Misbehaving Military Medics
"M*A*S*H" was one of those TV series which you could watch over and over again and never grow tired of seeing the same old episode. It always had great writing and comedy along with a touch of emotion which drew us into the lives of those doctor's and nurses serving in the Korean War. And the same can be said of "MASH" the movie which preceded the series as watching it now it feels like several episodes of the series pieced together and thanks to the writing, the comedy, emotion and characters it never once grows dull.
Now to be honest there is not really a storyline to "MASH" and as already pointed out it feels like several episodes of the series. Yes it starts with Hawkeye Pierce and Duke Forrest arriving at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea but what follows on from there is chapters, very loosely connected events which happen during their stay. What that means is we get an episode about Hawkeye, Trapper John and Duke dealing with Major Frank Burns, their stiff and religious tent mate, then we get one about the Hospital's dentist wanting to commit suicide and so it goes on. The thing is that whilst there is no real storyline these episodes all work, they all have a wonderful pay off before shifting along to another episode and event.
Now what I find amusing is that some see "MASH" as an anti war movie, and maybe it does come across that way for some, especially those who grew up in that era. But from an outsiders point of view it's all about the amusement of Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper John McIntyre flirting with the nurses, drinking and basically disobeying their superiors whilst getting one over on them. And because you have the different episodes it never grows tried when Hawkeye annoys 'Hot Lips' O'Houlihan or gets one over on Col. Henry Blake. And talking of Blake, the comedy of his ever efficient right hand man Radar played by the brilliant Gary Burghoff still brings a smile to my face as he is always one step ahead of Blake.
Yet whilst there is a lot of merriment going on there is a deeper side to things and maybe that's where some see it as anti-war. But for me we have the friendships which form and the camaraderie which provides the depth whilst also showing how wrong war can be. It allows some of these episodes to have an emotional side which is finally balanced with the humour.
As for the casting well you have to say that Donald Sutherland is just brilliant as Hawkeye Pierce especially when it comes to delivering the laid back anti establishment side of his character. From the way he looks through to that devilish smile Sutherland is just magnificent as is Elliot Gould who is just as much fun as Trapper John McIntyre. In fact there is not a single bad performance in "MASH" and the likes of Tom Skerritt, Gary Burghoff, Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman all deliver their characters brilliantly allowing us to like and laugh at them and with them.
What this all boils down to is that like the TV series "MASH" the movie worked and still does. It may not have a real storyline but the series of amusing episodes which happen to Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper John are still great fun. And like the series you can watch "MASH" the movie time and again and never grow tired thanks to both the brilliant writing and the equally brilliant acting.