Consider this your general (mild) SPOILER ALERT for this review.
Released 1970 (USA)
American, in English (some Korean & Japanese, mostly non-translated)
Director - Robert Altman
Stars - Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt
It follows the zany antics of three American surgeons - Hawkeye Pierce (Sutherland), Trapper John McIntyre (Gould), and Duke Forrest (Skerritt) - on the front of the Korean War.
Blue language (including a racial slur); heavily implied sexy times; non-consensual drug use; violence; gore; brief female nudity (breasts & butt only).
In numerous scenes, people talk over one another. Even with the subtitles on, it was hard to follow. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Most of this movie just sounded like random noise.
It meanders aimlessly without ever really getting anywhere.
It felt more like a National Lampoon’s movie set during the Korean War than it did an honest exploration of the horrors of war and how people cope with them. The war took such a back seat to the hijinks that it might as well have not been set during that time at all.
I liked how compassionate Hawkeye and Trapper John occasionally were. They prevent a man from committing suicide, try to keep their Korean servant (Ho Jon, played by Kim Atwood) from being conscripted into the Korean army, and save the life of a half-American, half-Japanese baby when other American doctors refused to do so. It was sweet.
I saw this once before and didn’t recall not liking it. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing it again. Unfortunately, this time around I thought it was terrible. Really terrible. I pretty much hated it. Hawkeye, Trapper John, and Duke are basically these incredibly arrogant doctors who want everything done their way and whenever someone tries to say no, they ruin their lives. They have one man dragged away in a straight jacket, expose a woman to the whole camp while she’s showering (not to mention the time they broadcast her sexual liaison over the camp radio), and drug & blackmail another man. Granted, all of those people were jerks, but I’m not convinced that frontier justice was the answer. The movie wanted me to believe that it was all in good fun, but I felt appalled the whole way through.
It’s horrifically sexist. And just when I thought it was pretty good on the racism front, a black character named “Spearchucker” Jones (played by Fred Williamson), who was also a doctor by the way, appeared. I mean, really. Maybe I’m getting cranky in my old age but by the end I felt rather stumped as to how this was so beloved that it got turned into a TV series (which is far superior in every regard). If you love the show, I’d give this one a definite pass to preserve your warm and fuzzy memories.
I give it 2 stars.
Random Fun Fact: I used to work with the niece of Sally Kellerman (“Hot Lips” Houlihan). She looked just like her.