Tuesday, October 29, 2013

517. M*A*S*H (1970)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Ring Lardner Jr., from novel by Richard Hooker
Main Cast: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall
Click here to view the trailer


Well FRIGHTFEST 2013 is just about in the bag (actually, all the FRIGHTFEST posts are up and scheduled to post at 8pm, for the next three nights, so for me FRIGHTFEST is kind of over) and it's time to start up a new festivity: "Altman Week". I know I said "Scorsese Week" was going to be the final director tribute week, but after looking THE BOOK over, I realized that there's still a few opportunities with director weeks left, so I figured "why not". Plus, these are great to do when I hit the halfway mark of a season, which is exactly where we are now. It's also worth noting that I'm OFFICIALLY 3/4 of the way finished with THE BOOK! Anyway, "MASH"...

Truth be told, there's really no linear, point A to point B plot here. Of course, we all probably know the story of "MASH", as it was spun-off into a very popular television show. In fact, the MASH finale still stands as the highest rated American television broadcast of all-time, with something like 125 million viewers. Now me, being a sitcom junkie (I bet you didn't know that about me), a guy who will literally give ANY sitcom at least one shot, has never seen one full episode of "MASH" and that's because I've always loathed war stuff and I think readers of the blog already know that. It's not because I'm a "give peace a chance" nut, it's just because war and war life themes have never had ANY interest for me, none whatsoever. So it wasn't a surprise that I didn't really care for this movie either. The plot revolves around a mobile hospital unit, operating during the Korean War. Your main characters are the doctors and nurses that make up the unit and the hijinks they get into. When Major Margaret Houlihan (Kellerman) joins the operation, she's dubbed "Hot Lips" and given rough treatment by the men. Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould (two that I don't mind) make up the rest of the cast, but in my view, their talents are really wasted here.

I don't know, maybe it's because the types of people (men) that probably enjoy this movie, are the same types of people (men) that I don't think I'd get along with. Overly patriotic, war nuts who also enjoy football and giving their female co-workers a hard time. I mean, isn't that the epitome of the American bully? I'm not saying this film's only audience is that type, but I bet it makes up the core, especially in the 70s when the film came out. No, it just wasn't for me, not in the least and as much as I tried to like it, I just couldn't settle into it. I liked the cast, as it was a bunch of guys that I normally enjoy, but I couldn't even, as much as I tried, enjoy that. Sure, there were a few bits that I got lost in: the dentist's wish to commit suicide and the finale football game were decent attention keepers, but that's it and had it not been for THE BOOK, I'd have probably NEVER seen this.

RATING: 4/10  That's about as high as it gets for this one. I do have high hopes for some of Altman's work though and I can tell you now that I've seen "Short Cuts" before and really liked it. Anyway, not a great start, but there's five more...


October 29, 2013  1:18pm


  1. I totally agree with you on this one. I found the behavior towards "Hot Lips" really kind of upsetting but I guess this isn't a movie aimed toward a female audience.

  2. MASH is an ANTIWAR(anti a lot of things actually) film, and was incredibly daring for its time.You've mentioned repeatedly here that you don't like to read, don't follow the news, politics, history etc. maybe that's why you had trouble understanding MASH. I assure you, the core audience for something like MASH is/was NEVER "overly patriotic, war nuts" but quite the opposite.

    You should think about doing a bit of research on some of the movies you review(and maybe read other reviews) to understand the context of them. The fact that MASH came out during Vietnam was pretty significant.

    BTW the TV show was very different from the film, Altman hated it. I have a feeling you'd like it.

    1. Well, I do respect your opinion first of all.

      No, I'm not much of a reader and not much of a history/politic buff. However, sometimes I'll watch a movie and it will compel me to do a little digging. For example, the few movies that I watched about East and West Germany and the tensions pre-Wall coming down, intrigued me enough to do a little research and actually dig a little deeper. MASH, on the other hand, didn't give me that feeling...

      So it was anti-war? Thanks for clearing that up, because I couldn't tell. It was filled with the same types of macho army guys that usually make up other war movies. But, come to think of it, are any war films not anti-war? Full Metal Jacket is definitely anti-war, but I could handle that one. The thing is, is that they're all set in the midst of war and that alone is off putting. Again, not necesarilly because I'm a "give peace a chance" nut, but just because THAT particular setting is one that doesn't interest me in the slightest.

      Also, thanks for the heads up on MASH, the TV show, but I have seen clips before and I'm sure I hate it too.

  3. We are back on agreeing about things Andrew.

    I made a prediction you may be surprised by my reaction to this one.. well I think I was perhaps wrong to say that..

    I should be a fan of this..I'm supposed to like this.. it's aimed at people like me. Hey, I'm an liberal 'Anti war give peace a chance nut', I liked the TV series and I mostly adore Robert Altman. I even like the context of a hospital in a war, and get the metaphor... but. BUT.

    I'm delighted to hear someone else say our 'heroes' are bullies. I'd been working towards a phrase along the lines of 'a pair of objectionable, immature, sexist collage boys'... but you put it more concisely.

    Added in 'rant warning'. I'm about to get all outraged...

    So we are supposed to dislike 'Hot lips' and Frank.. they are the rather crudely drawn authority figures. But I have a horrible feeling there is a lot more to their downfalls than just they represent 'The Army'.
    Houlihan, as a female (A female with authority over men! The horror!) is subjected to humiliations that are.. just unacceptable. I'm sorry, I feel I'm starting to slip into a rant here.. but come on.. just what is FUNNY about a bunch of asshole macho guys showing off to each other, pondering the state of a woman's pubes.. and then exposing her to the entire camp?? Come on!
    Ok, I know, this film is.. errr..over 40 years old times were different then?. Well, no, sorry. This was 1970.. we'd had the 60's- we had grown up by then. Even in a 50's film with Jerry Lewis mugging at 'dumb dolly birds' this was wrong.

    I hear a defender going.. "but Frank is given a hard time too"... Oh, but nothing to what Houliham gets... Frank gets ribbed, Houlihan gets humiliated. And it's not just her.. all the females in this film are there just to 'look pretty' and be the subject of patronising remarks or casual flirting.

    And to cap it off, (for me) t didn't even have the saving grace of an interesting end.. I was bored by the football match.

    Nice one Andrew.. good summing up.

    Robert Altman? Shame on you.. I'm dissapointed.

    I will shut up now. Sorry for the rant.


    1. Yeah, I was definitely confused by your "you may be surprised what I think" comment. I watched and said, "WOW, I don't think Ray would like this at all....but he said I'd be surprised, so maybe he does like it".

      Anyway, all cleared up now....

      Yes, I agree about the mistreatment of Frank and Hot Lips. I just didn't get it and why we were supposed to be on their side was beyond me.

    2. Well, I don't think we WERE supposed to be on Frank & Hot lips side. We were supposed to despise them as being the pro war figures of authority.
      We are supposed to be on Hawk-eye and his bunch's side.. they are supposed to be the good guys, and we are SUPPOSED to agree that mistreatment, in what ever form, to Frank/Hot lips was justified.

      That is why I'm objecting to this film.. the awful behavior of the 'good guys'.

    3. Yeah, that totally went over my head. Just a mess of a film, in one man's view....or I guess two men, counting you Ray.


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