Film & Water #105 – M*A*S*H


Episode 105: M*A*S*H

Attention all personnel! Rob welcomes both halves of THE MOVIEFILM PODCAST, Zaki Hasan and Brian Hall, to discuss Robert Altman's groundbreaking 1970 war comedy M*A*S*H!

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19 responses to “Film & Water #105 – M*A*S*H

  1. Great discussion! I haven’t seen the film in years, but I remember having a hard time adjusting my brain to THIS version of the characters. I’m not the MASH fan you are Rob, but it was ever-present in my youth, and I still watch it here and there today, mostly on MeTV.

    I NEVER think of Elliot Gould without remembering that line from the “When Homer Met Marge” episode of The Simpsons “I wouldn’t kiss you if you were Elliot Gould!”

    Maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t speak to Larry Linville, you may have run him off screaming like DAG did with Davy Jones.


    1. Thanks Chris! Yes, maybe it was better I didn’t say hi to Linville. I would have just talked to him about MASH (and one movie I remember him being in, called KOTCH) and I could see him being bored of stuff like that. So maybe it’s better that the one run in I’ve had with a MASH cast member was Loretta Swit, and that was perfect!

      1. Always felt that TV Burns didn’t get a fair shot from the writers. Maybe there just was no way to go for Frank, but the characters all got a chance to grow. Burns stayed one-dimensional, and I’m sure this was a reason for Linville to move on.

  2. I grew up watching the MASH tv show and came to the movie relatively late. I kind of always think of the movie as the Earth 2 MASH.

    Years ago, Jamie Farr came to the BGSU campus for a sitcom symposium we had. He was nice enough to sign a copy of one of the MASH books covering the various episodes. He was a very nice guy. I also got to see Elliot Gould interviewed by Alec Baldwin at the TCM festival last year. Anyone who’s a fan of the tv series should visit the Archive of American Television website for some great in-depth interviews from the cast and writers:

  3. I’m part of a MASH family, and watching reruns on MeTV every evening is a family tradition. Though, I have to admit that my wife and daughter are bigger fans of the series than I am. In fact, one of the worst punishments my wife and I can inflict upon our daughter is to send her to her room before MASH comes on. All that to say that I enjoyed your discussion of the movie.

    I find it interesting to watch the first few seasons of the TV series as it moves away from the meaner, grittier world of the movie to find its own equally powerful voice. While this shift can be seen in changes that many of the characters undergo from season to season, I think it’s most obvious in the character of Radar, who starts out as the more worldly wheeler-and-dealer from the movie and morphs into the grape nehi drinking Iowa farmboy. Conversely, your discussion of Father Mulchay made me realize that he is the one character that remains most consistent from movie to TV, as well as across all the seasons of the TV series. Perhaps, he is the still center of the whirlwind that is the MASH universe. I’ll have to ponder that more as we watch MASH tonight.

  4. MASH has marked my live, but I never was able to see the film in full until maybe sometime in the 1980s. The film’s tone really is jarring, and yes, movie Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke are not nice people. A lot of this goes to the novel’s author, who didn’t really appreciate Alda as Hawkeye, and wrote him more as a bit of a pugilist and a bully.

    This was a great show, but I just noticed something in the intro where you played the audio of the trailer. The narrator is unmistakably Edward Herriman- who I didn’t recall being in the film, and I don’t see him in the cast list. But he does show up in the show in one episode as a relief surgeon who cracks under the pressure of the marathon surgery. Just a nice connection, and given Herriman’s talent, too bad his character wasn’t used on a recurring basis.

    1. There will be at least one MASH TV series related podcast episode coming.

      OTTOMH, five fav episodes:

      Officer of the Day (SSN 3)
      Welcome to Korea (SSN 4)
      The More I See You (SSN 4)
      Dear Sigmund (SSN 5)
      The Joker is Wild (SSN 11)

        1. I had discovered your After M*A*S*H blog and the Fire and Water podcast independently. Imagine my surprise months later when I realized they were products of the same person!

  5. I have a hard time thinking of movies that made me as uncomfortable as this one did, and at a pretty young age. I was probably 12 or 13 when I saw this (and for reference I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show at 13) and even at that age I didn’t understand why they were so mean to Hot Lips or why this man wanted to die because there was a possibility he might be gay. And I’m sorry, while I feel that the misogyny can be hand waved in that “it’s from another time and depicting an even earlier time” fashion (which doesn’t excuse it, but gives it context,) I don’t feel the same about the homophobia. The reason is that it’s forcibly inserted. The whole thing could just have been the dentist afraid that he’d never get it up again and wanting to die because of that. That’s funny. That plays into the male-centric mentality of the group. That’s enough to work with. But no, he has to be afraid that not getting up means MAYBE he’s gay, and THAT is why he wants to die. And you can try to tell me “better dead than gay” is only that one character’s perspective, but when no alternate perspective is provided by any of the other characters and the film doesn’t otherwise cast the character in a light that we as an audience don’t trust or like him then that becomes the film’s perspective by default.

    As I said, I saw this at a youngish age for the material, and at that point M.A.S.H. was best to know to me as one of those shows my grandfather really loved. I’d hear him cackling at it in the other room when I’d visit my grandparents, but had never really tried to watch it. After seeing the film I lost any and all interest in ever trying to get into the show. Now, at this point I know that the two differ quite drastically and I wouldn’t hold one against the other. But seeing the film made close the book on pretty much anything M.A.S.H. related except the song. Because I think it’s a good song.

    Oh, and the question was asked if any other movie adapted to TV had any kind of comparable track or impact, and I’d say Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be one to consider.

  6. My house growing up ran on a tight schedule. So we ate every night at the same time. And we were always done in time to watch the MASH repeat on the local channel. Watching the TV MASH was a true family experience on a nearly nightly basis.

    But I have never seen the movie and that was because, similar to the guest host, my Dad told me that I shouldn’t bother. He said it wasn’t like the show. I held my Dad’s movie opinions in high esteem so never did.

    Maybe the time is now to watch it? Thanks for the episode and great coverage.

  7. If you’re a fan of the M*A*S*H TV series, Robert Altman’s original film whose success spawned it is a cold shower of reality. The tone isn’t quite as endearing and the sexual politics in particular seem very dated and objectionable, as you say. I think what may be the most off-putting to me is the level of humiliation “Hot Lips” O’Houlihan is put through by the chauvinistic doctors of the 4077, quite beyond anything that would be tolerable today, which makes Hawkeye, Trapper, etc. unsympathetic. But then this film isn’t so concerned with sympathy, or protecting a TV series’ leads; it presents a somewhat satirical portrait of life a few miles from the front lines, and lets you decide if “boys will be boys”. What we have to remember is that these are doctors who, in civilian life, are likely country club members living large. Thrown into the Korean war without the discipline of the trained soldier, they become lascivious drunkards and con men. Altman shows it, but doesn’t spell it out. Once you get rid of your resentment that Donald Sutherland isn’t Alan Alda (etc.), you start to see it. Regardless of the discomfort, there are some fun and funny bits throughout. I especially like the mangled P.A. announcements that punctuate the film.

    As for the overlong football game and the anthology feel of the film you mention, that’s a very Altman thing, where the camera basically quests for a story, like an invisible documentary crew moving around a fictional landscape. What it’s interested in is unfettered by the constraints of “plot” and “structure”. Not as much as The Player, Nashville or even Short Cuts, but not that far away from the juggling required of Gosford Park.

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