M*A*S*H* is a 1970 satrical dark comedy/anti-war/drama film directed by Robert Altman, based extremely loosely on the novel written by Richard Hooker. Nominally about an outfit of medical personnel stationed at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, the film stars Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould. Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman, Tom Skerritt, Roger Bowen, Gary Burghoff, Bud Cort and Fred Williamson are also featured. MASH went on to inspire the television series M*A*S*H.
The film won the 1970 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It was nominated for five Academy Awards and won an Oscar for its screenplay. It was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected in 1996 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In 1998, the film was recognized by the American Film Institute (AFI) as one of the 100 greatest American films; two years later, AFI recognized it as one of the10 funniest American films.
MASH, unlike many war films, delivers an anti-war message with a light touch through moderate anarchy, bizarre conversation, and the boredom, stress, and resentment of the draftee physicians. The film famously juxtaposes gory operating room procedures with absurdist and often silly humor; occasionally these two elements co-exist within the same shot. The plot is episodic, which results in several considerable changes in the film's tone. In this way, as well as others mentioned above, it is said to be similar to the book Catch-22. MASH is marked by Altman's trademark sound editing style, in which each scene contains several simultaneous or overlapping conversations, as well as his unusual use of zoom.
Some of the film's critics disliked the limits on war carnage in favor of camp existence, and also for a certain callous attitude, notably in the treatment of the characters Major Burns (Duvall) and Major O'Houlihan (Kellerman)
- Donald Sutherland as Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
- Elliott Gould as John Francis Xavier "Trapper" McIntyre
- Tom Skerritt as Capt. Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest
- Sally Kellerman as Major Margaret "Hot Lips" O'Houlihan
- Robert Duvall as Major Frank Burns
- Roger Bowen as Lt. Col. Henry Braymore Blake
- René Auberjonois as Father John Patrick "Dago Red" Mulcahy
- John Schuck as Captain Walter Koskiusko "Painless" Waldowski, DDS
- David Arkin as SSgt. Vollmer/PA Announcer
- Jo Ann Pflug as Lt. Maria "Dish" Schneider
- Gary Burghoff as Cpl. Walter "Radar" O'Reilly
- Fred Williamson as Capt. Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones
- Michael Murphy as Capt. Ezekiel Bradbury "Me Lay" Marston IV
- Timothy Brown as Corporal Judson
- In the director's commentary on the DVD release, Altman says that this was the first major studio film to use the word "fuck" in its dialogue, the word being spoken during the football game near the end of the film.
- MASH features the song "Suicide is Painless", with music by Johnny Mandel and lyrics by Mike Altman, the director's son. The television show used an instrumental version as its theme tune.
- MASH was the original title of the 1953 film Battle Circus starring Humphrey Bogart, a film also about life in a MASH unit.
- During principal photography, Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould spent a third of their time trying to get Robert Altman fired. Altman later commented that if he had known, he would have resigned. Gould later sent a letter apologizing. Altman has used him in some of his later works. He has not worked with Sutherland since.
- In a few shots of the "speaker" at night, the moon is visible in the background. On the same night when these scenes were shot, American astronauts landed on the moon.
- Gary Burghoff was the only cast member to reprise his role for the television series. G. Wood, who plays General Hammond, also appeared on the TV series, if only for three episodes.
- The movie was one of the first films to be released to the home video market place when 20th Century Fox licensed fifty motion pictures from their library to Magnetic Video.
- M*A*S*H film at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
- Elliott Gould remembers M*A*S*H, from the BBC website; the same clip is directly available here in RealMedia format