Set among a group of military surgeons in Korea who spend their free time chasing women and railing against authority Richard Hooker's anti-war novel was adapted for the screen as a thinly veiled attack on American involvement in Vietnam.
The unexpected box office success of Robert Altmanís Korean (anti-) War movie did as much as Easy Rider to establish director-led power in '70s Hollywood.
The fact that it wasnít independently produced, but sneakily done on the 20th Century Fox backlot, only proved that the studios had to quickly wake up to audience tastes.
In his first major movie, Altman instantly established his trademark style. Lines of dialogue overlap.The camera zooms in on an actor midway through a speech rather than cutting to a traditional close-up. Several storylines make up a patchwork featuring an ensemble cast.
MAS*H captures the insanity of war by placing lewd, comic set-pieces alongside graphic military hospital operations. By letting off steam, these doctors survive the horrors thrown at them - but their goofing around takes on a political dimension in this army context.
Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould, with their anti-authority manner, do more than buddy bonding: this is a reversed victory 'V', stuck in the face of an American administration intent on sending more soldiers to Vietnam.
The film inspired a long running TV series and still resonates political relevance today given America's involvement in Iraq. As a savage comedy about man's rebellion in the face of death it has rarely been bettered.