"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
Academy Awards 1970 -
Best Adapted Screenplay: Ring Lardner, Jr.
Cannes 1970 -
Total Film - 07/01/2003
"...[An] inspired, skittish conflict comedy....Subtle, underplayed and poignant..."
Entertainment Weekly - 04/21/2006
"M*A*S*H* is still funny..." -- Grade: B+
Premiere - 08/01/2006
"[I]t still boasts a splendid ensemble...[and] a breezy antiestablishment attitude..."
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.
Black Comedy |
Essential Cinema |
Theatrical Release |
Theatrical release: January 25, 1970
M*A*S*H was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1996.
The film is based on a series of novels by the pseudonymous Dr. Richard Hooker, a real doctor whose tour of duty in Korea served as the basis for the books.
Robert Altman was the 15th choice as director for the film.
At the time of the film's release, M*A*S*H became the 10th highest-grossing film of all time, a feat made all the more impressive because of its low budget.
Altman recruited his teenage son, Mike, to write the lyrics for the film's theme song, "Suicide Is Painless." Altman joked in 1999 that while his son still receives royalty checks for his efforts, Altman never saw any of the proceeds from the hugely successful television series.
The television spin-off was a critical and commercial success for 11 seasons on CBS. However, the series was even further removed from the original source material than the movie was.
Gary Burghoff reprised his role as Radar O'Reilly on the TV series; he was the only actor from the movie to do so.