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  • Lance Mannion
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Don Knotts. I expect a fitting memorial post...
Has there ever been a more memorable TV character?


Whoops..than Barney Fife?

Exiled in New Jersey

"I don’t mean to suggest that Kelly’s Heroes is the better movie. I just think it has the better heart, and that makes it a better movie than it has any business being."

And it doesn't reek with the spirit of mysogyny that permeates MASH the film, but not the TV series. What I recall of that period is that many of the same people who flocked to MASH also filled the theaters to see The Wild Bunch. Many good points in your review, but what about the Mike Curb generation?! That's a joke, son. From reading your piece, I wondered how you compared it to Three Kings.


NJ: And it doesn't reek with the spirit of mysogyny that permeates MASH

Or the smugness.

I haven't seen Three Kings since it was in the theaters. I really liked it but I'd have to watch it again to make any real comparisons between it and Kelly's Heroes.

The Mike Curb Congregation! I can't begin to figure out what that song is doing in there!


I'm working on the Don Knotts post. Look for it tomorrow night.


Wait a minute. MASH? You actually liked the movie MASH? What a repellant bunch of arrogant creeps. I don't care if they were pissed off about being drafted - the people in that movie weren't just mysogynists, they were mean - no, make that cruel, to everybody and anybody unlucky enough not to be in their kewl kids klub. MASH was billed as a comedy, but I have a hard time laughing at the wacky hijinks of bullies.

(Deleting here my three-paragraph rant about how much I despise Robert Altman and the contempt that runs through his movies for the instinct to basic decency...)

A while back you had a post asking for people's most hated movie is also (inexplicably) popular. I wish I had remembered to include MASH. But I've tried surpress my memory of its existence.

I'm still going to see Kelly's Heroes, though. Maybe that'll get the bad taste out of my brain.


Whups. That didn't quite come out right.

Lance, please don't take the above post to mean that I'm suggesting anyone who enjoyed MASH did so for distasteful reasons. Despite how much as I viscerally hate that movie, I didn't mean to impugn the character of anyone who might disagree.

harry near indy

well put, lance. your post stirs an interest to go out and rent kelly's heroes.

one criticism i've heard of altman's films is that they can be smug at times. but i saw mash as a kid, and loved the anti-authoritarian mentality.


Altman's "Nashville" is one of the most compassionate movies I've ever seen.


Idy, you betcha! Which is why, SV, I can't agree with you about Altman's films. But there are things that bother me about MASH. Like harry, I loved it when I was a kid, but now it might be better to say that I liked the movie, past tense, because it's been so long since I've watched it all the way through, and for me MASH is the TV show and Alan Alda is the true Hawkeye. (Did you read my post over on the American Street yet? I come down a little hard on the heroes of the movie.) But I wonder how much of what is ugly about the movie is left over from the original screenplay which was adapted from Richard Hooker's novel and that is one ugly, mean-spirited book. On the other hand, Altman may have relied too much on the reality of the Vietnam War to absolve his characters for their anti-social behavior.


(Have cold. Blew nose like a thousand times while writing. Hope it's all not as bleary as my vision.)

I read the post at American Street and thought your assessment of the characters was pretty on target. I've not read the Hooker novel.

MASH is not one of my favorites of Altman's films, it has its problems, but I've also never thought of it as being a film about its protagonists and meaning to depict 3d individuals. Partly because of the emphasis on the football game, and because the characters have often a flat cartoonish quality to them like they've been plucked out of a comic book. And despite that it is about individuals who are anti-military bureacracy, going to seemingly outrageous lengths in order to do their job of sewing people back up. And it is about the Korean War, though it was also used as a vehicle to say something about Vietnam, and people confuse it with Vietnam. A measure of its failure and a measure of its success is that it attempted to straddle Korea and Vietnam.

It is not a clean, straight cut film. Altman doesn't go the easy route. One of the defining moments being, to me, when the African-American woman stands guard at the door and is battled with the umbrella. Consider the climate of the times. The easy route would have been to have her a sympathetic character for whom the audience could root, she identifying with the child against whom has been exercised a prejudice that condemns to death. The audience expects that she would be empathetic and perhaps appear to stand guard then slip the physicians in through the back door. It's a terrifically uncomfortable moment, her standing up to these men and refusing to let them through. Who to root for? It's a perplexing moment for the audience. She plays against a type wanted by the times (wanted even now) and it's intentional, and because the audience sees her as a woman who has been victim to racism and oppression and wants her to be a voice standing against the status quo, it's confounding that she supports a heartless authority, and remarkable and grueling to watch her contest with these two white men, taunted with the umbrella-sword. I don't know if this is in the book but it's a critical moment in the movie. A very complex scene.

It's not an easy movie. MASH has its problems but those problems don't lie in the moral ambiguity of the characters.

The principle character in MASH, utlimately, is not a person. It's blood. There were movies beforehand of bravery stripped of blood or which had the right kind of non-threatening movie blood. Here was a serious movie, staged as a comedy with half-cartoon characters, soaked with what felt to the audience to be very real blood. That was the life of the movie, the blood, portrayed so starkly, so rudely, that there was no doubt it was blood. There wasn't a single instance, I don't believe, of battlefront blood, no chance for the audience to excuse blood for a brave self-sacrificial moment. No opportunity to identify with the wounded and dying as personalities. They were all instead after-the-fact unconscious victims on operating tables and thus could have been anyone. You, a neighbor, a loved one.

I don't care much for MASH but that doesn't mean I don't think it's a great movie. It needed to be made. The television MASH had its place and needed making but I didn't care for the television show, not even as a teen when too young to see the film, because it went too stentimental and formulaic, but it had to be or else it wouldnl't have been on television. When instead MASH was Korea's Catch-22. Bitter, nasty, ugly, both concerned with the same strangling antihuman bureacracy. It was about falling invisible and forgotten, lost people and a forgotten, lost place, because Korea was so quickly removed from public consciousness. No one was talking about Korean war vets. And America, by then deep into clinical suburban sterility with everything in its place and a place for everything, had a difficult time with bloody war doctoring surrounded by mud and looking like a kid's summer camp gone bad wrong in the way you knew it would if the kids were hauled off as adults and dropped back in it with the kids who wanted to be there and had never quit attending, and the camp officials expecting everyone to act like the camp was their life and they knew nothing else.

Now I need to read the book.


there is also a sequel to the novel called
mash goes to maine, or perhaps mash goes home. read it about 10 years ago (both);it
really didn't seem vicious or smug to me-the
doctors seemed much like the doctor (jules)
in the godfather---
miraculous life-saving skills butting up against nonstop and overwhelming death, turning the doctor someone batty,jaded,and a
bit of a shit.
i was torn, watching the movie, between enjoying their sorties against bureaucratic
creeps and being sickened by their lack of decency towards working-class stiffs only trying to get through the day. as an attack
on the military mind, though, i think it holds up as well as paths to glory.

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