30 May 2012

Film Review: M.A.S.H. (1970), by Robert Altman, *****


While set in the Korean War of 1950-1953, the movie clearly addresses the question of the Vietnam war, which at the time of production was an open wound in American society. A Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is the stage for a number of witty draftees to rebel and ridicule their strict superiors. Some are young docs just out of medical school, some are city girls who have to elbow their way in a clearly male dominated Army. Altman's black humor may seem a little dated forty years later, but it is still sharp. An iconic film of American countercolture that gave birth to an immensely successful TV series. Only one actor however, Gary Burghoff interpreting Radar, made it to the TV cast.


An unusual film that changed the way viewers looked at Vietnam, or at any war for that matter. Whether you agree with it or not, its message is still valid today in light of current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is interesting to note that 20th Century produced this movie while they were already working ot two other major war productions, Tora Tora Tora and Patton. Both those movies, in their very different ways, portrayed American military leaders in a positive, even heroic, light. MASH makes fun of them in a way that almost makes fun of war, if that is at all conceivable.

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