M*A*S*H (film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
MASH 7171.jpg

‍'‍Cause suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes,
And I can take or leave it if I please


"This isn't a hospital, it's an insane asylum! And it's your fault!"

Hot Lips O'Houlihan

M*A*S*H is the 1970 film adaptation of the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, written by Richard Hooker, It was directed by Robert Altman. In 1971 it won an Academy Award and a Writers Guild award for best screenplay adaptation, a Golden Globe and a National Society of Film Critics award for best film, and a BAFTA United Nations award. Not long after that it was adapted into the famous television series.

In the midst of the Korean War, the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is tasked with fixing up the wounded. Two Army Surgeons, "Hawkeye" Pierce and "Duke" Forrest arrive on the scene with fellow surgeon "Trapper" John McIntyre. Defying all conventions, they decide to "fix up" the mood in the hospital with their brand of black humor. The plot of the film is made up of various episodes dealing with their escapades in the Hospital.

M*A*S*H was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.

Tropes used in M*A*S*H (film) include:
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film took the novel's main themes, stripped out the uglier parts, and came up with this.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: The unit dentist, "Painless Pole", wanted to commit suicide, so they set up a mock funeral for him so he could take cyanide and die in a casket. The cyanide pills were fake, and the only dying he did was in the Shakespearean sense.
  • Berserk Button: "Would you say that she was a moaner, Frank?"
  • Big Game
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: "Painless Pole" is the "best-equipped" dentist in the army. After Lt. Dish spends the night with him, she is still in a daze the next morning.
  • Blackmail: When Col. Merrill breaks in on Hawkeye, Trapper, and Me Lay performing unauthorized surgery on an American-Japanese infant, they anesthetize him and take compromising photos of him in bed with a prostitute to keep him from talking.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The final PA announcement at the end of the film, doubling as the credits.
  • Break the Haughty: Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke do this to Hotlips.
  • Catch Phrase: As in the book, Hawkeye's is "finest kind". Save for one or two occasions, this really didn't carry over to the TV show.
    • Also, that little whistle that Hawkeye keeps doing (which showed up again in Fantastic Mr. Fox).
  • Composite Character: Frank Burns from the movie is a cross between the Frank Burns from the novel (in which he's a Captain instead of a Major) and another character from the novel named Major Jonathan Hobson, a religious zealot who lived in the Swamp with Hawkeye and Duke before they got him thrown out for praying too much.
  • Cool Shades: Hawkeye wears tinted glasses along with a Nice Hat.
  • Credits Gag: The film ends with the camp P.A. announcer telling us that "tonight's movie has been M*A*S*H", and reading off the names of the cast.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Hot Lips, Spearchucker, Dago Red, Ugly John...
  • Expy: Apart from a few mentions of them being in Korea, the sets, costumes and props are clearly meant to evoke The Vietnam War which was ongoing at the time. This was intentional.
  • Faux Symbolism / Last Supper Steal: Painless's "last supper" looks very much like Da Vinci's original.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Pretty much the whole film was improvised; the screenplay was just a template.
  • Iconic Logo: The "Peace sign with woman's legs" (as seen in the page image), at least until the TV show overshadowed the movie. It even migrated back to print editions of the original novel, and remained the logo for all its sequels.
  • Initialism Title
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: Averted. When Trapper punches Frank Burns in the face, he appears to be in as much if not more pain than Burns.
  • Kick the Dog: Frank Burns brings the young Private Boone to tears by telling him that his bringing the wrong needle caused a patient's death even though the patient died before Boone could've brought it.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: What convinces Painless Pole that he's a "latent homosexual".
  • Meaningful Background Event: While the gang are divvying up their winnings from the football game, we see a jeep rolling past the tent bearing a dead soldier covered in a white sheet. This was originally part of a (deleted) subplot involving Ho-Jon getting wounded in action and then dying in surgery.
  • Mistaken for Servant: Due to Hawkeye using his rank insignia to pin a busted zipper on his bags in the opening scene, Duke assumes that he's the driver to get him to the 4077th. Hawkeye doesn't bother to correct him until they have arrived and are eating and Col Blake asks about the 'stolen jeep'.
  • Noodle Incident: More of a Noodle Insult. One of the opposing players in the football game calls a (black) M*A*S*H player a "coon", trying to invite an attack to get him thrown out of the game. Spearchucker tells him the name of the guy's sister and tells him "Use it!". The guy walks up to the line, and we don't hear anything but the normal background noise of the game, but the opponent suddenly lunges at the M*A*S*H player and chases him all over the field.
  • Office Golf: Hawkeye and Trapper play an impromptu game of this in Col. Merrill's office.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When Painless states that "Poker is only a game", the priest knows how seriously depressed Painless is.
  • Precision F-Strike: During the football game, Painless Pole tells an opposing player, "All right, bud, your fuckin' head is comin' right off!" The line (an ad-lib by actor John Schuck) was the first use of the F-word in a major American studio film.
  • Random Events Plot
  • Running Gag: The camp's bumbling P.A. announcer.
  • Shoe Shine, Mister?: Snippets of the song "Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy" are played at various times. The song is also on the movie soundtrack. In the film it is sung in Japanese, except for the words "Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy" in English.
  • Stock Shout-Outs: The funeral dinner for Painless briefly is shown in a tableau that mimics Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper".
  • Suicide Is Painless: The theme song is the Trope Namer. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Hawkeye and Trapper, through and through.

[[Category:M*A*S*H (film)]