M*A*S*H (MASH)-Season 2 (1973)

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Released 20-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 598:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Alan Alda
Wayne Rogers
McLean Stevenson
Loretta Swit
Larry Linville
Gary Burghoff
William Christopher
Jamie Farr
Pat Morita
Case ?
RPI $80.95 Music Lionel Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
French Titling
Smoking Yes, this is the army after all!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, production stills over end credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Building upon the success of its first season, M*A*S*H Season 2 (produced from 1973-74) developed further the strengths that made it one of the few successful series to spin off from a major motion picture. Part of the reason it translated so well from the big screen was that the original Robert Altman film was itself episodic, and lent itself well to the short, sharp bursts of a half-hour television slot. The ensemble group of characters from the film also allows a great variety of characterisation in the television series. Season 2 found the M*A*S*H team developing greater depth in their characters and exploring the relationships between them.

    As with many long-running series, the first year of the show took a while to settle into stride. With seasons 2 and 3, M*A*S*H began to more consistently reach the high standard mix of sharp satire, broad humour, sympathetic characterisation and subtle social commentary for which it is famous. With the episodes in this 3 DVD box set you can really see why the show ended up running for 11 years, almost 4 times as long as the Korean War it is set in. Of course, the series casts its net more widely than just that particular conflict, and makes many telling points about human nature in both war and peace (nice phrase, pity it's taken).

    I was a keen fan of the show on its original release, and have watched it many times in reruns. I was interested to find that watching it again on DVD it is just as enjoyable the Xth time around. What really appeals is watching the episodes in the order they were first broadcast, which allows a continuity that is often lost in the land of repeat showing. The stars of the show are shining again here; Alan Alda as Hawkeye, Wayne Rogers as Trapper, McLean Stevenson as Henry Blake and the rest. The supporting actors also come more into their own in this second season, particularly Jamie Farr as Klinger and William Christopher as Father Mulcahy.

    Just in case you haven't seen it (let me know your name, whoever you are), the M*A*S*H of the title is the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, serving just behind the front line in the Korean War in the early 1950s. The surgeons and staff of the unit deal with the horrors and madness of conflict with what humour they can muster. A lot of this revolves around the anarchic surgeons Hawkeye and Trapper making life hell for misfit surgeon Frank Burns (Larry Linville) and his mistress Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan (superbly portrayed by Loretta Swit). Helping keep things organised, and representing the innocent in us all, is Corporal 'Radar' O'Reilly, played by Gary Burghoff (the only actor to reprise his role from the film).

    Another of the strengths of the series is the use of recurring characters in background roles. In this second season we meet psychiatrist Major Friedman (Allan Arbus) who would show up again in later years. Pat Morita (star of The Karate Kid series of films as well as Arnold in Happy Days) makes a good impression as Korean Captain Pak. One of the funnier recurring characters is intelligence (I use that word very loosely in this case) officer Colonel Flagg (Edward Winter). He stars in the final episode for the season, A Smattering of Intelligence, which is worth a look as one of the best of the year. Even the non-speaking characters around the unit add to the continuity.

    Many of the issues raised in the show are still relevant today and they are generally handled with a light touch which still resonates 30 years later. In my opinion some of the episodes in the later seasons of the show lost their impact from some heavy-handed moralising compared to the gentle satire of the early years. The only episode that doesn't work too well in this particular season is Episode 22, George, where the homosexual trooper who gives the episode its name is treated way too seriously. Perhaps the topic was still a bit hot for TV in the early 1970s. I also found that the nurse-chasing prevalent in most episodes was more noticeable, and seemed more overdone, as a result of watching the whole series in a short space of time. These are minor niggles though - if you liked the show on TV, you will still like it here. If you are one of the few people on the planet who have not seen it before (my wife was one), you will most likely thoroughly enjoy what you see here (as she did).

Disc 1

Episode 1 - Divided We Stand
This is a fresh introduction to the 4077th in case you missed the first season. The unit is undergoing an evaluation from Captain Hildebrand who notes that the craziness around camp is balanced by the excellence in the operating theatre.

Episode 2 - 5 O'clock Charlie
The 'Charlie' of the title is a North Korean pilot making a daily bombing run on an ammunition dump near the hospital. The staff place daily bets on how far away his bombs will land from their target. Frank Burns wants an antiaircraft gun (one of a number of episodes in which he wants a big gun - symbolic what!).

Episode 3 - Radar's Report
Radar writes his weekly activity report. Klinger is still trying to get out of the army (did I mention he wears a dress in the hope of getting out as a mental case?). Major Friedman arrives to carry out a psychological assessment.

Episode 4 - For The Good Of The Outfit
A nearby village is hit by 'friendly fire'. Trapper and Hawkeye try to force the army to admit its mistake and compensate the villagers.

Episode 5 - Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde
Hawkeye has been in the operating room (OR) for too long, working multiple shifts. He decides that what the North Koreans want is better sanitation, and tries to ship the Officers' latrine to the north.

Episode 6 - Kim
A young Korean boy is receiving treatment in the OR. He appears to be an orphan and all in the 4077th are soon caring for him (some better than others).

Episode 7 - L.I.P. (Local Indigenous Personnel)
One of the enlisted men is due to return home to the USA, and he wants to take his Korean de-facto wife and child with him.

Episode 8 - The Trial of Henry Blake
In this episode written by McLean Stevenson, his character (Henry Blake) has been reported to his superior command by Frank and 'Hot Lips' and is facing court-martial (not the last time in the series they would try to undermine his position).

Disc 2

Episode 9 - Dear Dad ...Three
Reprising two episodes from the first season, Hawkeye writes to his father about some of the strange experiences he is having in the war (including giving a racist patient "black blood" in a transfusion to teach him a lesson).

Episode 10 - The Sniper
The 4077th are being terrorised by a sniper. Hawkeye and Trapper want to surrender so they can go on with their medical work. Frank wants to hunt him down with his gun.

Episode 11 - Carry On, Hawkeye
There is a flu epidemic amongst the surgeons. Hawkeye ends up the only one still on his feet and has to press the nurses into duty as assistants (as well as Father Mulcahy). There is a nice moment between Hawkeye and Margaret which would form the basis for further development of their characters in subsequent seasons, as they start to build a grudging respect for one another.

Episode 12 - The Incubator
The unit needs an incubator to speed up obtaining results from blood tests. Hawkeye and Trapper battle army corruption and red tape to try and obtain one.

Episode 13 - Deal Me Out
A very humorous episode in which many of the regular guest stars turn up for a "conference", the weekly poker game.

Episode 14 - Hot Lips and Empty Arms
Margaret is starting to regret her army life, and her empty relationship with Frank. She gets drunk "as a skunk" and wants a transfer out of the unit. This is a very effective episode.

Episode 15 - Officers Only
General Mitchell's son is in the OR with shrapnel wounds, Hawkeye operates on him successfully. Mitchell (another recurring character) rewards the 4077th with an Officer's Club, but the enlisted men are not happy.

Episode 16 - Henry In Love
Forty-something Blake goes to Tokyo on leave and returns with a 19 year old mistress. He even dyes his hair to impress the young woman. The colour runs while he is out jogging, which leads to the notable line "Henry, your hair is bleeding".

Disc 3

Episode 17 - For Want Of A Boot
Faced with a hole in his boot in a freezing winter, Hawkeye goes to amazing lengths to try and obtain a replacement in another great episode.

Episode 18 - Operation Noselift
The gang try to help a soldier with an enormous hooter. Frank (Mister by-the-book) is suspicious.

Episode 19 - The Chosen People
Colonel Pak (Morita) has to assist when a Korean family claims the 4077th are set up on their property. A young Korean single mother claims Radar (a noted reluctant virgin) is the father.

Episode 20 - As You Were
There are no casualties arriving for a change, so pranks abound (Hawkeye and Trapper are notable in monkey suits).

Episode 21 - Crisis
An excellent episode which sees the enemy cutting the supply lines to the camp. Everything is in short supply, which turns into a real emergency when the toilet rolls run out.

Episode 22 - George
Wounded four times in combat, war hero George is badly beaten by men in his unit because he is "different".

Episode 23 - Mail Call
The mail arrives. Hawkeye plays a gag on Frank with a false letter.

Episode 24 - A Smattering Of Intelligence
As Radar notes: "What a screwy bunch". A very funny episode when the secret service goes out of control.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

     Considering these episodes are now 30 years old, and come from a hastily shot TV series, the picture is pretty good. While there does not appear to have been any attempt at restoration, and some damage is apparent, the transfer quality is as good as I have seen the show, and far better than it appears in its endless repeats. For some reason the first minute or so of many episodes shows lower picture quality than the rest of the show.

    The series is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which accurately represents their origin as a 1970s TV show.

    The picture is generally sharp, with occasional poor focus appearing to be from the original shooting (see 1:06 in Episode 2 or 14:00 in Episode 16). Shadow detail is acceptable, though poor at times (see 9:44 of Episode 1 amongst others). Otherwise this is a nice picture. Film grain is also noticeable, but adds to the authentic atmosphere of the pictures - you can believe this is the 1950s.

    The colours are muted, which is mostly an artistic decision; what else could you present in a muddy army camp with most of the actors in army uniforms? Skin tones are generally quite good, except occasionally where harsh lighting is used. There is occasional minor colour variation (see 22:00 in Episode 5 as an example).

    The most frequent signs of damage are small positive and negative artefacts which occur in all episodes, without distracting from the overall viewing experience. A short segment of the opening credits for every episode includes significant damage. Also, Episode 7 has more negative artefacts than usual. A scratch at 13:27 in Episode 13 and a black vertical line at 20:10 in Episode 23 are more noticeable because they stand out from the generally satisfactory picture.

    There are English and French subtitles available. As my colleague AdamP noted in his review of Series 1, the fast pace of the dialogue makes a fully accurate transcription unlikely. What we have here is acceptably close.

    While these are dual-layered discs, no layer change intrudes as they are no doubt between episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer on the disc is average at best. It has been taken from a mono television source, which means that there was probably not much to work with in the first place.

    There are three audio tracks available, all of them Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks encoded at 192 Kb/s. The default is the original soundtrack heard in the show's television presentation. The second has the canned laughter track removed, while the third is a French language track. I listened to the original track, a sampling of episodes with the laughter removed, and snippets of the French (which sounded awful). The cast of the show fought long and hard to have the canned laughter removed from the show. Personally I feel the laughter, while inappropriate at times, helps add that feel of being there with the audience which can benefit many comedy presentations.

    The quality of the dialogue is acceptable, but varies across episodes (and sometimes within an episode depending upon how well it was miked). As an example, the water in the shower at 2:20 in Episode 13 drowns out the conversation. Apart from this minor issue the dialogue is reasonably clear, with good audio sync, which is very important given the rapid-fire jokes in some segments.

    The music in the show mostly comes from the loudspeakers in the camp, or juke boxes, and so on. Unfortunately it is not very memorable, and fails to make the sort of impact it could have (American Graffiti would have been a good contemporary example for the producers to use - possibly licensing costs were too high to be too extravagant). The audio credit in the table at the start of this review is for the music arranger. Other artists occasionally contributed and the famous opening theme (Suicide is Painless) by Johnny Mandel is still very effective.

    There is no surround presence due to the nature of the soundtracks, and subwoofer activity is also limited to occasional minor thuds of bass support. The mono sound is spread reasonably across the centre of the soundstage, but is too near the centre if ProLogic mode is engaged.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Unfortunately there are no Extras. I hope that Fox decide to present a few Extras with one of these boxed sets in the future as many of the cast were intimately involved with the production of the shows and must have a lot of good stories to tell.

Menu

    The menus are static and allow you to select an episode to view and a soundtrack to listen to.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 versions of the DVDs are similar to the Region 4, which would be mildly preferred due to the PAL picture.

Summary

    This boxed set presents one of the finest achievements of episodic television in an affordable package. While the picture and sound are unremarkable, and there are no extras, the episodes themselves bear repeated viewing, which makes this an attractive purchase.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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