It’s considered poor form in reviewing to not finish a movie before reviewing it. However, I have been forced to do so in the past. The Legend Of The Lone Ranger was a movie I was looking forward to, having had the poster and Cheerios tie-in stuff as a kid, making merchandise my introduction to the Lone Ranger franchise. When I finally had the chance to review if for Finally Watched I couldn’t make it through the whole movie, so I had to write about my disappointment. It was a poor take on the character, and it was boring. I was hoping this was a one-time phenomenon and all further Finally Watched movies, even if I ended up disappointed after waiting so long to see it, would still be a proper review.

I’m currently running the Movies TV network showing of M*A*S*H*, the 1970 movie, as I write this. That should tell you we’re two for thirty-eight in this series, and two in a row. Now I really wish Into The Spiderverse hadn’t glitched when I record it. Am I going to have to vette these movies before it becomes three in a row? I feel like a failure as a reviewer but…good Lord this movie is boring. Sadly this is not the biggest crime of the movie.

The usual format includes the question “why did you want to see it”, but frankly that should be obvious. The TV series was based not on the original novel by Robert Hooker but this movie. So of course I had to see it. I found it odd that my dad hates this movie considering he still watches the reruns of the show and I’m sure he’s seen it more times than I’ve watched any TV on my favorites list. Well, I know why. For the record of those who have seen it, this is where I started writing.

If you know the context, you’d be on her side…and that’s the other big problem with this movie.

Let’s start at the beginning. The movie opens, after the classic theme song but with the lyrics–a downer, but it’s a war movie theme song called “Suicide Is Painless” so it kind of has to be–on the arrival of two doctors, Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt) as they arrive in South Korea, new surgeons as the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. Immediately they run afoul of their bunkmate, Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and begin to work behind the back of uninterested Lt. Colonel Henry Blake (Roger Bowen). With the arrival of Trapper John McIntyre (Elliot Gould) the unit turns into a madhouse, while the unit gets a new chief nurse, Major Margaret Houlihan (Sally Kellerman), which two of the actors get wrong by adding the O’ to Houlihan. Forrest disappears partway through the movie as the movie becomes Trapper and Hawkeye running roughshod over the military,

I’ll tell you this right now: if you come from the TV show, you better consider this a warning: the movie is a poor imitation of the show, and the movie came first. As I said, the movie is boring. Right now as I write this Hawkeye and Trapper just left a Japanese restaurant (possibly doubling as a brothel)…no, now they’re taking false pictures of a colonel in Japan with a prostitute to use as blackmail. Yeah, these are your heroes, folks. This is the biggest sin of the movie compared to the show. When Hawkeye, Trapper, and later BJ Hunnicutt in the show pull off their pranks the targets are usually deserving of it. They’re trying to put down military types who are a danger to their troops, which the doctors have to then try to save the lives of. When they pull stunts on Burns and Houlihan especially they kind of deserve it, and the rare times they don’t Hawkeye and friends tend to deal with the consequences unless the episode is on their side.

This movie is totally on their side. Hawk and Trap (and frankly Gould comes off more like TV’s Hawkeye, so it comes off as Trapper is the senior character despite not showing up until maybe 15-30 minutes in, long after Hawkeye and Forrest have chased Burns out) here however are total a-holes. They don’t just lack respect for the military or understand that North Korea were the villains in the war, they don’t have any respect for anyone. They treat everyone like garbage, but the movie says we’re supposed to love their antics.

Meanwhile we’re supposed to hate Burns and Houlihan just because the movie says so. Compare it to the show, who does a much better job of showing them as the antagonists. We can tell Burns is an incompetent doctor and Larry Linville also added a manbaby attitude, a sham of what patriotism and being a ranked officer should be. Linville gave us a villain we love to hate. Duvall, however, is not given the same to work with. We’re told Burns is a terrible surgeon but we don’t really see it. Trapper’s breaking point, leading to him socking Burns, is when Burns yells at some kid for not coming back fast enough with the right medication and still had the wrong needle. Yet, when I watched the scene Burns appears to be in the right. The kid was slow and did get the wrong needle. Somehow we’re supposed to assume Burns is the one at fault, and we don’t have the TV show to fall back on. Maybe the book was better at this, but at every point Burns seems to be the victim here. It doesn’t help that Forrest and Hawkeye have Burns kicked out of the tent, which they then rename the Swap, because they don’t like that he prays. It comes off as Forrest being anti-religious. Burns isn’t even as obnoxious as his later show counterpart, yet he’s the “villain” because the movie says so.

The same problem hits Houlihan. Because she’s regular army she’s immediately the bad one. Apparently when Trapper, just named chief surgeon unlike the show giving the job to Hawkeye as the central character, has his “ceremony” he demands Houlihan be stripped and “brought to him”, and given the crowd around him I thought they were going to do it. This leads to Houlihan and Burns bonding and starting to hook up until our “heroes” decide to sneak a microphone into the tent and broadcast their encounter to the entire base. This invasion of privacy is what leads Margret to be dubbed “Hot Lips” rather than her constant attraction to men in military authority due to her upbringing with her father. In the TV show a similar incident occurs and they then have to deal with the ramifications of their action since Blake (unlike here where he also treats Houlihan like dirt later) needs both the doctor and a good chief nurse. Here, after Trapper arranges for her to be exposed in the shower to the whole camp to see if the “curtains match the drapes”, she goes to Henry who is more than happy to see her resign her commission.

Later, Hawkeye uses the incident to goad Burns into attacking him, thus getting him taken away in a strait jacket. Again, Burns is only the villain because the movie says he is, not from anything we see unless in the 2 hour 30 minute TV version of the 1 hour 56 minute film something that actually demonstrates Burns is a bad doctor and soldier the TV edit took something out. I wish they had taken out more of the gore for the surgery scenes like they do the mild nudity and references to Fred Williamson’s character’s nickname, “Spearchucker” Jones, but apparently that’s okay for turning an R-rated movie into a TV-14 presentation.

They’re currently in the final scene, a football game where of course the 4077th are pulling shenanigans to win at at this point it’s just background noise as I finish this article. In short, if you really like the TV show, you may really hate this movie. I don’t know if the original book is any better, though I’ve heard there are a lot of differences and later novels were altered to match the TV version rather than properly continue the novel’s story. All I can tell you is every reason the M*A*S*H* television worked is the same reason the movie fails. I outright hate this movie and that really bothers me given the legacy that came from it. I can’t even talk a lot about Gary Burghoff, the only actor who continued to the show as Radar O’Reilly, because he and Rene Auberjonois’s Father Mulcahy are barely in this movie. Rene in particular has done much better in live and animated shows and movies over the years and the only reason I cared about Radar is because of the show. In short, if I can’t even finish this movie to properly review it, there is no way I can recommend it. Even without the show the heroes are jerks, the villains are the real victims, and the “comedy” is really boring. I only laughed at one joke, the “he was drafted” line in the trailer. I can’t believe such a great TV show came from such a crap movie, but that’s the world we live in.

You know, at least in previous installments of Finally Watched, when a movie didn’t live up to the wait, it was at least still watchable. This is the second time in a row it wasn’t and disappointed me for one reason or another. I really hope the next time I get to clear something from the Finally Watch list it’s a movie that was really worth the wait…but I’ll settle for one that I can at least sit through before I do the review.


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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