kubrick knew what he was doing. "Gentlemen! You can't fight in here, this is the war room!" Now that's irony.
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Important, influential, just not that good
Bill Slocum22 December 2003
"MASH" broke barriers and defied conventions when it was first released in 1970. It still does today.

The pendulum has swung back a lot since 1970, and for that you still get a sense of the pioneering spirit with which the film was made. The overlapping dialogue. The non-linear, character-driven plot. The caustic humor. The attacks on religion (real religion, as the New York Times noted when the film came out, not false sanctimony but actual belief in God.)

Yes, in those ways the film is as powerful now as it was when it was first released. But you see something else, something audiences didn't see in 1970, so blown away were they by the newness of it. That is the picture runs out of gas halfway through.

You have a powerful beginning, that eerie montage with the strange song "Suicide Is Painless" playing mournfully while doctors, nurses, and orderlies silently rush to relieve choppers of their human cargo. It's quietly effective, immediately giving you a sense of the 4077th MASH unit (looking much bigger and grimmer than it ever did in the TV series) and coming as close as the movie ever does to delivering an effective anti-war statement. The movie builds from there as we meet the various characters, beneficiaries of their actors' strong improvisational work. It feels like real-time eavesdropping on a community of actual human beings. Scenes like Major Burns and Hot Lips' transmitted tryst and Painless Pole's suicide attempt are not as funny as we are meant to think, but they are well shot, especially the Painless Pole bit, the best thing in the movie for pure entertainment. The way all the guys in the Swamp crack up when Painless tells them he's decided to kill himself may be the film's funniest moment.

What happens next feels like a wrong turn. Hot Lips becomes the subject of a camp bet that exposes her to massive humiliation. Call it "indecent" or "politically incorrect," it is just plain wrong, exposing the film's (and its director's) nasty streak toward women and alienating any concern you might have built up for the characters. When she and Burns were targeted before, you had a sense they had it coming because of her overbearing military approach and his blaming orderly Boone for killing a patient. This time, she's a spent force, no threat to anyone, and "a damn good nurse," as Trapper says, just doing her job as best she can despite her earlier bad experience. I'm struck dumb at the idea I'm supposed to be laughing when she rushes into Col. Blake's tent in shock and tears.

The film never recovers. Instead, it veers wildly off course, away from the camp and into two radically pointless subplots, one involving a trip by Hawkeye and Trapper to Japan where they operate on a congressman's son and a sick infant (some sort of parallel there, though lost on me), the other a football game that apparently was director Robert Altman's comment on the folly of war, but to me just shows what happens when you allow your characters to veer off-script for so long you can't make it back to the ending as written. The game takes up too much time, throws in goofy circus music complete with slide whistles, and features the once iron-willed Hot Lips in the role of outlandishly enthusiastic cheerleader for all the people who tormented her so viciously for the duration of the film. Sally Kellerman's performance in the second half of the film is nothing like it was in the first half; it's embarrassingly, cartoonishly bad. Altman should have reined her in, but you get the feeling he was just rushing by then to get it all in the can before the studio figured out what he was up to and took his film away.

Altman was just so much better making "Nashville." Obviously he learned a lot. It's amazing how pasty everyone in this film looks, particularly Donald Sutherland, who seems leprous. No wonder he tried to get Altman fired. So much of the supporting players faded away, and though they do good work, it's not a surprise. They all seem so squalid and ugly as Altman shoots them.

It's interesting comparing the characters here to their counterparts in the TV series. For me, the TV characters are usually preferable. Robert Duvall mines zero comedy from Frank Burns, playing him very seriously in comparison to Larry Linville's more likeably miserable TV Burns. Roger Bowen had a great voice, but is nearly robotic as Blake, having none of McLean Stevenson's panache. What's worse than a pompous moralizing Hawkeye with Groucho affectations? How about that annoying whistle! Even Gary Burghoff, the one real holdover from film to series, plays a nastier Radar in the movie, meaner, tougher, less innocent.

The whole film is mean, tough, less innocent. It gets points from me for that. Altman and his cast develop a magnificent mood right away. But they fail to do very much with it. "MASH" is a great 45-minute-long movie that just goes on too long.
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A Great War Comedy
gallenm125 June 2003
This is truly the best military comedy ever made. It is funny, yet it realistically depicts the savagery of war and the non-chalance it gradually inspires in its victims. For example, some of the funniest, yet also most disturbing, moments in the film come when the doctors are operating on wounded soldiers, complete with gruesome sound effects, yet are discussing extremely trivial matters.

The film also benefits from some great performances. Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould were excellent as Hawkeye and Trapper John. They both had a streak of good movies during the 70s. Robert Duvall is amusing as a pious major whose fanaticism drives our heroes to extreme measures. Sally Kellerman and Tom Skerrit also put in good performances in their roles; it is a pity that these two actors are not better utilized nowadays.
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I couldn't hate this movie more.
Scott Miller18 January 2001
Warning: Spoilers

After falling in love with the TV show, I thought I'd see what spawned it. I wish I hadn't. This horrible movie (1/10 only because I could not give a 0) has forever put a shadow on my view of the TV show. This movie is bad beyond words. In the show, the lead characters, Hawkeye and Trapper, are nice, friendly guys who have developed a morbid sense of humor to keep from going insane. In the movie, these two characters are just plain mean. They take an instant disliking to Frank Burns just because he's religious. Then they do everything they can to get him kicked out of the army (this happens early on, so this isn't a spoiler). And the worst part of it is, Frank Burns is probably the nicest, most likeable character in the movie.

How such a piece of trash could inspire one of the greatest TV series of all time is beyond me. And now that question will be stuck in my mind for the rest of my life whenever I watch the show.
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An enjoyable, episodic comedy but not the classic many claim it to be
bob the moo8 February 2004
And then there was Korea. In an understaffed and overstretched medical camp Lt Col Blake puts an order in for more surgeons. Dispatched to him in a stolen army jeep are Captain's Hawkeye Pierce and Duke Forrest who immediately start chasing the nursing staff and annoying their tent mate Major Burns. When chest cutter Trapper John McIntyre joins them in the camp it starts a working practice that ignores authority and tries to find as much fun as possible in the middle of their bloody war.

I had watched the TV show for a long time before I finally got to watch the movie - I prefer the cynical comedy of the film although I have always loved the more sitcom style approach of the series. Many critics have hailed this as an anti-war film that exposes the brutal effects of war; to some extent I suppose that is true but it is far from being a part of the main narrative - even to call it a theme would be generous! It does have some scenes of blood and gore but it is far from having anything substantial to say about the cruelty of war.

Instead I always find this film to be a very episodic, freewheeling comedy, some bits of which work and some others don't. On the whole it is pretty funny and uses the sort of sporadic dialogue and action to move it forward. At times it is based on imaginative banter between Trapper and Hawkeye and at others it is out and out slapstick such as the chaotic game of American football at the end of the film. The downside of this is that sections of it just don't work - Painless Paul's dilemma is pretty uninspiring at least - however, on the whole it is energetic and very funny. Altman's use of overlapping dialogue and his usual use of overlapping scenes as opposed to a traditional narrative flow is good here but it would have been better if it had been toned down somewhat.

The cast is what really carries the film - the plot is weak and they have no characters other than what they create themselves and, although the dialogue is good, I couldn't help the feeling that the cast did as much as the writers. As such the lead two of Sutherland and Gould stand out as great comedians with great witty touches, their characters are the largest and their lines are the funniest. Skerritt starts out as equal to them but quickly becomes a third wheel despite still giving a good performance. The support cast are all a good mix of characters whether they be played by actors such as Duvall and Kellerman or less well known faces such as Burghoff or Bowen.

Overall, I am still unable to see what those who call this a `brutal anti-war film' see but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it as a comedy. As such though, it is very episodic and really lacks a solid narrative flow meaning that any 10 minute period could be good or bad. Aside from this lack of substance it is a funny, enjoyable comedy but it doesn't deserve the classic reputation that it has obtained.
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Classic Basics, With a wrong turn taken halfway hrough
Arthur Fiore14 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Okay, here are the basics . . . .

1) A U.S. Army hospital unit in war-torn Korea in the early 1950s;

2) Wounded soldiers and civilians being rushed into the compound via helicopters, trucks and jeeps -- to be operated on by incredibly talented surgeons who, in their off hours, are womanizing party animals and who have little or no respect for authority;

3) Fine, dedicated, caring nurses;

4) Medical personnel, faced with the bloody, gory realities of war, act crazy to keep from GOING crazy;

5) A ranking surgeon, who is somewhat less than competent, is romantically involved with the by-the-book, strong-willed regular army chief nurse,

6) A commanding officer who is not exactly a born leader;

7) The place seemingly being run by a shrewd, but innocent young clerk who seems to know things are going to happen before they do.

8) War is Hell; The Army is stupid.

It's all brilliant, inventive, and very original.

Unfortunately, in this movie, something goes wrong following the establishment of the above-mentioned wonderful basics, and the film loses that wonderful feel at just about the mid point.

For one thing, the less-than-competent ranking surgeon is disposed of relatively early and much too swiftly -- taken away in a straitjacket following an altercation with one of his colleagues.

There is a completely absurd sequence during which the camp dentist -- an educated man, presumably -- wishes to commit suicide for no good reason and is actually fooled into believing that his medical comrades, following a "Last Supper"-like ceremony, have given him a pill that will do the job. He even gets into a coffin, believe it or not, in preparation for his expected demise. This is followed by his friends filing past him and, in turn, paying their last respects. The only thing that makes this ludicrous scene at all watchable, for me, is the terrific acoustic guitar and vocal performance of the "MASH" theme song, "Suicide Is Painless." The dentist, incidentally, seems to be neither confused nor surprised by the fact that he is still alive the next day. (Instead of dying after taking the pill, he had been helped through his "crisis" by a very kind and desirable young nurse.)

Not long afterward, the unruly-yet-skilled surgeons travel to Japan to play some golf and, oh, operate on a congressman's son and help a sick infant . . . along the way disrupting a hospital, drugging and framing a colonel, and telling off a snooty head nurse.

Eventually comes a much-too-long, totally-out-of-place scene in which the MASH unit hustles another army outfit in a game of football by bringing in a "ringer" and drugging the other team's star -- who inexplicably is oblivious to a needle being stuck into his arm after being tackled. Where the football uniforms, equipment, field, scoreboard, goal posts and referees come from is a mystery. Incidentally, during this segment, the aforementioned by-the-book, strong-willed regular army chief nurse is magically transformed into a brainless pom-pom girl, enthusiastically cheering the very maniacs who have been harassing and humiliating her throughout the movie . . . and pretty much getting everything wrong.

Add to all of this the fact that the "M" in MASH stands for Mobile, yet this particular MASH unit never moves even *once* during the entire film.

All in all, a beautiful original concept which got lost somewhere along the way.

Luckily for us all, a group of very talented individuals later took all of those great "basics" of this movie which I mentioned at the start of this comment and transformed them into just about the greatest television series of all time. When you play the TV series DVDs, and eliminate the chuckle track, you are treated to what this movie quite possibly could have and maybe should have been.

Asked to give this movie a 1-10 number rating, I gave it a 7 (5 for the movie itself, plus an extra 2 for giving the TV series its initial main characters, a setting, and a visual style).
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Mish M*A*S*H
shadock-228 January 2001
M*A*S*H made the reputation of its director Robert Altman, but although Altman's talents are considerable, I think he pulled off a fast one here. The plot careens from place to place, the story doesn't really go anywhere, the script is disjointed, and we don't get nearly the sense of the brutality of war that we see in other films of this period, even the ones that weren't nearly as entertaining. Heck, the TV series did a better job of looking into the utter futility of war. The surgical scenes are somewhat gruesome, but hardly shocking.

I think the sucess of the film and its obvious entertainment value (you will like watching this film) is due to a five star cast from top to bottom. The actors who deservedly made their reputation in this film and give fine performances throughout are Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman, Gary Burghoff and Bud Cort, and that's just the A-team. Heck, I could make a good movie today with just those people. From the stoic Trapper John to the bible thumping adulterer Frank Burns, the characters ring true and are fully fleshed out.
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Less Good As Time Goes By
jeremy323 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Although this movie attempts to be exciting and humorous, the humor is disconnected with reality. Altman wanted to make a statement about war without really understanding what it was really like to be in a combat situation in Korea. The surgery scenes are gruesome, yet they don't seem real enough. There is no sense of connection in the operating room with the pain of war. There are no artillery shells. They even have lots of time for horsing around and playing football. Basically, it is "good guys" versus "bad guys". The "bad guys" are Major Houlihan and Major Burns. Both Kellerman and Duvall are very good in their roles. Sutherland is pretty decent, but poorly developed. You get the sense that he likes dogs and is pretty decent, but he comes of as a complete pain-in-the-neck. Gould is disappointing. He comes across as a hippie, not as someone who really existed in the 1950s. Basically, there were amusing moments, such as the football game, but I never felt that this movie was anything more than an ego trip for Altman. I never felt that it was an honest look at the Korean War.
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Vastly Over-Rated
sddavis6320 January 2003
I realize that this movie has achieved almost cult status and is widely regarded as a classic, but it just didn't work for me. The best thing I can say about it is that it gave birth to the long running television series of the same name, which may still be the best television series ever made. But how anyone could watch this movie and get the idea to make it into a television series is beyond me.

I readily confess, of course, that (as with almost everyone born in the 1960's or later) my introduction to and conception of MASH is the TV series. It's truly difficult for me to relate to Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, for example. Not that he, or any of the actors, did a bad job. It's just that the TV series is so ingrained in my mind that it's hard to see different actors putting their unique spins on familiar characters. Hawkeye, Trapper John (Elliott Gould), Frank Burns (Robert Duvall), Hot Lips Houlihan (Sally Kellerman) and Col. Blake (Roger Bowen) are portrayed very differently than their TV counter-parts. That's fine (and the actors did well) but it's still disconcerting.

The problems I felt with this movie went far beyond the difficulties involved with relating to an unfamiliar cast playing familiar characters, though. The story focuses on the experiences of Captains Pierce and Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt) at the 4077 MASH in the Korean War. It opens with their arrival and closes with their discharge. But to me the movie lacks any clear focus or consistency. It doesn't seem to be building to anything and in the end it just fizzles out quietly without any real climax. The zany antics of the doctors come across here as mean-spirited more than fun, and there's way too much emphasis on the football game between the 4077 and the 325th Evac. I mean - who really cares? To me, this movie didn't even seem to have a strong anti-war message. Anti-military perhaps, but not anti-war (and the two are not the same thing, in my opinion.)

I realize that I'm not in tune here with most people's thinking, but as far as I'm concerned the best thing about this movie is actually hearing the words to the familiar MASH theme: "Suicide Is Painless." I also appreciated the fact that, this being a motion picture rather than a TV series, the horrors of war (ie, the wounds of the soldiers) could be more graphically (and therefore more soberingly) portrayed. Aside from that, nothing much here appealed to me.

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Horrible Movie
wroache27 November 2001
I got my first glimpse of M*A*S*H* the television series when I was young because my mom would always watch the show. As, I grew older I became (an still am) a fan of the series. Not the best series ever made and it had its down points but overall, it was an enjoyable series.

Many years later, I saw M*A*S*H* the movie. I couldn't believe that such a wonderful series could be based off such a horrible movie. I have watched it several times since and my opinion gets lower everytime, I see it.

Hawkeye and Trapper John were total scumbags that should be sitting in a stockade. They sexually harass women non-stop, misuse their medical authority, and are a bunch of drunks. They are not generally nice doctors caught up in a horrible war, like in the TV series. These guys are just nasty punks.

The great "comedy" of this movie, just isn't there, be it black comedy, straight, slapstick or whatever. A plot of any kind doesn't exist. And the whole thing is plain boring. And the editing of every copy that I have ever watched sucks, making for a very disjointed experience.

And to top it off, this movie is hardly anti-war, at all. I cannot understand, how it ever could have been considered, as such.

If you want good comedy, great characters, and very sad and moving anti-war material, watch the series. If you wanna see confusing, meaningless crap, then watch the movie.
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Mash is Trash
lynpalmer131 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Total trash of a movie. Suicide really would be less painless than watching this garbage. It's claim to fame is supposedly its anti war theme, which is complete bunk, unless the point is war turns men into degenerate, sexist, anti social pigs! Is this behaviour supposed to be justified because they are talented surgeons? There is no stand against war here, just juvenille, narcissistic bullies engaging in criminal behaviour and tormenting everyone around them. I am an atheist, but I found the ridicule of a religious character to be a bit much. Thwarting a noble attempt to teach a child in a war torn society to read and then using said child as a personal lackey is funny how? As for its treatment of women, it is offensive in a way that would not have been acceptable in the actual 50's, even less so in the 70's, and is downright disgustingly criminal today. Coercing a woman a character is supposed to have feelings for to have sex with another man to turn him from being gay. The man himself preferring suicide over homosexuality. The degrading shower scene and the following emotional breakdown are shocking to watch and its mind boggling to think anyone could actually think this was funny. It's truly frightening to read how many viewers rate this movie so high. It's interesting that the TV show is so much better, mainly because, thankfully, they had to tone down the characters and give them compassion to make them likable. So far I have only reviewed movies I have enjoyed but this one is so bad on so many levels I felt compelled to warn others. I only give it a 1 because 0 is not possible. Oh yeah, besides infuriatingly offensive it is totally boring without a real plot.
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Has not aged well.
nickrogers196915 January 2007
This is a very macho movie. Not because it takes place during the Korean war among soldiers but because of the attitude of the characters. It is badly dated. I didn't know films could be so sexist in 1970 when new young talent was taking over Hollywood films! The women are treated like bimbos. They're only good for cheerleading. The one woman (Hotlips) that tries to put things in order gets badly humiliated, not once but three times at least. She's only welcome among the boys if she wears a tight sweater. The homosexual man has to either turn straight or kill himself.

I can see why Gould and Sutherland became stars in the 70's. I can also why Tom Skerrit and Joann Phlug did not.

The film just went on and on with that American football game. Certainly no classic.
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michelerealini7 November 2004
I think "MASH" is not as good as many people say, for me it's not a classic. This Robert Altman movie, made during the Vietnam war years, talks about a group of doctors during the Korea conflict. The film was a big hit when it came out, maybe because it was the first movie to talk about army in a funny way -it teased the US Army...

Today the film looks old and overrated and the political sarcasm seems very weak, actually. There's no doubt that Altman wanted to do an antihero film, but after all "MASH" is a portrait of doctors who make jokes and tries to survive with humor. Themes like stupidity and horror of war are not treated, there isn't an analysis of this. Where's the antimilitarist message?

Even if it's an Altman movie, the film looks like a long TV movie. The director made much better movies. The only interest here, to me, is seeing young actors like Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Tom Skerritt, Robert Duvall, René Auberjonois and Sally Kellerman.
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Webster's dictionary defines "overrated" as "see MASH"
Black Adam18 July 2002
Although I am a life-long fan of the TV show, I cannot understand how this movie could be thought of as funny. Of the nearly 2 hour long yawn-fest, we see more drawn out sessions of surgery than anything else and (unlike the show) not a single quip, one-liner or smart alec remark is made. For nearly 25 minutes, we get to watch John Schuck's character contemplating his latent homosexuality and his solution for this problem: SUICIDE! Let's not forget Fred Williamson's African American character who was so thoughtfully nicknamed "Spear Chucker". Asian character named "Chop Saki" or "Slant Eye"? This movie may have been funny in its day (and what a depressing day that was), but its reputation as a great film is ill-deserved. "Patton" was a funnier film than MASH since it had a few sarcastic remarks thrown into it. That's a few more than MASH had.
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Arrogant irreverence is not the same as actually funny
MBunge14 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
For a legendary comedy, MASH isn't that funny. It's mostly mean, petty, arrogant and self-righteous.

As anyone familiar with the TV show spawned by this film knows, MASH is the story of 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. It primarily follows the exploits of surgeons Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper John (Elliot Gould) as they joke their way through bloody surgery and dealing with Army bureaucracy. There's really not much of a plot to the film. It's just the characters moving from one situation to the next, mostly becoming more absurd as they go along.

There aren't that much more than a handful of real jokes in the movie and most of them are the simplest sort of slapstick. Almost all of the alleged humor of MASH comes out of the characters' irreverent attitude toward each and every thing around them. But being irreverent isn't always the same as being funny. Sometimes being irreverent is just being a jackass and in the case of MASH, sometimes it's just being a cruel child lashing out at anyone different than you.

My problem with this movie started with the scene where Hawkeye and his fellow newly arrived doctor, Duke (Tom Skerrit), encounter Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall). As they enter their tent, they find Frank trying to teach a young Korean boy how to read, and he's using the Bible to do it. Hawkeye and Duke find this to be odd and somewhat offensive behavior and give the boy a girlie magazine to look at instead. Later on, Frank prays for the safety of U.S. soldiers in the field, their commanders on the ground and their Commander-In-Chief and again, Hawkeye and Duke find this behavior objectionable and openly mock and deride Frank for praying. And it's very clear that the movie wants us to agree that Frank's actions are strange, bad and laughable. But the movie never bothers to explain why.

Trying to teach a Korean kid to read English is a noble thing, especially because the movie never implies that the kid has any real education to speak of and in contrast to the way the movie's "heroes" treat him as nothing more than a servant. Praying for the well being of others should be about the most unobjectionable thing anyone can do, yet MASH implies it shouldn't be tolerated in polite company. Frank Burns is constantly treated like a terrible person, but Duvall's Frank isn't the complete weasel that Larry Linvile portrayed on TV. The only sin Duvall's Frank ever commits is being a little uptight. He never does anything any normal person would consider that bad, yet because he doesn't think and act the way Hawkeye and Trapper John do he's subjected to cruel torments and physical violence.

It's even worse for Major Margaret O'Houlihan (Sally Kellerman). Again, her only real offense is being a little uptight. But she's repeatedly subjected to the most vicious sorts of humiliations and unlike Frank, who at least gets to strike back at his tormentors, "Hot Lips" laps up the abuse like a whipped dog and later in the film grinningly pals around with the very people who treated her like the lowest form of garbage.

I can only imagine that MASH was supposed to reflect the cultural attitudes of the day. Audiences were supposed to identify with Hawkeye and the gang as "us" and laugh uproariously as they heaped abuse on "them". But if the narcissistic, crude, intolerant, vindictive, sadistic and awful thinking and attitudes embodied by this film really did represent the true face of the late1960s/early 1970s…no one should be surprised that there are so many people who deeply despise that era and everything it stood for.
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OK if you enjoy harassing people for no reason
jghbrown8 August 2017
I hated this movie when I first saw it 30-odd years ago and I still do. This doesn't seem to me to be funny in any way, unless you enjoy seeing people being publicly harassed and humiliated for no other reason than maybe they are straight or (worse) female. The harassment of the unfortunate women is downright infantile and today would be constituted as a criminal offense. The unit itself is, in delicate military terms, a shower of sh*t, as there is no apparent organization or discipline. As it lumbered towards its banal conclusion I developed this intense desire to be their commanding officer, in which event my boot would have come down with impressive force on two asses in particular - those of Hawkeye and Trapper John - propelling them with some haste to a court martial room, and from thence to the sunny shores of detention barracks (military prison).

Please subtract 1 from my score and find that you have arrived at zero.
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"Unfortunately, Not One of My Favorites." (Not a Spoiler)
ncarmadilloman2 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I have a great deal of respect for Robert Altman, who directed this

piece; I'm a big fan of most of his work. Therefore it's difficult for

me to submit an unfavorable comment in reference to this particular

film, which is thought of by most as one of his finest. Unfortunately, I

find myself in the minority.

I saw it for the first time about midway through the exceptionally long

run of the television series, of which I am a huge fan. I've been told

more than once that my intense dislike of the film stems from having

seen and grown accustomed to the TV show first. This is simply not true,

I've forced myself to watch the movie a number of times and I am still

not impressed.

The most distinct feature that bothers me about the movie is the

casting, which is a bizarre phenomenon considering the fact that I'm a

fan of nearly every single primary cast member. It just seemed as though

most of the principal characters were taken out of their element in

terms of the strengths of their talents.

Take for instance Robert Duvall in the role of Frank Burns. How often,

before or sense has he tried to play a no holds barred nincompoop? I

don't know, but in my opinion this wasn't a successful attempt, in my

opinion he's simply too intelligent. I had the same problem with Sally

Kellerman. I just don't see her as a comedic nymphomaniac nitwit nurse.

Her portrayal of "Hot lips" actually seemed to come across more like

what I perceive to be her true self, sexy and serious.

On the other side of the coin, the remainder of the surgeons from the

Swamp, Donald Sutherland (Hawkeye) in particular, came across as

complete idiots. This I attribute as much to bad writing as improper

casting. Looking back on it, history proves that Sutherland has a gift

for playing eccentric characters. With this in mind he might have been

wonderful in the role of Frank Burns.

Thank goodness they didn't try to make the TV series with Gary Burghoff,

(Radar), talking in anticipation over everything that was being said to

him. I'll say this; if I'd seen the movie first that might have been a

little less irritating, it certainly couldn't have been worse.

If you haven't already seen this movie then certainly don't avoid it

based on a my lack of enthusiasm. There are still enough diehard fans

out there to keep *MASH* on the list as very significant cult classic

movie. For me, that's says enough when deciding
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