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Mash
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2002
The Five-Star Collection is Fox Studios' top-of-the-line releases. Movies like French Connection have already made the list, and now Fox debuts the greatest anti-war movie of all time, M*A*S*H. The basis for the long-running TV series (which also debuted recently on DVD), M*A*S*H introduces us to the antics of Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland), Trapper John (Elliot Gould), Hot Lips (Sally Kellerman), and Radar (Gary Burghoff).
Altman's black comic masterpiece doesn't have a solid plot so much as a series of skits and sketches about life during the war. From golfing 5 miles from the front to suspension of marital promises to trying to figure out why people are dying all around, M*A*S*H handles the gruesomeness of stupidity of war in the only way possible - if you're not laughing, then you're going to be crying, so it's probably better to laugh.
And what a way to bring this classic to DVD - the movie has never looked so good. For being 30 years old, it looks great after Fox's extensive restoration and is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 with an anamorphic transfer. There's some grain here and there, but the colors are exceptionally vibrant, with great contrast on the blacks and whites especially. The sound mix is a decent DD 2.0, which is fine considering that the movie is mostly dialogue, but the lack of a more dynamic soundtrack was noticeable during the football game and any time there was music. There are enough extras to make up for it, though, including Altman's commentary track, three featurettes including A&E's "The Story of M*A*S*H" and a 30-year cast reunion that's both touching and funny.
The lack of the DD 5.1 soundtrack doesn't sully the otherwise pristine quality of the rest of this 2-disc set. It's a must have - get it now. Now, trooper! Now!
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89 of 97 people found the following review helpful
Probably no cinematic comedy produced by Hollywood in the last half of the twentieth century is as irreverent, disdainful of authority, critical of war and its effects, and, incidentally, as funny as "M*A*S*H", that 1970 comedic masterpiece starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Gary Burghoff, and Sally Kellerman; written by Ring Lardner, Jr.; and directed by Robert Altman, in his directorial debut.

"M*A*S*H" is actually a very difficult film to review for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it's darned near impossible to provide an adequate synopsis for readers who've never seen the movie. Because, unlike most modern films that contain a linear story line, an easy-to-follow plot, and well developed characters that one can either root for or vilify with ease, "M*A*S*H" is a film that can only be described as a series of loosely joined comic vignettes, featuring a set of very true-to-life characters that are all BOTH very likeable and flawed.

"M*A*S*H" is one of the best comedies ever made, and for good reason. It is genuinely funny. It is artistically produced; it contains great writing and acting; and it proclaims an important social message to viewers.

Having said all that, "M*A*S*H" is very likely NOT a movie that will appeal to everyone's tastes - even now, four decades after it was first released. How the movie was written and produced has a lot to do with that fact.

As the story goes, the idea for producing a movie version of "M*A*S*H" got its start when literary agent Ingo Preminger referred Dr. Richard Hooker's famous novel of the same name to 20th Century Fox executive Richard Zanuck. Zanuck enthusiastically supported the idea, hired Preminger as the movie's producer, and set out to find a screen writer and director. Ring Lardner Jr. (son of the famous 1930s sports writer) was brought in to write the script. Robert Altman was hired to direct. (As Altman tells it, he was about the "13th choice" of the studio to direct.)

Shooting began during the summer of 1969. At the same time, the films "Patton" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!" were in production. Altman, eager to be successful in his first major film, decided to "hide out" on a back lot of the studio, where he would escape the watchful eyes of studio executives.

As a result, Altman was able to apply many innovative techniques to the film. He wanted his actors to improvise as much as possible in each scene. He wired each actor with an individual microphone and encouraged them to talk over one another. He incorporated several bloody operating room scenes in the film. He tried to mask the fact that the film was supposed to be set during the Korean War. He wanted audiences to assume that this was a film about Vietnam, and he wanted them to understand his clear message about the monstrosity of war.

(By the way, Altman's technique enraged Lardner, who thought Altman had basically thrown away the script. Lardner came perilously close to disassociating himself from the project, but in the end, accepted both the sole writing credit for the film... and the Oscar for Best Screenplay at the 1971 Academy Awards.)

Because of Altman's innovative (some say crazy) filmmaking techniques, "M*A*S*H" succeeds as a brilliant film that achieves almost all of Altman's goals. The film is deeply imbued with a lifelike realism that allows viewers to "feel" what it was like in the fictional 4077th MASH. The actors speak like one would expect them to when confronted with the reality of war and the boredom of inactivity.

Comedy scenes are uniformly uproariously funny, employing jokes and gags that range from subtle to coarse to borderline lewd. Interspersed with the comedy scenes are operating room sequences that are bloody to the point of horrific, but that bring home with full force the full brutality of war... so much so that, for a short time, the Defense Department banned "M*A*S*H" from being shown in military theaters worldwide.

I've read some reviews of "M*A*S*H" in which a criticism is leveled that the movie's characters are not well developed. I disagree with this judgment. I found I was readily able to identify with all the characters, whether they were likeable or not. Hawkeye, Duke, Trapper, Frank, Hot Lips, Henry, Radar, and all the others were completely believable, and fleshed out in detail... no small feat since the actors who played these parts were directed to perform their roles in such a highly improvisational manner.

"M*A*S*H" is one of those rare films that gives viewers everything they could ask for from a great film: wonderfully realistic acting; a great script; brilliantly funny comedy; superb drama, important social commentary; and artful, innovative filmmaking techniques. "M*A*S*H" has steadfastly stood the test of time for thirty years, never becoming outdated or irrelevant. Whether you've never seen it, or, like me, you've seen it many times: make some time and check it out!
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94 of 105 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2002
M*A*S*H is one of the zaniest and most intelligent satires ever produced by Hollywood. This is a war movie in which only two shots are fired -- as signals in a football game. It is a masterpiece of wider appeal -- even to veterans -- than is suggested by its setting in Korean War military hospitals, or by its director's explicit aim of promoting liberal opposition to the Vietnam war during the '60s and '70s.
The 2002 two-disk M*A*S*H special edition from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in many ways is a benchmark for DVD releases of cult movies. Picture and sound quality are high. The special feature content is entertaining and insightful.
This content includes extensive retrospective comment by director Robert Altman, producer Ingo Preminger, former studio boss Richard Zanuck, scriptwriter Ring Lardner Jr, actors including Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Tom Skerritt, John Schuck and Gary Burghoff, and medical veterans of the Korean War. We see the 30th anniversary M*A*S*H reunion at Fox, and presentation of a studio life achievement award to Altman.
The special content gives fascinating insights into the driving half-mad genius that so often makes a great director, and of egos and bigheartedness in movie making.

Almost everyone, from the scriptwriter to the studio executives and the actors, lined up against the director at some time. Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould once even tried to get Altman fired, fearing that he would damage their careers. In the M*A*S*H special edition features they eat their words and graciously pay tribute to Altman. Former studio boss Richard Zanuck says that until Altman came along other directors were afraid of the screenplay or didn't like it. 'Altman came in, and seemed unruly enough to be able to understand this subject matter.'
M*A*S*H was made on a shoestring budget with Fox's Century Ranch standing in for Korea. It emerged from chaotic creative tension as an enormous artistic and financial success. Altman accepted a salary of only $75,000. His son Mike is reputed to have made more money from writing the lyric to the keynote ballad, 'Suicide Is Painless', with Johnny Mandel. Altman kept costs down by casting the movie with mostly unknown and out-of-work actors. 14 of the movie's 30 speaking roles were played by actors making their screen debut. Shooting finished three days ahead of schedule in 1969, and almost half a million dollars under budget. M*A*S*H went on to earn more than $80 million at the box office, a Palme d'Or at Cannes and an Oscar (for the heavily reworked script of formerly blacklisted scriptwriter Ring Lardner Jr), and to inspire a long-running popular TV series.
This is a rare thing: a five star classic movie in a five star DVD release.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
I have to be honest - this movie and resulting series both have an important hold on my memories of growing up and discovering what was going to make me laugh in watching TV. I also love BD and what it has done for our industry, so I went into this release with great expectations, and really, I was not disappointed (though it could always be better). If you already have the special edition that Altman cleaned up, this appears to be an identical transfer with no significant changes.

The picture looks great compared to the original releases as most of the artifact has been removed and the color has been saturated extensively - but in a good way. There is an apparent softness throughout, but compared to what the original product was, I don't mind. The DTS was not the greatest, and the front three channels get all the work. I even tried the football game and some jeep scenes but nothing gets around to the rear channels much. The supplements are identical to the special edition release (roughly 5 hours of docus and extras on all the other DVD sets) with a couple exceptions here:
* Still Gallery - 70 pics that had to be taken from the BD transfer as they are very crisp. Screen saver worthy.
* Complete Interactive Guide: A fun tally on all things done by the characters. When activated, a headshot pic pops up while that person is on screen and a cumulative number appears referencing how many drinks or fights partaken, and/or court martials that should be happening. When there are large volumes of people on the screen the shots take up the whole top and bottom half of the set, but it helps keep track of who enters and leaves each scene. Worth doing once you have watched the film and have time to kill. Customers walking by the screening actually liked this option as it is a nice review of the supporting actors.

There are subs in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai. Dubbed in Spanish and French with an English 2.0 option. A Portguese trailer was thrown in for good measure. Overall, the picture turned out nice and the sound better than before, and this would be a nice upgrade if you did not already get the other set. I noticed much more grain on a larger display but the smaller LCD panels showcased a solid preservation. Hope you enjoy.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Got this DVD set as a Gold Box Deal of Day. Already had the first four season sets, but I really wanted the rest of the seasons - and they threw in the Movie too - what a deal!

Growing up M*A*S*H was one of my favorite series, and later in life it was one of the shows my father and I would watch together. Watching these again will be like visiting old friends.

Noticed someone asking about the quality of the DVDs - as I mentioned I have the first four seasons of this set (the same versions as shown), and the DVD quality is good. The aspect ratio is that of the regular full screen of the time 4:3. There are bonus features on each of the sets - and I think the product description details what each season set has as a bonus. These sets come in regular DVD clamshell cases, with the multiple discs on holders. The discs are all single sided. There are subtitles.

ETA: (7-30-2013)

Got in the complete set of DVDs. They are exactly the same as the seasons that I already had. I went through and checked all the discs and they all were in perfect condition. And just in case anyone was wondering, this set of 12 DVD cases takes up around 6 3/4" of shelf space.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2013
First, I don't own this set as it appears that it may be a new offering on Amazon. I do own the "Martinis and Medicine" box set and would suggest purchasing this one instead.

Based on the product photo, this set has the individual seasons in standard DVD cases. The "Martinis and Medicine" collection came in one box nicely decorated with canvas, but the discs themselves were in cardboard slots which caused scratching during shipment and normal use. I received at least two discs that had severe enough scratches not to play properly. Ultimately, I removed the "Martinis and Medicine" discs from the original package and placed them in individual cases. That was and is kind of a pain to deal with as there are so many discs, but at least they aren't getting scratched.
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43 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2003
This is one of the finest films ever made, 'countercultural' or otherwise. It's antiwar, antiauthoritarian, irreverent, sacrilegious, and utterly without anything conventionally regarded as a Redeeming Feature.

It is, in short, a great, great piece of cinematic art. When it's over, not a sacred cow is left standing. And its antiwar satire, though full of wonderfully crass and tasteless comedy, is also quite serious and spot-on.

If you haven't read the book by 'Richard Hooker' (Dr. Richard Hornsberger), do so. It's a good book, and it's very different from the TV series you're probably familiar with if you were alive during the 1970s. The original tale centered on three surgeons, not two, and it wasn't (as the TV series became) a vehicle for the smarmy phildonahuing of sensitive-'70s-guy Alan Alda.

In fact the book and the movie are both 'racist' in the same sense as Mark Twain's timeless _Huckleberry Finn_ -- that is, not at all, but also not exactly designed to slip in under the radar of the PC Police, who wouldn't recognize _real_ racism if it bashed them in the heads with a billy club. (Likewise 'sexism'.) In developing the TV series, developer/scriptwriter Larry Gelbart toned a lot of this stuff down, but here in the film you can see it in all of its original glory.

And then some. The film actually partakes more of the spirit of Joseph Heller's great _Catch-22_ and, along those lines, develops the Hooker novel's mild irreverence to the level of a take-no-prisoners martial art. (The film officially takes place during Hooker's Korean War, but just as with the screen adaptation of Heller's nominal World War II setting, everybody knew the Vietnam War was the unofficial target. And at an abstract level, _M*A*S*H_ is a better screen adaptation of _Catch-22_ than the film version of that novel itself.)

Even other satire isn't immune from 'meta-satire'. This film was produced at a time when other countercultural books and movies regularly relied on Christian imagery (_Cool Hand Luke_, _One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest_, _The Omega Man_) to turn their central heroes/antiheroes into savior-figures. Here, Robert Altman and Ring Lardner, Jr., had the temerity to skewer even their artistic allies by turning the Painless Pole (John Schuck in his first major film role) into the central figure at a suicidal 'Last Supper'. (Even here, in thus expanding on Painless's suicide, they took a lead from the book's own irreverence. In the novel, the guys paraded around the South Korean countryside with a longhaired and bearded Trapper hanging from a cross.) _Nobody_ is safe around this cinematic buzz saw.

You probably already know who's in it, but I'd better give a quick nod to the marvelous performances by the Big Three: Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce, Elliot Gould as 'Trapper' John McIntyre, and Tom Skerritt as Duke Forrest. (I particularly call your attention to Skerritt, who seldom gets the credit he deserves for this role because -- under the influence of the TV series -- people tend to think the movie is mainly about Hawkeye and Trapper.) Everybody else is wonderful too, and I won't try to mention the entire cast by name here.

In general this rambling masterpiece isn't susceptible to easy summarization. So rather than try to tell you about all of the cool stuff, I'll just tell you to see it if you haven't done so already.

The DVD release is wondrous to behold. The movie is restored to perfect color and clarity and presented in widescreen format. The second disk has lots of cool features including cast interviews and stuff about the making of the film (and its groundbreaking cinematographic 'techniques').
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2013
While I do not have this set as such, I bought each individual season as they came out. I cannot praise the show enough. If you are reading this, then I am sure you are familiar with it, so I wont bore you with telling you what you already know. My favorite aspect of the DVDs is being able to turn off the laugh track. Its the one thing I hated about the show, and being able to turn it off makes it ten times better.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2001
Korea was my "war" and I spent a couple of years in a General Field Hospital in the operating room treating casualties. This movie is the nearest to the real thing that I know, both in operating room authenticity and personel attitude under these stressful conditions The humor is black but so were the times. It is a great movie.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2009
Could not wait for the blu-ray release of this classic film. Unfortunately the quality of the transfer was only average. Although the film originally had a somewhat grainy (intentional) look to it, that could not make up for the lack of definition and color saturation. It appears that the studio elected to do a 'down and dirty' quickie transfer rather than spend the money on a full restoration, which is a shame. If you own the original DVD I would save your money and wait (hopefully) for a proper blu-ray re-release sometime in the future.
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