MASH (film)

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German title MASH
Original title MASH
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1970
length 116 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
Director Robert Altman
script Ring Lardner Jr. based
on the novel by Richard Hooker
production Ingo Preminger
music Johnny Almond
camera Harold E. Stine
cut Danford B. Greene

MASH (alternative spelling on posters: M * A * S * H ) is a satirical American comedy film from 1970. The film, directed by Robert Altman , is based on the novel MASH (original title: MASH - A Novel About Three Army Doctors ) by Richard Hooker (pseudonym of H. Richard Hornberger) and revolves around the staff of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War .


Most of the film is set in 1951 in a mobile field hospital a few kilometers from the Korean front. The surgeon Captain "Hawkeye" Pierce makes a faux pas right at the beginning. The driver who is supposed to take him to the hospital leaves him standing, and when Captain "Duke" Forrest shows up and believes Hawkeye is his driver, he leaves that unanswered, takes a jeep and drives away, whereupon both of them because of theft of a military vehicle being pursued by the military police .

When they arrive at the field hospital, they get into an argument with their tent mate, Major Frank Burns, because he takes the service regulations very seriously, shows off his religiosity and is a abstainer. Hawkeye and Duke complain to the unit's commander, Colonel Henry Blake, to remove Burns from their tent and call in at least one more surgeon.

The newly arrived surgeon, Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre, is Hawkeye and Duke's tastes and an excellent surgeon too. Simultaneously with him, a new head nurse, Major Margaret O'Houlihan, arrives, who in turn gets on very well with Burns. O'Houlihan and Burns now want to make life increasingly difficult for the trio of surgeons by jointly writing a letter of complaint to the high command about the conditions in the hospital. However, they are slowed down quickly: With a fling of both someone pushes a microphone under the canvas, and Trapper it connects to the sound system of the camp, so that all can hear the love sounds of the two, including "... my lips are so hot!" The next day, O'Houlihan and Burns are taken aback because of the affair, O'Houlihan has from now on the unflattering nickname "hot lips". Burns even lets himself be carried away to a physical attack on Hawkeye and is led away from the hospital in a straitjacket by the MP.

Pastor Mulcahy, the field chaplain, tells Hawkeye that the Waldowski Hospital dentist, also known as the “painless drill”, entrusted him with a very serious problem in confession . Because of the secret of confession, he could only say that Waldowski recently said: “Poker is just a game, too”, which shows how bad it is with Waldowski. Hawkeye, alarmed by this, questions Waldowski, who explains to him that he had sexually failed a nurse. He then read about Donjuanism : actually he was homosexual. Therefore, he will kill himself. Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper then declare that they want to help him in his endeavor and produce a "black capsule" that will kill him. After a farewell dinner, which is based on the scenario of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Last Supper , Waldowski lies down in an open coffin and swallows the black capsule. Everyone says goodbye to him and he falls asleep, as the black capsule does not contain any deadly substance, just a sleeping pill. Shortly afterwards Hawkeye persuades the nurse Lieutenant Maria "Dish" Schneider, who is spending the last evening before her return home to the USA, to cure the dentist of his "ailment" during the night. Obviously it works because the next day the “cured” dentist and Hawkeye greet each other as if nothing had happened.

Trapper and Hawkeye are sent to Kokura, Japan , to operate on a GI , the son of a congressman . This goes relatively smoothly, but when you leave the hospital you are asked to operate on an American-Japanese baby on the heart, otherwise it would die. The two doctors treat the child, but this makes them mess with the hospital's captain, Colonel Wallace Merrill. The two also solve this problem by anesthetizing Merill, putting him naked in bed with a geisha and photographing him, which compels him to drop the punishments he has threatened against Hawkeye and Trapper.

In the meantime, General Hammond visits the field hospital and agrees with Blake that they both set up a football team, compete against each other and wager a handsome sum of money on it. Hawkeye has a plan: First, a new brain surgeon is called, namely Dr. Oliver Harmon "Spear Thrower" Jones, who is also a professional player for the San Francisco 49ers . However, this should only occur in the second half of the game, whereby the other side should be tempted to bet as much money as possible during the first half, with the certainty of victory. Jones was supposed to turn the tide of the game around and the stake was canceled. The plan works, but General Hammond's opposing team turns out to be even tougher than expected. But the medical team secretly anesthetized the opposing striker and scored a decisive touchdown shortly before the end of the game , when Staff Sergeant Vollmer hid the ball under his jersey and, while the opposing team was distracted by a mock attack, carried the ball into the end zone.

Soon after the game, Hawkeye and Duke receive their marching orders back home. They see it with one laughing and one crying eye and leave in the same jeep that they “borrowed” at the beginning of the film.

Screenplay and film template

It is noteworthy that the screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. was on the Hollywood "black list". He was close to the "Left Wing" movement and was summoned to appear before the Committee on Un-American Activities and later imprisoned for 12 months for disregarding Congress. Lardner Jr. was a member of the Hollywood Ten , a group of directors, actors, and screenwriters who refused to testify when the House of Representatives investigated "un-American activities". For a long time he had to work under pseudonyms . When the film was released, it could appear again under its real name.

Behind the stage name Richard Hooker stood the doctor Richard Hornberger, who did not want the book to endanger his career and good reputation as a doctor. The original film is autobiographical and deals with his experiences in a MASH unit during the Korean War, where operations had to be operated almost continuously for days under the most difficult conditions. The film reproduces these events relatively realistically. In 1970, of course, viewers related the film's plot to the Vietnam War .


The film historian Ulrich Gregor saw the film as “a kind of upscale military clothing. Even respect for Altman's later work cannot ignore the fact that MASH was a film of clumsy effects and speculation with ambiguities, which only used the war as a foil for the casual hustle and bustle of its protagonists. "

"Altman's controversial film sees itself as a gruesome, cynical satire against the war, which both repels and entertains viewers in a shocking way."

"Despite good intentions and an appealing design, the film does not go beyond the level of military clothing, which means that the chance of creating an anti-war satire is completely wasted."


  • The film dialogue was one of the first films to contain the swear word “fuck”.
  • The film has been classified as culturally significant by the Library of Congress and is listed in the US National Film Registry .
  • The theme from MASH 's Suicide Is Painless . It was composed by Johnny Mandel and written by Mike Altman, the director's son.
  • MASH continued as a television series. However, almost all roles have been reassigned. With Gary Burghoff ( Radar ), G. Wood ( General Hammond ), Timothy Brown (film: Corpsman Corporal Judson, series: "Spearchucker" Jones , who was played by Fred Williamson in the film) and Corey Fisher (film: Captain Dennis Patrick Bandini; episode 26 of the series: Captain Phil Cardozo) only four actors appeared in both the film and the series. See: M * A * S * H ​​(TV series) .


In 1970 MASH won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival .

In 1971 MASH won a Golden Globe for best film (comedy or musical). In the same year, the film was nominated for an Oscar in five categories and won in the Adapted Screenplay category (Ring Lardner Jr., who, however, was very dissatisfied with the cinematic implementation of his screenplay). The other nominations were made in the categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress ( Sally Kellerman ) and Best Editing (Danford B. Greene). Also in 1971, the film won the United Nations Award at the BAFTA Awards.

In 1996, MASH was inducted into the National Film Registry in what can be considered rehabilitation for the Hollywood Ten .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Release certificate for MASH . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , April 1992 (PDF; test number: 41 815 V).
  2. Ring Lardner Jr., Member of Blacklisted ´Hollywood Ten, ´ Dies. Obituary in the New York Times, November 1, 2000.
  3. ^ Ulrich Gregor, History of the Film from 1960. Bertelsmann, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-570-00816-9 , p. 474
  4. MASH. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed October 3, 2016 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  5. Evangelical Press Association, Munich, Review No. 235/1970