"MASH" the Movie Plot

by Dave Collins

"MASH" was directed by Robert Altman.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"MASH" (or "M*A*S*H") is a 1970 film directed by Robert Altman. It stars Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Tom Skerritt as irreverent Army doctors stationed at a mobile surgical hospital during the Korean War. The anti-establishment themes resonated with Vietnam-era audiences, while the juxtaposition of broad, often crude humor with grittily realistic filmmaking earned it lasting critical acclaim. "MASH" was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.

Set-Up

During the Korean War, Captain "Hawkeye" Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Captain "Duke" Forrest (Tom Skerritt) arrive at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH unit) in a stolen Jeep. They are placed in a tent with Major Frank Burns (Robert Duvall), a religious zealot. Soon a new rule-breaking surgeon, Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre (Elliott Gould) arrives. Major Margaret Houlihan (Sally Kellerman), the newly assigned chief nurse of the camp, witnesses Trapper punch Frank Burns for wrongfully blaming a patient's death on an orderly.

Build-Up

When Colonel Henry Blake (Roger Bowen) leaves Trapper in charge of the unit while he's away, drunken revelry ensues. Appalled, Houlihan and Burns decide to write up a report, during which they engage in a romantic tryst. A microphone is hidden in Houlihan's tent and Trapper broadcasts their encounter on the camp's PA system. When Houlihan tells Burns to "kiss my hot lips", Duke gives her the nickname "Hot Lips". Hawkeye teases Burns about it the next day, and Burns attacks Hawkeye. Burns is eventually restrained, sedated and sent home.

Further Episodes

When the unit's dentist, Captain Walter "Painless Pole" Waldowski (John Schuck) decides to kill himself rather than live with erectile dysfunction, the doctors stage a mock Last Supper in order to cure his problem. Later, Duke and Hawkeye humiliate Hot Lips by settling a bet as to whether she is a natural blonde by lifting the tent flap on her shower in front of the whole unit. Hawkeye and Trapper take a medical trip to Japan operate on the son of a U.S. Congressman, but are really only interested in playing golf.

Climax

The movie culminates with a football game between the members of 4077th and the rival 325th Evac. After Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper make a large bet on the game's outcome, they lobby Colonel Blake to get a neurosurgeon transferred to their unit who used to play in the NFL, Captain Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones (Fred Williamson.) Yet the 325th have their own NFL ringer, known as "Superbug". After Superbug scores his second touchdown, the 4077th doctors drug him during the ensuing pile-up of tacklers.

End

The underdogs of the 4077th go on to win the football game on a final trick play called "center-eligible." Soon after the game, Hawkeye and Duke receive their discharge orders. They embark on their journey home in the same "borrowed" Jeep in which they arrived.

About the Author

Since 2007 Dave Collins has served as a writer and editor for comic book publisher Platinum Studios Inc. A Seattle native and graduate of the University of Washington, Collins previously worked for the editorial department at Amazon.com. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history.

Photo Credits

  • Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images