Rating: 8 out of 10.

And that is the question. The problem is, it’s not a question asked or answered enough. If you’ve watched the film, you’re probably wondering how I could even suggest M*A*S*H is anything but a comedy, yet here we are. What does that say about me? Well, luckily, this isn’t a psychoanalyst session, but rather a film review. However, if you would like to file a diagnosis, please do so in the comments below.

M*A*S*H is based around three surgeons in Korea, Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland), Trapper (Elliott Gould) and Duke (Tom Skerritt), who due to their importance in the war, take complete advantage in the most irresponsible, heartless and misogynistic ways possible. Yes, this is a funny film.

Of course, M*A*S*H hasn’t got a story, or any clear narrative arc at all, some would argue typical of a Robert Altman film, but that’s what makes it so brilliant. It’s full of improvisation and overlapping dialogue, and the film really feels like a group of comedy skits stitched together by a loose piece of string. You can see how it was translated into the more famous sitcom version of the film.

The cast is an interesting one – this is the film that made both Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould. After M*A*S*H they took very different directions – Sutherland, as well as making some classics, was able to pull off the leading man, and reached a very big peak soon after. He still works today at the grand old age of eighty-five, and rightly has a reputation to be proud of. People forget Gould made some excellent, quirky features during the 70s, and for a period was a major star – but now is mostly recognised from Friends and Ocean’s 11, by which he was almost a pastiche of his former glory. However, the chemistry between the two works perfectly.

More surprising is the inclusion of Tom Skerritt as Duke, who you may also remember as Dallas in Alien, and Robert Duvall as Frank Burns, the brilliant Tom Hagen from Godfather Part I and Part II. Sally Kellerman plays “Hot Lips” – who you need to watch this film for just to find out how she got that name – and alongside Duvall, they are two important keys that makes the units unjustified harassment all the funnier. Kellerman earned herself an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

It’s an incredibly sexist film, and very outdated in that way. If that’s something you think you’ll struggle to get past, then stay well away, but it does provide some of the most hilarious scenes – the recording under the bed, the suicide supper, the shower situation – and ties in with the taking down any structures of authority. What’s the only rebellion you can have in the middle of a war? Being infantile, wearing hideously inappropriate Hawaiian shirts, playing golf, smoking cubans and drinking martinis. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is M*A*S*H.

It takes about twenty minutes to get into the film – you could argue that this really is the killing of time. It’s interesting back in 1970, you could almost afford to ‘structure’ it as such, although structure is a loose word. With the “attention deficit disordered generation” as I like to call them of today, you need a big inciting incident to get strapped into the action – M*A*S*H just wants you to spend time with our ruthless alter egos. What the film really reflects is what was happening to young Americans during the Vietnam war – a lot of boredom.

While this is a comedy, just try to forget it that fact while watching it. Imagine this isn’t a film, but you’re right there in the thick of it. The truth is, these are sadistic people, who take advantage of their situation because they’re deeply unhappy. Look at M*A*S*H through this lens, and it’s, well, pretty depressing. People are dying, blood is everywhere, and the unit is sick of it all. If you can find them, there are some very dark undertones. They try to pretend they don’t care, but it’s getting to them. Outside of the tent, it’s all about trying to staying sane. And the only way they can do that is letting go of all their principles and tormenting those that don’t.

Of course it’s trying to be funny, but it’s also trying to get across a message – desperate times call for desperate measures.

This is an incredibly original and an incredibly funny flick. Some may not like this because it’s an acquired taste in humour, or perhaps of your religion convictions, or perhaps you verge on right wing politics – in which case, just get the- ahem. Let’s stay away from politics. But the views suited me perfectly. And personally, I take the view that M*A*S*H is a masterpiece – of its time.

M*A*S*H – 8 out of 10

45 Comments

  1. Bookstooge says:

    How does this tie into the tv show?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The tv show was adapted from the film. Simples.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bookstooge says:

        Good to know. Not that I’m going to watch either. I’m one of those you mention in your review 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I guessing someone of religious convictions? Yeah, this film is pretty anti religion – it’s pretty anti most things. Probably safer to keep your distance 😉

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Bookstooge says:

          That and I’m sure the anti-war sentiment would spin my wheels 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Ooh, anti war as well! Yes, perhaps not the film for you, although it’s not really on the nose about it. Maybe, just maybe, you could get away with watching this, but not worth the risk in my humble opinion.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Bookstooge says:

          Yeah, I’ll take a pass. My movie time is so squeezed that it really takes something impressive to get me interested.
          But I still like commenting on movie reviews 😀

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Excellent! I like your comments, Mr Stooge!😄

          Liked by 1 person

        6. Bookstooge says:

          Yeah, sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        7. Never a bad thing. I have the same problem…

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Loved he movie, loved the series. Nice review.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind words, dearest Fraggle. I’ve never watched the series – better or worse than the film?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Very interesting. May check it out if I can find a way to watch. Do need a new sitcom soon…

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Hope you find it, it’s unforgettable, might have to re do it myself!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Hannan says:

    Certainly qualifies as a black comedy. It would only have been depressing if it wasn’t funny and there are no shortage of message films that are very definitely depressing because they are no good. But this is very good and all the Altman techniques that are annoying in some of his other films work brilliantly. Gould and Sutherland as rebels fighting the system all the way but not at the expense of letting people die are a hoot. And it was interesting as you said that Sutherland became the bigger star.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep – M*A*S*H is very likeable, which definitely helps to translate it’s message across better than some films which are duller than dishwater. I don’t know much about Altman, other than he’s something of an acquired taste – maybe I’ll try to delve deeper into some of his work. The different paths Gould and Sutherland took I always found interesting – in all honesty, I probably prefer Gould just as a personality, but while Sutherland went more mainstream and more successful, Gould never fancied that route, I guess, and it came back to bite him.

      I’m still having difficulties with your site – I’m guessing my comments weren’t in your spam? Maybe I’ll try to get in contact with someone at WP to see what’s going on. Thanks for the comment, Brian!

      Like

  4. Alex Good says:

    The stardom of Donald Sutherland, at least as a leading man, is one of the great mysteries of film history. He was even a romantic action hero in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Eye of the Needle, and Klute. And yet he just looks like a goofy weirdo, with a strange voice to boot. I guess he must just be a wonderful actor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely not the case in M*A*S*H, as you can see with those glasses and hat, but Sutherland is kinda weirdly good looking (for some), a little similarly to Mads Mikklesen. Also like Mads, he’s very charming. Add that to being a excellent actor, and I can sort of see how he got away with it. He certainly did well for himself.

      Like

  5. Tom Hagen, surely. Fix it and I’ll try again. Bunty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What? What did I do wrong?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Any other errors I should take into account before a second effort?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t think so. Semi colons all proper.

          Like

        2. How about spelling the names of iconic characters? Janes Bond? Indina Jones? Don Korlene?

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Luckily, Janes Bond, Indina Jones and Don Korlene aren’t in MASH.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Neither’s Tom Hagen, but that didn’t stop you making a bodge of it.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. When was the last time you watched MASH? Clearly you’re confused. He’s a pretty big character.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. I think not, sunshine.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. Read the review yet, sunshine?

          Like

        8. Was put off by the glaring spelling errors. How’s correcting your homework going for you?

          Liked by 1 person

        9. Homework? You mean my memoirs? Very well.

          Liked by 1 person

        10. Hope they’ve got better spelling that this review did.

          Liked by 1 person

        11. You got something against my spelling? What else did I get wrong? Just Hagen.

          Liked by 1 person

        12. ‘…or perhaps you verge on right wing politics – in which case, just get the- ahem…’

          And you want to hand out grammar lessons? How many types of hyphen do you need? When do you put spaces before them? Decide, then rewrite this with the correct grammar. I’ll be in the staffroom.

          Liked by 1 person

        13. Dashes can be used for different occasions. The first was to separate clauses without using a full stop. The second was cutting off my dialogue. Not that hard, Dix, not that hard. Sheesh.

          Liked by 1 person

        14. You’re making it up as you go along! There is no consistency with the use of dashes, some with spaces before, some not. Even in the same sentence. Amateur night.

          Liked by 1 person

        15. Read above where I successfully explained my use of dashes. Space before dash means separating of clauses – no space meaning cutting off dialogue.

          Liked by 1 person

        16. You seem unable to illustrate your point without using different spacing! Have you used a keyboard before?

          Liked by 1 person

        17. What? A keyboard? Never. Calligraphy only on this site.

          Like

  6. manvmusic says:

    What was this comment thread above?? haha lol, nice review either way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I’ve got a few crazy commenters over here, and not too sure how to get rid of them. Just have to hope it’s a natural process…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. manvmusic says:

        haha that’s the only thing you can hope for. Imagine commenting on nothing about the review but your grammar lol – well handled, to be fair.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. He’s a fairly eccentric character, shall we say. Someone needs to talk some sense into him, that’s for sure.

          Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.