40 years ago today, January 25, 1970, Robert Altman's film MASH premiered in New York City.
The film, my favorite from 1970, takes place during the Korean War, but clearly played off thoughts, feelings, and frustrations with the Vietnam war is certainly a unique and important film in American film history.
When Oscar-winning screenwriter Ring Larder Jr, adapted Richard Hooker's novel I have to assume there was a feeling of risk involved with a comedy about this group of confused doctors that made up the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.
I think about 2009 and what was a very successful year in film for contemporary war films. Films like The Messenger and The Hurt Locker have been critically well received. Yet, these films are dramatic in nature, and while they have messages and commentary inside their stories, I believe much of there success has been their story telling that is objective without being heavy handed message films.
Another contemporary war film came out this year, The Men Who Stare at Goats...this one a comedy, and boy did it bomb. Comedy about war is a unique challenge.
So what makes MASH (often referenced as M*A*S*H due to original poster art and the later franchise that spawned a TV show) into such a great success.
I can only speculate. Was it the performances, Robert Altman's character saturated story telling, the comical gags, or the ability to laugh at something people took very seriously. Maybe it was all of these things.
Whether it's memories of an itchy nose during a surgery, or the many scenes involving Major "Hot Lips" Houlihan, I think this film did something unique and magical that we haven't seen since.