From the novel with the same title by Richard Hooker.
I grew up in a kind of a wierd family.
Firstly, we lived in a town small enough that there was no McDonalds and no movie theater. The closest theater was ten miles away in the next town, but that was a ‘two movies for 99 cents’ kind of theater, showing stuff that was about to disappear. The big town 30 miles away was where the first run movie theaters were, and that was a LONG DRIVE, so going to the movies was a big deal when I was a kid. Once in a while my dad would take me to see a musical (which we both loved) and sometimes when people visited from out of town, we’d go to the movies if something good was playing, but I probably saw no more than about 15 movies in the theater before I turned 16 and got my driver’s license and started being able to take myself.
So when I was 10, someone from out of town (I don’t remember who) was visiting, and the whole family (including the youngest child, me) went to the movie theater one night…and we saw this and Patton, both of which I loved. No, I knew nothing of the Korean war, or very much about WWII, and certainly all the innuendo and most of the jokes in this movie were way over my head.
But my whole family loved the book it was based on, and I read it several times in high school, laughing my butt off…and missing a lot of jokes which, later in life, I got when I reread it, and laughed even harder.
My book and movie review group voted for this and I was happy to reread it and watch the movie again. The book was just as good as I remembered it, funny and irreverent but with great characters and a good heart.
It was great to see the movie again. It’s a Robert Altman movie, which (to me) means well-crafted but low-key, maybe a little too low-key for the craziness of the book, although the movie does include most of the major plot elements…they did leave out the part where Trapper John is Jesus, which was one of my favorite parts, but they couldn’t have gotten away with it in 1970.
But the book gives the characters so much more personality, and motivation, and the reader finds out more about what happens; for instance, in the movie, they do operate on the baby from the brothel, but the whole aftermath, where Me Lay Marston adopts him, is left out…and that was kind of the point of the story.
Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerrit and Elliot Gould are great (and so young!) and the movie is full of younger versions of people who went on to make a lot of really good movies.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good movie, a favorite of mine, and it was lovely seeing it again…but (as I almost always say) THE BOOK IS BETTER.