Movie: M*A*S*H (1970)

MASH the TV show holds a dear place in my heart. I would sit with my Pawpaw and watch it (we watched a number of military movies too).  I see Alan Alda and am instantly smacked with nostalgia.  It dawned on me that I had never seen the movie that the show was based on.  So on 07/04 of last year (who doesn’t like a good military movie on the fourth of July??), I decided to take it for a spin. It was a 70s flashback of sorts.  I enjoyed it.  Did not enjoy it near as much as I did the show (and reruns all these years later).  I would recommend if I knew the person liked military shows made during that timeframe with a comedic (albeit dark) air to them.

Thoughts I had while watching the movie:

  • Wait, where is Alan Alda?  Yeah, I know – Radar is the only one that makes the transition from big to small screen. Makes sense as I cannot see ANYONE playing that role other than him.
  • The four-oh-seventy-seventh
  • Robert DuVall as Frank Burns is perfectly genius!
  • Great lines between Hot Lips and Hawkeye: “I wonder how a degenerated person like that could’ve reached a position in the Army Medical Corp!” “He was drafted.”
  • Sound overs and voice editing were a bit choppy and distracting for me.
  • Wait….Herman Munster is the dentist!!
  • Annnnddd… the big guy from From Dusk Till Dawn is in it – he looks younger…well, duh.
  • The Last Supper Pose!!!!  ha ha ha

The theme song is called Suicide Is Painless and it has lyrics….whoda thunk!


IMDB Synopsis: The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and high jinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.



Additional Movie Info:

It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 87% Fresh.  It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 83% liking it.  Average Rating: 3.7/5 with a number of User Ratings: 52,998.

Movie Reviews:

Specs:  Release date: March 1970 (USA) / Runtime: 116 minutes / Budget: $3.5M

IMDB Trivia:

  • The fourteen-year-old son of Director Robert Altman, Mike, wrote the lyrics to the theme song “Suicide is Painless”. Because of its inclusion in the subsequent television series, he continued to get residuals throughout its run and syndication. His father was paid seventy-five thousand dollars for directing, but his son eventually made about two million dollars in song royalties.
  • The first take of the shot where Hot Lips is revealed in the shower didn’t work, because Sally Kellerman anticipated the reveal, and was already lying on the floor when the tent flap went up. To distract her, Robert Altman and Gary Burghoff entered the shower tent and dropped their trousers while the shot was rolling outside. While Kellerman was staring at them, the tent flap was raised, resulting in her genuine surprise and shock when she realized what had happened. In the Special Edition double disc DVD, they say that Radar is standing naked beside the camera, and that’s the reason why Sally Kellerman looks so surprised when the flap was raised.
  • In the opening titles, when a soldier carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher and when the soldier trips and falls down, it wasn’t scripted. It was actually an accident by the actor who tripped over something. Robert Altman decided that instead of editing it out, to use it to foreshadow the dark humor theme as the movie’s first small, but real, laugh.
  • The operating scenes were almost cut out due to their graphic nature. However, two women who were visiting the set, told the producers that the operating scenes were what made the movie, and should be kept in.
  • Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland kept calling each other “Shirley” on the set. Gould did it in one shot, cracking Sutherland up, and Robert Altman decided to keep it in the film. “Shirley” was a reference to Donald Sutherland’s second wife, Shirley Douglas.
  • The scene where Father Mulcahy is blessing the Jeep was improvised. Rene Auberjonois found the blessing in a copy of the Army Chaplain’s Handbook, and thought it would be a good addition to the story, and to his character. Robert Altman agreed, and the scene was shot in one take.
  • The story goes that Robert Altman was editing the movie with Editor Danford B. Greene, they had nude pinups on the walls of the editing room. The head of post-production came by and tried to stop Altman from using the editing machine, as he wasn’t a designated Editor, and Altman threw him out of the editing room. The next day, a memo came down from the 20th Century Fox front office, stating a new policy that there were to be no pinups on the walls of editing rooms. Altman took the memo to the sound recording studio and added it as one of the loudspeaker announcements during the film.
  • When Donald Sutherland‘s parents went to see the film, his father stood up and said “Hi, Donny!” after the scene where Hawkeye says “Hi, Dad” to the camerawoman in the Jeep.
  • Although set on the front lines of the Korean War, the only gunshots heard throughout the movie are from the referee’s pistol during the inter-camp football game.
  • M.A.S.H. stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. They remained in U.S. Army service until 2006, when the last one was donated to Pakistan.
  • Gary Burghoff is the only actor to play the role of Radar in four out of five incarnations of the M*A*S*H franchise, in MASH (1970), M*A*S*H (1972), After MASH (1983), and the failed pilot W*A*L*T*E*R (1984). He did not appear in Trapper John, M.D. (1979). The next most frequently returning characters are Trapper John McIntyre (MASH (1970), M*A*S*H (1972), and Trapper John, M.D. (1979)), and Father John Francis Patrick Mulcahy (MASH (1970), M*A*S*H (1972), and After MASH (1983)), although they were each played by three different actors.
  • Roger Bowen (Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake) died on February 16, 1996. McLean Stevenson, who played the role of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake on M*A*S*H (1972) for the first three seasons, died on February 15, 1996.
  • Burt Reynolds turned down the role of Trapper John.
  • Several of the MASH character names appear on the large memorial plaque of alumni who served and died in the US Civil War in the lobby of Harvard University’s Memorial Hall. Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce even came from Maine.

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