DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
Ultra HD
International DVDs
Theatrical
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » M*A*S*H - Season Five Collector's Edition
M*A*S*H - Season Five Collector's Edition
Fox // Unrated // December 9, 2003
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted December 9, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
Television's long-running M*A*S*H was running smoothly on all four cylinders in its fifth season. The show was a solid ratings-winner, its characters were firmly established, and its writing confident and consistently excellent. In one short season, Harry Morgan's Colonel Potter and Mike Farrell's B.J. Hunnicut had, dramatically at least, eclipsed the characters they had replaced.

So while life at M*A*S*H—an army hospital three miles from the front lines of the Korean "police action" of 1950-53—remained chaotic, M*A*S*H the TV show was smoothly operating on cruise control. The 24 episodes produced during its 1976-77 season (spread out over three DVDs), are somewhat less ambitious than those of the previous and subsequent season, but are never worse than fair, either, and represent the very best of American dramatic television of that time.

Season five is perhaps best remembered as the year Major Margaret (formerly "Hot Lips") Houlihan (Loretta Swit) got engaged and eventually married philandering jock Lt. Col. Donald Penobscott (Beeson Carroll). This was the only season-long story arc in M*A*S*H's 11-season run. Margaret becomes engaged in the second episode, and is finally married for the season finale, the highly-rated "Margaret's Marriage." For most of the fifth season, however, Margaret (who appropriately is front and center on the DVD's jacket) gradually learns of her fiancé's egregious infidelity, all while fending off the attentions of spurned ex-lover Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville). The entire concept, however, proved at best a failed experiment. Margaret's conventional TV marriage was at odds with the environment of the 4077th. Although the program's creative team seemed to realize this, insofar as Donald's unfaithfulness is discovered long before the wedding, the experience doesn't do much for Margaret's character. Her "damn good nurse" is stymied in conventional relationships, and her affair with Penobscott never seemed anything other than doomed. That the season would end on such a sentimental note, its liberated woman of authority happily riding off in the arms of such an inarticulate boob seems downright perverse, yet is played completely straight, without a hint of irony.

Margaret fared much better in the hands of writer Linda Bloodworth, in one of the season's best episodes, "The Nurses," directed by Joan Darling. In this episode, Margaret is unsympathetic to a young nurse (Linda Kelsey) whose husband briefly visits the camp. Bloodworth wrote or co-wrote (with actress Mary Kay Place) some of the best showcases for the character; it's a shame she didn't pen more shows in general and for Margaret's character in particular.

About the only good thing to come out of Margaret's engagement is the mental disintegration of Frank Burns. On the surface, Frank's comic foil seemed pretty conventional, especially after Linville left the show after this season and his character was replaced by Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers), whose intelligence and complexity was the antithesis of Frank's clueless and inept surgeon. Looking back, however, one can really appreciate both Linville's enormous comic skill (the late actor was in reality a highly-intelligent, sardonically witty man), and the clever writing accorded the character. Frank may have been a shallow human being, but the writers fashioned him into a complex psychotic. What was so great about the character was his unquestioning belief system and deliriously thoughtless amorality. In "The Most Unforgettable Characters," for example, Radar (Gary Burghoff) is taking a writing class and in search of amusing anecdotes. Frank offers up this memory about a wheelchair-bound boy named "Timmy," who used to wave at Frank's family as they walked past his house:

FRANK

Well, one day while he was waving, he lost control of his chair, and it rolled down the stairs, across the lawn, and crashed into my dad's car. Boy that was funny!

B.J.

That must have been awful!

Frank

No, just scratched the paint a little.

That episode, like many of the series' best, was a variation of the "Dear Dad" letter-writing format, in this case in the form of Radar's hilariously over-written prose. The pot pourri nature of those scripts allowed its writers to freestyle with time and place, and really mix the extremes of comedy and drama within the context of a 26-minute show. Indeed, probably the best episode of the fifth season is the Emmy-winning "Dear Sigmund," an excellent show written and directed by Alan Alda, which looks at the 4077th through the eyes of visiting psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freeman (Allan Arbus).

The character also appears in the Burt Prelutsky-scripted "Hawk's Nightmare." In this show, Hawkeye (Alda) is both sleepwalking (while dreaming he's a child back in Crabapple Cove, Maine) and experiencing blood-curdling nightmares so terrifying that he wakes up screaming. The episode is one of the first to depict the psychological damage of war (paralleling a condition especially common among Vietnam War veterans); that a network show in 1977 would risk depicting one of its leading characters so completely out-of-control (Hawkeye even wets his bed) and frightened by his own behavior was one of M*A*S*H's great strengths.

Video & Audio

As stated in this reviewer's look at Season Four, M*A*S*H seems to have been a victim of its own success. So popular was (and is) the show in syndication, its original film elements seem to have suffered from over-printing. For a show shot just 25 years ago and in standard 35mm, M*A*S*H looks pretty murky, with bad color and a general lack of definition. The sky has the yellow-green quality of a dirty goldfish bowl, while the camp has a general dull brown look to it. After reviewing razor-sharp, brightly colored programs like The Persuaders, the ugliness of M*A*S*H's transfers seem especially pronounced.

Extras

As with earlier seasons, an optional audio track sans the canned laughter is offered, along with English and Spanish subtitles, and a French mono track. That's about it, unless you count the rather slim booklet, which is little more than an episode list. Given that most of the on- and off-camera talent are still active, more extensive extras—audio commentaries, a better booklet – seem called for.

Stuart Galbraith IV is a Los Angeles and Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf -- The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. He is presently writing a new book on Japanese cinema for Taschen.

Popular Reviews
1. Child's Play (2019)
2. Dark Phoenix
3. Mean Girls (15th Anniversary Edition)
4. Sudden Terror (aka Eyewitness)
5. The Addams Family/Addams Family Values 2 Movie Collection
6. Gremlins (4K Ultra HD)
7. Vampires (Collector's Edition)
8. ffolkes (North Sea Hijack)
9. The Dead Don't Die
10. And Soon the Darkness


Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2019 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use