M*A*S*H (MASH)-Season 3 (1974)

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Released 17-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 598:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

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


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
French
French Titling
Smoking Yes, This is the army !!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Like many television shows which enjoyed a long run, M*A*S*H was really at its prime in its third and fourth seasons. By the time a series reaches its third year, the cast and crew are generally working smoothly together, relationships between key characters are neatly defined, and the dull routine which afflicts many shows in later years has not yet had time to set in. In Season 3 of M*A*S*H (produced from 1974-75) we certainly find everyone in top form, and the episodes are full of classic moments which you will remember for years to come. As an aside, I am assuming that anyone reading this review has seen a lot of M*A*S*H, or at the very least has read the reviews of Seasons 1 and 2 here at Michael D's.

    Once again the season follows the events at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (the M*A*S*H of the title) during the Korean War. The series parodies the madness of war, but also pokes fun at many more of the foibles of modern living in a gently humorous (and thankfully light-handed) manner. The main characters in the show have grown a little since Season 2. Star Alan Alda ("Hawkeye" Pierce) is closer to the edge - you can see the war has been wearing him down. Wayne Rogers still plays Hawkeye's partner in crime "Trapper" to perfection, but at times you can see that events are straining even their relationship. Margaret (Loretta Swit) and Frank (Larry Linville) are finding their romance increasingly rocky and Radar (Gary Burghoff) is having growing pains (is he still a virgin at the end of this series?). This was also the last season to star McLean Stevenson as camp commander Henry Blake; in Season 4, Colonel Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) will be riding into camp.

    The supporting cast is again very strong and they are surrounded by a group of semi-regular guests who pop in occasionally to add continuity - we met some of them in earlier seasons. While Pat Morita does not return (was he busy with Happy Days at this time?), Allan Arbus is back as psychiatrist Sidney Freedman and Edward Winter is again the crazy CIA operative Colonel Flagg (if that is his real name). We also find Igor (Jeff Maxwell) and Sgt. Zale (Johnny Haymer), previously just faces in the crowd, starting to feature more prominently. Another semi-regular character in this season is Captain Spalding (shades of the Marx Brothers in that name). I had not noticed this at the time, but he is played by Loudon Wainwright III (whom I recall was the "dead skunk in the middle of the road, and it's stinkin' to high high heaven" guy). While each of these characters has less impact than the stars of the show, as a group they add a nice solid feel to proceedings.

    If you have read my review of Season 2 you may recall the discussion I had about the 'laugh track', or canned laughter in the show. At the time there was a lot of controversy about it; Alan Alda hated it, and they didn't use it in some countries. As before, you can choose to watch the episodes with it, as originally broadcast in the US, or without it. My position is still that I marginally prefer it with the canned laughter; it is set at a low level in this show, and there is something about laughing with others which makes the jokes seem funnier, even if the canned laughing occasionally occurs at inappropriate moments. I mention all of this because the producers of the show used the canned laughs as an artistic feature by omitting them in Episode 5; there is no background laughter here and it makes for a surprisingly effective and dramatic change of pace.

    I was a great fan of the show in its original run, and I am pleased to report that the satisfaction is still there. The show is wearing the passage of time very well, even after numerous reruns. My wife, Maria, had not seen the show before we watched Season 2. She is now a dedicated fan and we are about to go back and watch Season 1 so she can catch up on events there. The episodes in Season 3 are very well balanced, with some excellent comedic moments finely interspersed with drama and pathos, but with just the right mix to make them most effective. If you only purchase one box of the series, this would have to be a contender. Personally, I also like the roles played by Harry Morgan and Mike Farrell in later seasons, so check back here soon to see what we have to say about Seasons 4 and 5 (and you can save up for another boxed set by then as well).

Disc 1

Episode 1 - The General Flipped At Dawn
In the opening episode of the series, the unit are struggling to cope with a rash of orders from a (slightly crazy) new general at HQ. As it turns out, the general is played by Harry Morgan who would of course go on to greater things in the series in another role as the camp commander from Series 4 on. They must have liked what they saw here.

Episode 2 - Rainbow Bridge
Hawkeye and Trapper are due for R&R in Tokyo, but their trip is interrupted by another influx of wounded. There is a tense moment as the Chinese offer to return some badly wounded American troops - the catch is they need to be picked up by the medicos from behind Chinese lines - who will go to collect them?

Episode 3 - Officer Of The Day
Henry is temporarily away from the camp and Frank is in charge - he wants to burn Klinger's trousseau. Hawkeye has to be officer of the day after 14 hours in OR - the last thing he needs is a visit from Colonel Flagg, CIA operative and professional nutcase.

Episode 4 - Iron Guts Kelly
In a very funny episode, a visiting officer dies in Margaret's tent in questionable circumstances. Trapper asks her "Did you try to resuscitate?" to which Hawkeye quips "How do you think he died?". The army decide a cover-up is the best course of action - after all, he should have died in battle, shouldn't he?

Episode 5 - O.R.
There are heavy casualties streaming into the operating room (O.R.), and Henry is struggling to cope - it seems he has incipient arthritis, not good news for a surgeon. Even psychiatrist Major Freedman, in town for the weekly poker game, gets roped-in to help.

Episode 6 - Springtime
Spring is in the air in Korea, Radar has a crush on a young bespectacled nurse, and Klinger is reading poetry and frolicking in the fields. In the meantime, Hawkeye is trying to cope with a burly marine he operated on. The man-mountain seems to have adopted him in thanks for having saved his life.

Episode 7 - Check-Up
The army has decreed that everyone needs to have a medical check-up. Hawkeye is pleased to find that he has to examine Margaret. Trapper is trying to evade the inspection - he doesn't realise his ulcer may be his ticket home.

Episode 8 - Life With Father
A young Korean woman is wandering around the camp with a small baby. Her husband is a Jewish GI and they want the son to have a circumcision in a Jewish religious ceremony. Henry receives a letter absolving him of any responsibility if he has a fling - what is the motivation for it? For me, this episode was a little overdone and one of the weaker entries in a strong season.

Disc 2

Episode 9 - Alcoholics Unanimous
Finding himself temporarily in charge once again, Frank decides to ban alcohol in the camp. The still in the Swamp is torn down, and even Margaret is struggling to cope with the restrictions. Hawkeye and Trapper even try to get hold of Father Mulcahy's sacramental wine.

Episode 10 - There Is Nothing Like A Nurse
Under threat of paratrooper attack, the nurses are evacuated from the 4077th. Hawkeye discovers Frank's wedding movie. There is a surprise appearance from 5 o'clock Charlie (see Season 2, Episode 2).

Episode 11 - Adam's Rim
For me, this is one of the funnier episodes of Season 3. Hawkeye finally flips after being served "liver of fish" for the 11th day in a row. He wants ribs, and not just any ribs - he needs spare ribs from Adam's Ribs in Chicago; now he just needs to wok out how to order them and have them delivered to the Korean War (and don't forget the coleslaw).

Episode 12 - A Full, Rich Day
Hawkeye is still corresponding with his father (see Dear Dad ... Three, Episode 9 of Season 2). This time he is using a tape recorder. He chronicles the various madcap events of a day at the 4077th, including a mad Turk and a lost Luxembourger, not to mention being forced to operate at gun point.

Episode 13 - Mad Dogs And Servicemen
Radar has a menagerie of abandoned animals. Unfortunately, a dog bites him and he might have rabies. One of the incoming patients has paralysis, but no sign of physical injury. Hawkeye calls Sidney Freedman, but he is busy, so Hawkeye decides to attempt the psychiatric treatment himself.

Episode 14 - Private Charles Lamb
In another excellent episode, the team are treating a group of Greek wounded. The Greeks decide to offer thanks to the unit by way of some real food, but Radar is horrified to find this includes the slaughtering of a small lamb. Keep an eye out for the "Radar's little brother" joke - it is one of the best of the entire series.

Episode 15 - Bombed
The camp is being shelled, and in the heat of the moment Frank proposes to Margaret (don't forget he is already married) and has to find a way to back out of it. The latrine is hit with Henry and Father Mulcahy in it. To make matters worse, it turns out to be "friendly fire" (a wonderful term that one).

Episode 16 - Bulletin Board
As a change of pace, this episode traces events by way of the interaction between the medics and the notices they find on the Bulletin Board. There is more shelling and Margaret is giving Frank the cold shoulder after he refuses to lend her $240.

Disc 3

Episode 17 - The Consultant
For me this one vies with Episode 8 as the weakest of the year (though still well worth your time). Alan Alda's real life father Robert Alda plays a civilian medical consultant who pays a visit to the war.

Episode 18 - House Arrest
Hawkeye finally loses it and bops Frank on the nose. To his delight, he is placed under house arrest and spoilt outrageously by all and sundry. Margaret is being harassed by Colonel Reese, a highly decorated visiting nurse who seems to have an eye for Frank.

Episode 19 - Aid Station
An aid station near the front line has lost a surgeon and the 4077th have to send a temporary stand-in - who will draw the short sausage? There is a nice rapport here between the three who end up going.

Episode 20 - Love And Marriage
A young Korean orderly is trying to return to his wife who is due to have their first baby, and Radar tries to help. An American orderly wants to marry a bar-girl - is he just young and innocent or is there an ulterior motive?

Episode 21 - Big Mac
General MacArthur is due to visit the most efficient medical unit in all of Korea, and (most) everyone is in a panic of preparation - you can imagine how Frank and Margaret are taking it. Watch out for Radar's MacArthur impersonation during a dress rehearsal for the visit, amongst some other classic moments in this excellent episode.

Episode 22 - Payday
Hawkeye strikes it rich when Radar puts in a claim form on his behalf for compensation for earnings lost as a result of his conscription into the army. While a hot poker game rages on, the army auditors arrive to see where the $3,000 has gone.

Episode 23 - White Gold
Colonel Flagg is back at work (see also Episode 3). This time, he has a suspicious part to play in events after an attempted robbery of the supply tent. Just who is after the penicillin, and what are they using it for?

Episode 24 - Abyssinia, Henry
I don't intend summarising the plot of this episode. Suffice it to say it was the most controversial of the entire 11 year run. It also generated more mail than any other episode and is guaranteed to leave you thinking while you wait for Season 4 to be released.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

     The picture on offer here is a strange mixture. Generally the picture quality is better than it was on Season 2, but it is also darker - too dark at times. It also seems to use a variety of film stock within a single episode, and the picture can vary in quality significantly within an episode. With this proviso, the picture is looking very good for a TV show of this vintage.

    The series is once again presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which accurately represents the original source.

    The picture is generally sharp and at times looks as good as if it was freshly made (take a look at 21:29 in Episode 7 for one of many examples). The infrequent moments with a loss of focus stand out even more as a result (as at 13:13 in Episode 21). Even the opening credits are looking better than they have in some time, but as with the rest of the shows they are occasionally a little too dark. To see what I am talking about, check out the short sequence from 22:40-23:35 in Episode 3 where the shadows come up way too dark. While this is disappointing, it is made up for by the improved clarity of the picture, so that on balance it is just as satisfactory as that in Season 2.

    Once again the colours are muted, but hey, we're in the army now. When there is the opportunity for brighter colour (Hawkeye and Trapper's robes at 6:06 in Episode 3) they look nice and fresh. Skin tones are also nicely represented (see 4:36 in Episode 16) and stand out brightly against the muted army uniforms and tents.

    There is occasional but minor damage on evidence in most episodes. I could quote instances for each of the most common artefacts for you but they tend to be individual occurrences scattered around the 24 episodes. Yes, we have occasional flecks of damage here, a little telecine wobble now and again, but on the whole you should be pleased with the quality of the prints (except for the occasional variance of quality within an episode which grates at times - see 9:28 in Episode 13)

    Once again we have English and French subtitles available. As my colleague Adam Pase noted in his review of Series 1, the fast pace of the dialogue makes a fully accurate transcription unlikely, but what we have here is acceptably close. The odd word is dropped here and there, but the meaning is clear even if the occasional joke is lost.

    While these are dual layered discs, no layer change intrudes. 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 quality on these DVDs is strictly average, with the worst problem being variation in volume level which can make the occasional passage difficult to hear (the sequence where Trapper is writing a letter in Episode 16 is a good example - try around 10:25).

    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. The French dub has little of the character of the original, and even lacks the laughter track, so you won't be laughing along with the jokes you don't understand (except for our much-valued French speaking audience of course).

    The quality of the dialogue is fair, except for the variations in volume already noted. These variations were also present in the Season 2 DVDs, which suggests that the original source is to blame (it's a pity they have not been corrected - though the purists would no doubt howl if they were). The speech is clear at all times and will allow you to follow all of the clever dialogue easily. Audio sync is good, though with some of the rapid jokes being fired about it is difficult to judge at times.

    The music again features the excellent theme by Johnny Mandel. The incidental music is adequate though not memorable. In at least 3 of the episodes we have rather lame ditties from Loudon Wainwright III, though fans of the singer may differ as to their quality (I assume they couldn't afford Bob Dylan?). The music is mixed at a nice volume in support of the dialogue, which is the most important part of the sound mix.

    There is no surround presence here - this is basic mono sound, but it is fine as far as mono soundtracks go; just don't expect your rear speakers or subwoofer to see much activity. The sound that you do get makes good use of all three of the front speakers.

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

Extras

    Unfortunately there are no extras (again).

Menu

    The menus are static and allow you to select an episode to view and a soundtrack to listen to. After you choose an episode you go to an Episode Menu which allows you to Play the Episode, Select a Scene within the episode (10 choices), choose a Language, or return to the Main Menu. Some of the episode menus have cute themes related to the episode content, with custom cursors to match.

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. However, the Region 1 version does have a Spanish Language track which might be a consideration.

Summary

    This boxed set gives you the opportunity to view one of the finest seasons of a television series which represented one of the high points of American commercial television. The show had a long run, and even in its worst years presented moments to make you laugh, to make you cry, and often to make you think. It is offered here with a picture which will be better than you have seen on TV, acceptable sound, and a lamentable lack of extras. You need to have at least one season of this show on your shelf, and this one is worthy of consideration.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
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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Comments (Add)
No extras again. - Alan