M*A*S*H (MASH): Special Edition (1970)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Robert Altman (Director)
Featurette-Enlisted: The Story Of MASH
Featurette-MASH: Comedy Under Fire
|Year Of Production||1970|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Robert Altman|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Most people when they hear the name MASH think about the TV series that ran for 12 years, but prior to the series came the movie. MASH is possibly one of my most watched movies over the years, not because it is your typical anti-war movie (although it has a lot of that in it), not because it was filled with memorable characters (which it is), but mainly because it blended the squalor of life at the front lines with the comedy that only comes when you are dealing with death and carnage on a daily basis. In addition, the sense of freshness and vitality director Robert Altman brought to the screen at a time when war movies were mostly action-packed chest-thumping affairs must not be cast off too lightly. Although it seems he intended to make the movie as a statement, I doubt he expected such a lasting legacy to his gentle, yet appealing style of directing.
To say this is an ensemble cast is a bit of an understatement. Apart from the lead actors Donald Sutherland (Hawkeye Pierce) and Elliot Gould (Trapper John McIntyre), the rest of the actors were virtual unknowns at the time. Several of them have had highly successful careers including Robert Duvall who plays the pious and overzealous Frank Burns, Tom Skerritt as Duke Forrest and Sally Kellerman whose role as 'Hot Lips' O'Houlihan was a major contributor to the movie's appeal. Only one cast member made the transition to the TV series, Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff) but other members of the cast had a lot of success in other TV endeavours (Rene Auberjonois for one, who ended up in several seasons of Star Trek:DS9). It would be fair to say that this cast, although then unknown, became one of the finest ever cast for a feature movie.
Although the movie has a beginning and an end, the beginning being the arrival of Captain 'Hawkeye' Pierce at the 4077th MASH unit and then ending with his demobilisation, the movie is actually more a series of short sketches brought together in a simple linear fashion to create a sample of life at the sharp end of the knife in a MASH unit during wartime. Hawkeye's (Sutherland) arrival along with Duke (Tom Skerritt) see them begin to settle into life at the base where they encounter the overzealous Major Burns (Duvall). Burns, who is highly religious and seemingly pious is the antithesis of both Duke and Hawkeye who, after a hard day of stitching up broken bodies want to relax, screw around (literally) and get drunk. On the other hand, Burns is a teetotaller who threatens to throw a spanner in the works.
After prising his claws off a young Korean boy, Ho-Jon (Kim Attwood), they angle to have him removed from their tent by appealing to the camp commander, Colonel Blake (Roger Bowen) and also manage to convince him to send for a new chest cutter. The arrival in camp of Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre (Elliot Gould) completes the surgical collection who quickly form a deep bond, based on their total lack of military discipline and their collective antipathy for Burns, but it is the arrival of the new head nurse, Major Margaret O'Houlihan (Sally Kellerman) that really sets the fur flying. O'Houlihan, who earns the nickname Hot Lips later in the movie is all army and this rankles Hawkeye and Trapper who see her as an inconvenience to their desire for an easy and painless trip right through their enlistment. Naturally this all comes to a head after they discover that Burns and O'Houlihan have reported them for unmilitary-like behaviour to their commanding Brigadier General Hammond (G. Wood), and that means war of the humorous kind.
The movie itself ebbs and flows. Some scenes, like the one when Hot Lips is taking a shower, Painless Pete's suicide party, Hawkeye asking Frank Burns about making love to Hot Lips, and so on, still remain classics. It is still the only movie I know of, as well, that used loudspeakers to connect the various disparate parts to create a coherent whole. As a movie this left a lasting impression on me, and although at the time of its release it was considerably more controversial than today it still retains a sense of fun, futility, and drama that few movies have matched. It's just a damned shame that the quality of the transfer isn't as good as it deserves to be for such a classic movie.
This transfer can be categorised in two words: dark and grainy. In some parts, it is no better than watching an average VHS tape, but occasionally it is actually quite good. Unfortunately, that is rare and on the whole this is not a good transfer.
As with the original theatrical release, this is presented in 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The picture is basically a grain harvest of the worst kind. The only thing saving it from total disintegration is that it is so dark that at times you can't make out the grain! Sharpness is lacking throughout and only the use of edge enhancement during the final 30 minutes gives it any definition at all. Shadow detail, for the most part, is simply non-existent. The darkened nature of the transfer simply erases any shadow detail being discerned for most of the movie. Low level noise is visible occasionally, but actually added some welcome relief to the solid blacks on offer.
The movie looks fairly washed out except for the final 30 minutes (the football game). Having seen the movie countless times, I can attest to the fact that it was never particularly colourful to begin with, with utilitarian greys, greens and shades of khaki mostly in evidence. Whites look okay, and skin tones are fair for the most part but occasionally you might notice a tinge of red. There are copious amounts of colour bleed (8:45 on Colonel Blake's hat, and at 104:37 on the football jerseys are just a couple of examples) throughout the movie. No chroma noise was discernable.
There was one notable MPEG artefact at 81:34 above Trapper's head on the window. Pixelization was not noticed and the only aliasing or moiré effect was seen at the beginning of the movie above the helicopter blades. Film artefacts are only seen in sporadic bursts such as at 3:49, 37:33 and 38:28. At all other times, they were confined to minor marks which were not distracting. A faint black line can be seen down the centre of the picture at 34:37 and finally at 40:00 there is a change in the picture, as if a filter was passed over the lens.
The subtitles are bright and bold and very visible. They lack some of the dialogue, especially where there are multiple people speaking at the same time so you lose a little of the background chatter, but they are fairly accurate in regards to the main thrust of the dialogue.
The layer change occurs at 56:33 during a transition in Painless' suicide feast. Decently placed and fairly quick with little interruption to the flow of the movie.
There is only one audio track (apart from the commentary) available on this disc. It is a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at 192 kilobits per second. There isn't a lot going on in this movie that warrants much more than this to be honest, but the soundtrack has some minor problems that were a little disconcerting. There was little separation in the soundtrack to call attention to any other speaker other than the centre channel, where all the dialogue was located. Every now and then the sound would hollow out, or become slightly echoic. An example was at 36:10 and again at 102:20. In addition, there appeared to be a drop-out at 23:48 when the reply "make the stitches ...." loses the word "bigger" was noticed. A very noticeable echo can be heard at 11:40 when Ho-Jon is reading the bible with Major Burns.
Apart from the deliberate mis-syncing when Hawkeye and Trapper are supposedly speaking Japanese at the golf course (77:10) there didn't appear to be any problems with the dialogue or the syncing.
The music was by John Mandel, with the lyrics for the title song by Mike Altman. The music itself has been heard over and over again due to it also appearing on the TV series so it is an instantly recognisable soundtrack.
There was no surround sound or subwoofer activity noted on this disc.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
From the looks of it there appears to be very little difference between the Region 1 release and the local release.
The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;
MASH is a brilliant movie which is more like a pastiche of little scenes rolled into a delightfully funny whole which is still as appetising today as when it was first released back in 1970. Although it may have been overshadowed by the TV series that ran for so many years, this still offers all the best elements of comedy and drama rolled into one, with a wonderfully energetic company of characters that play their roles with real relish. This still remains one of my favourite all-time movies.
The video transfer is nothing short of disappointing in the extreme. Only the last 30 minutes or so of the movie offer anything like the quality you'd expect on a DVD and the rest is poor and very undefined to say the least.
The audio is slightly better, but it has its slight problems too at times. Nothing too remarkable but a serviceable effort.
The extras are excellent, and apart from the one section on restoration (which is not surprising given the video quality on offer) we basically receive the same treatment as the Region 1 release in this regard.
|DVD||Akai DVP-3000A, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Rotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Rotel RB 985 MkII|
|Speakers||JBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer|