D: Robert Altman
20th Century Fox/Aspen (Ingo Preminger)
W: Ring Lardner, Jr. [based on the novel
by Richard Hooker]
DP: Harold Stine
Ed: Danford B. Greene
Mus: Johnny Mandel
Donald Sutherland (Hawkeye Pierce), Elliott Gould (Trapper
John McIntyre), Tom Skerritt (Duke Forrest), Sally Kellerman (Maj. Hot Lips Houlihan), Robert Duvall (Maj. Frank Burns)
The farcical and satirical comedy on show in M*A*S*H is
well ahead of its time. Set during the Korean War, but with all references removed to that conflict it could easily be attributed to the Vietnam War, which was still taking place when the
film was produced.
The story follows the antics of a group of doctors in the
Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit, as they maintain their sanity outside the operating tents with sexually-charged antics and pranks. Mostly as escapism to the "war is hell" scenario, but
also as a middle finger up to bureaucratic hierarchy.
The film made stars out of a virtually unknown cast at the
time of filming, as well as director Robert Altman who brings his own patented style of clever camera angles, overlapping dialogue and a wicked style of black comedy, culminating in a rigged
football game between the doctors and the superiors.
This anti-war comedy proved a huge influence during a year
when more serious war pictures were being rolled out by studios (Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, etc.) and was adapted into a long-running TV series a few years after its premiere, as well as
clearly being a big inspiration to sex-antic comedies which emerged over the next two decades.