★★★★✭ "The quality of this acerbic study of life in a Korean War field hospital has been too often overlooked because of the popularity of the TV series it spawned." ~ Radio Times.
Released in January 1970 whilst America was still very much mired in the controversial war in Vietnam, M*A*S*H has become one of the classic anti-war films.
Whilst the film itself is set in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital – the M*A*S*H of the title – during the Korean war, the central characters of field doctors Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper John (Elliott Gould) perfectly capture the meeting of the free-wheeling sentiments of the 1960s counter-culture and the cynicism that would emerge within American society in the 1970s.
Based on a novel by Richard Hooker, today M*A*S*H is noted for being an early example of Robert Altman’s ability to marshal a large ensemble cast and balance multiple storylines.
However, the film’s liberal anti-war sentiments and the attempt to address institutional racism also reflect the politics of its screenwriter Ring Lardner Jnr.
A member of the Hollywood 10 who had been jailed for his principles in 1950 and blacklisted until the mid-1960s, Lardner Jnr’s work on M*A*S*H would go on to win him an Oscar for best adapted screenplay in 1971.
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