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One of the world's most acclaimed comedies, M*A*S*H focuses on three Korean War Army surgeons brilliantly brought to life by Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt and Elliott Gould. Though highly skilled and deeply dedicated, they adopt a hilarious, lunatic lifestyle as an antidote to the tragedies of their Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and in the process infuriate Army bureaucrats. Robert Duvall, Gary Burghoff and Sally Kellerman co-star as a sanctimonious Major, an other-worldly Corporal, and a self-righteous yet lusty nurse.
With the release of Robert Altman's M*A*S*H in 1970, a new form of comedy was born, one that would help to forever change the face of cinema. Altman's audacious film reflected the American counterculture's growing distrust of religion and government in the late 1960s and early 1970s, resulting in one of the biggest box office smashes of its time. Introducing the techniques he would employ throughout his storied career--overlapping dialogue, a constantly moving camera with a heavy amount of zooming, and a bold combination of frank subject matter with cynical humor--Altman immediately vaulted himself to Hollywood's upper ranks. Based on the novel by Richard Hooker, M*A*S*H follows a group of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital officers as they perform surgery and pass the time just miles from the front lines of the Korean conflict. Led by sardonic captains "Hawkeye" Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and "Trapper" John McIntyre (Elliott Gould), the film has the feel of an absurd three-ring circus. Other characters include the uptight nurse "Hot Lips" O'Houlihan (Sally Kellerman), the confused Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall), the troubled Captain "Painless" Waldowski (John Shuck), and the simpleminded Captain "Duke" Forrest (Tom Skerritt). Altman's decision to present his film as a series of loosely connected vignettes rather than a traditionally unfolding narrative perfectly captures the freewheeling spirit so unique to early-'70s cinema.
"I wonder how a degenerate person like you could have reached a position of responsibility in the Army Medical Corps."--Hot Lips (Sally Kellerman) to Dago Red (Rene Auberjonois)|"He was drafted."--Dago Red's reply to Hot Lips
"...[An] inspired, skittish conflict comedy....Subtle, underplayed and poignant..." 07/01/2003 p.137
"M*A*S*H* is still funny..." -- Grade: B 04/21/2006 p.61
"[I]t still boasts a splendid ensemble...[and] a breezy antiestablishment attitude..." 08/01/2006 p.67
Danford B. Greene, Nominee, Best Film Editing,Ingo Preminger, Nominee, Best Picture,Ring Lardner, Jr., Winner, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium,Robert Altman, Nominee, Best Director,Sally Kellerman, Nominee, Best Actress in a Supporting Role
One of the reasons M*A*S*H is so funny is that it's so desperate. It is set in a surgical hospital just behind the front lines in Korea, and it is drenched in blood. The surgeons work rapidly and with a gory detachment, sawing off legs and tying up arteries, and making their work possible by pretending they don't care. And when they are at last out of the operating tent, they devote their lives to remaining sane.
DVD, Sensormatic, No Longer Produced
Fox Home Entertainment
Neil Smith, BBC
Altman's black comedy perfectly expressed the anarchic, rebellious spirit of the 1970s with its blistering anti-war message and contempt for authority.
Steve Crum, Kansas City Kansan
Altman's best film and most influential.
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