M*A*S*H (MASH)-Season 1 (1972)
|Year Of Production||1972|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (3)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Production Stills|
One of the shining lights in television pop culture, M*A*S*H is a series which managed to transcend the traditional adage that good films do not necessarily make popular television series. Sure, it has been done since with series such as Buffy, but none have probably ever reached the same level of popularity or critical acclaim. Many people would probably not even be aware of its origins, but the series was based upon the Robert Altman film MASH released in 1970. With sentiments for the US involvement in the Vietnam War at an all-time low, the film received praise as a fresh breath in a genre that had been filled with pro-war chest-beating films.
In 1972, M*A*S*H the television series was born, developed by Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds, at the request of the then Twentieth Century Fox president, William Self. Gary Burghoff was the only main character from the film to reprise his role in the series, whilst series star, Alan Alda was the last actor cast into the series.
The series centres on the often comic activities at the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War of 1950-1953. Interestingly, the series lasted for 11 years and ran 251 episodes, longer than the actual war. In this first season, as is often the case with many television series, there are some episodes that don’t quite hit the mark, being a little detached from the setting and overall feel that the show developed in later years.
Nevertheless, the show is as funny as you remember it, and often carries a strong, poignant, ethical point. The ethical points and storylines often reminded me of the original Star Trek series which was able to use the setting to transcend traditional period attitudes. In any event, those viewpoints were often delivered comically, which gave it a nice fresh feeling and which contributed to the series’ continuing success.
The 4077th is commanded by Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) and is assisted and maintained by company clerk ‘Radar’ O’Reily (Gary Burghoff). The main protagonists of this first series are Doctors ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce (Alan Alda) and ‘Trapper’ John McIntyre (Wayne Rogers). The two main comic foils are Margaret ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan (Loretta Swit) and Frank Burns (Larry Linville). In the first few episodes there is another Doctor; ‘Spearchucker’ Jones (Timothy Brown), but he was written out as soon as the writers realised that no African American doctors served during the Korean War. The characters of Max Klinger (Jamie Farr), the cross dressing Corporal, and Father Francis Mulcahy (played in the pilot by George Morgan, but replaced in the series by William Christopher) are also introduced in the first season.
|Episode 1.||Pilot||Pierce and McIntyre hold a party & raffle to raise tuition for their Korean houseboy Ho-John (Patrick Adiarte) to travel to the US for schooling. They manage to convince the beautiful Lt. Dish to be a part of the prize.|
|Episode 2.||To Market, To Market||Pierce and McIntyre conspire with black marketeers to get back medical supplies stolen en route to the 4077th. Things get interesting when a deal is struck for Col. Blake’s prized antique desk.|
|Episode 3.||Requiem For A Lightweight||McIntyre is convinced to represent the 4077th in return for getting an attractive nurse transferred back to the camp.|
|Episode 4.||Chief Surgeon Who?||Pierce is named Chief Surgeon, much to the annoyance of the higher ranking Frank Burns. This episode also marks the first appearance of Klinger.|
|Episode 5.||The Moose||Pierce and McIntyre are angered to find a Korean girl who has been sold by her family to serve an American G.I. They plot to set her free but run into some difficulty.|
|Episode 6.||Yankee Doodle Doctor||After agreeing to feature in an army documentary, Pierce and McIntyre take some drastic steps when they aren’t satisfied with its direction.|
|Episode 7.||Bananas, Crackers & Nuts||After a prolonged bout of surgery, Pierce feigns a crazy episode when his R&R leave is cancelled. His plans come unstuck when the psychiatrist assigned to evaluate him wants to take him to a hospital for treatment.|
|Episode 8.||Cowboy||Col. Blake is subjected to some mysterious and dangerous pranks. The staff of the 4077th attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery.|
|Episode 9.||Henry, Please Come Home||Col. Blake is re-assigned to Tokyo. Frank Burns is placed in charge of the 4077th. This doesn’t go down well with the troops, so Pierce and McIntyre scheme to bring Col. Blake back.|
|Episode 10.||I Hate A Mystery||After a spate of thefts around the camp, the loot is discovered in Pierce’s footlocker. Protesting his innocence, Pierce goes on a detective hunt for the real culprit.|
|Episode 11.||Germ Warfare||After siphoning a pint of blood from Major Burns, Pierce and McIntyre suspect that he may have hepatitis.|
|Episode 12.||Dear Dad||As Christmas approaches, Pierce writes to his father outlining the fraying of nerves and practical jokes that the pressures of war are driving the crew of the 4077th to.|
|Episode 13.||Edwina||Pierce draws the short straw and has to date the camp’s resident klutzy nurse after the other nurses give the men the cold shoulder unless one of them goes out with Edwina.|
|Episode 14.||Love Story||After receiving a ‘Dear John’ recording from his fiancé, Radar develops a crush on an intelligent new nurse, and needs coaching from Pierce and McIntryre, who also conspire to thwart Burns and Houlihan’s romance.|
|Episode 15.||Tuttle||The camp becomes obsessed with an imaginary character devised by Pierce to disguise charity donations to the local orphanage.|
|Episode 16.||The Ring Banger||Pierce and McIntyre plot to have a battlefield Colonel removed from command because of his poor soldier casualty record. **Guest stars Leslie Nielsen as Col. Buzz Brighton.|
|Episode 17.||Sometimes You Hear The Bullet||Pierce is confronted with death after losing one of his friends on the operating table. He settles his conscience by sending an underage soldier (Ron Howard) back home. Burns is awarded the Purple Heart when he throws out his back.|
|Episode 18.||Dear Dad… Again||Pierce writes to his father again and tells him of the cooling romance between Majors Houlihan and Burns and the High School diploma correspondence course undertaken by Radar|
|Episode 19.||The Longjohn Flap||Pierce gets a set of longjohns from home to survive the cold winter and they get traded around the camp for various commodities before finding their way back to him.|
|Episode 20.||The Army-Navy Game||An army blunder sees the 4077th come under artillery attack. An unexploded bomb in the compound sees tensions rise as the doctors try to disarm it.|
|Episode 21.||Sticky Wicket||Pierce and Burns argue about Burns’ surgical ability. When one of Pierce’s patient develops complications following surgery, Pierce questions his own abilities.|
|Episode 22.||Major Fred C. Dobbs||After more practical jokes by Pierce and McIntyre, Burns threatens to leave. He changes his mind when he overhears Pierce and McIntyre talking about having found gold nearby. The joke’s on Burns, however, when he discovers the real treasure…|
|Episode 23.||Ceasefire||The 4077th is jubilant when a ceasefire rumour is announced. The jubilation ends with the arrival of more wounded.|
|Episode 24.||Showtime||The performance of a USO troupe intercuts a couple of small stories that include Col. Blake’s impending fatherhood, and Father Mulcahy questioning his usefulness in the face of such horror.|
If you are expecting these episodes to look like anything made in the last few years, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. They are reflective of the source material, but the actual DVD mastering has been done well.
The discs are presented in a 1.33:1 full screen format, as originally broadcast, and are not 16x9 enhanced.
I just wanted to mention from the outset that most of the flaws outlined in this section are with the source, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has actually seen the series in re-runs on TV. Similarly, the source material is not all of the same quality. Some is better than others, often within the same episode.
The actual DVD transfer is relatively sharp however, even when projected onto a 2.5 meter screen. It is not quite up to reference standards, but it is comparable with the sharpness of most all other TV series that I have seen on DVD. Shadow detail is acceptable, but not particularly great. There is some evidence of excessive blooming and poor shadow detail in Episode 3 at 9:50, but this is an isolated occurrence.
Film grain is a chronic problem throughout these DVDs. Some scenes are terrible, and some are barely passable. It has a certain M*A*S*H look about it, though, which is very comforting, I wonder what my reaction to these DVDs would have been like without the grain - it would have certainly been a very weird M*A*S*H experience! Low level noise outside of what appears to be grain is not an issue on these DVDs. There is a fair amount of telecine wobble viewable on the credits at the end of each episode which is mildly distrating.
The episodes exhibit a very muted colour palette, with a strong tendency toward green. In many respects it has the now-common army look, brought to the fore again in films such as Saving Private Ryan and the Band of Brothers miniseries. I have wondered whether this effect, done intentionally on these newer productions, was in any way inspired by M*A*S*H.
There is a proliferation of film artefacts across all episodes; you can see that they were never high on 20th Century Fox’s list for preservation. Some bad examples are vertical lines running across the film at 18:47 and 19:37 in Episode 1, and a strange blue line across the film (probably an emulsion problem) at 12:20 in Episode 3. These DVDs thankfully do not appear to have been subjected to overly high compression; there is no macroblocking to be seen. There is also no edge enhancement apparent on these DVDs.
Interestingly, Episode 6 shows particularly good sharpness and colour at 20:23 and 20:51, which belies the rest of the episodes.
French and English subtitles are present on these DVDs. The English subtitles do abbreviate the dialogue, but this is usually to combat the fast-paced nature of some of the scenes. The abbreviations are accurate enough, and the font is pleasant and non-distracting.
These are RSDL discs, however the layers separate the episodes. Therefore, no layer changes are noticeable.
These DVDs are presented with English Dolby Digital mono (192kb/s), French Dolby Digital mono (192kb/s) and alternate English Dolby Digital mono - without laugh track - (192kb/s) audio tracks.
Personally, I think that the audio stream minus the laugh track is a bit of a gimmick. I listened to that track, and it didn’t really add anything to the experience for me. I preferred listening to it as it was broadcast, and as I remember. It may be a painful laugh track, but it is part of the M*A*S*H history.
The audio lacks fidelity, and isn’t particularly memorable. It has a tendency to be a bit boomy, but it retains a lot of the original character.
The dialogue is generally clear, if lacking a bit of fidelity, as mentioned above. The DVDs do not exhibit any audio sync issues, except for some obvious ADR work done in Episode 24 where a USO troupe is singing at the 4077th. There are no audio dropouts or other audio problems.
The main title theme, an arrangement of Suicide is Painless, is presented at the start of each episode, and is instantly recognisable as part of the M*A*S*H history. Other songs are presented over loudspeakers or as live music. It is in keeping with the period, but isn’t a memorable aspect of the series.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The disc specifications between R1 and R4 are identical, and the same basic transfer has been used save for the usual differences between PAL and NTSC encoded material. There are some slight differences in disc art and packaging, but I see no real reason to specify one over the other except for the fact that the R1 seems to be cheaper than the R4 at this stage.
M*A*S*H is a great series, worthy of a place in the collection of any television lover. It successfully combines the difficult subject of war with a clever comedic edge.
The video is as good as it will ever be, but isn't fantastic.
The audio is as good as when originally broadcast, no better, which again isn't fantastic.
|DVD||Sonken DV-2600 Progressive Scan, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony VPH-1251QM CRT Projector, 100" 4:3 screen, 2.2 gain. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Speakers||Mordaunt Short MS95 mains, JBL center and 4 x surrounds, JBL sub|