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M*A*S*H on Home Video


Introduction

When M*A*S*H premiered in September of 1972 there was no home video market. By the time it went off the air in February of 1983, there were a number of competing home video formats, including VHS, Betamax, LaserDisc and CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc). Furthermore, viewers could record there own episodes as early as 1975 on Betamax or 1977 on VHS. By the late 1970s, a home video market had emerged for movies that could either be rented or purchased. In 1978, 20th-Century Fox became the first studio to license its movies for sale when it reached an agreement with Magnetic Video Corp. to license 50 titles, including MASH, Cleopatra, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Hello, Dolly, at a cost of $50 a pop [1]. In fact MASH was perhaps the first bestseller on home video [2].

(For the record, MASH has been released on Betamax, VHS, the Philips Video Cassette Recording system, CED, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray.)

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

Only weeks after the series finale was broadcast on February 28th, 1983, CBS/Fox Video began selling “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” on home video. According to Billboard magazine, the episode cost $79.98 on VHS, $34.98 on LaserDisc and $29.98 on CED [3].

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen on CED
“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” on CED – From a December 2011 eBay Auction

Here’s the text of a trade ad announcing the release:

The Finale, But Not The End

Although MA*S*H has aired its final episode, it’s just the beginning of big profits for you.

CBS/FOX VIDEO proudly announces the release of GOODBYE, FAREWELL AND AMEN–the stunning 2-hour climax to television’s most successful series. With a following in the millions, this great program lets you become part of the nationwide M*A*S*H phenomena. And with its incredible all-star cast — this historic program virtually sells itself.

Contact your distributor for your in-store display package that will not only boost your sales and profits but will also stimulate sales of the original M*A*S*H movie.

For years M*A*S*H has been a blockbuster, so get in on the action and let this great title become a success story for you.

CBS/Fox Video sponsored a display contest was held in which retailers could submit photographs of their promotional efforts, with a first prize of a 1942 Army jeep and other prizes including beach towels, golf umbrellas, hats and dog tags [4].

Columbia House Video Library

According to a November 1984 article in Billboard magazine reporting on the advent of vintage television programs on home video, CBS/Fox was for the most part waiting to see how things unfolded before releasing television programs on home video but that several M*A*S*H episodes being released was a possibility for mid-1985 [5]. Ultimately, it would be almost eight years before episodes eventually made their way to home video.

In April of 1992, Columbia House Video Library began releasing “M*A*S*H: The Collector’s Edition” through its videocassette subscription series [6]. Each VHS tape would contain three uncut episodes grouped loosely by subject, not in order by season. The first introductory tape, titled “Welcome to M*A*S*H,” included the following episodes: “M*A*S*H — The Pilot,” “Radar’s Report” and “Bulletin Board.” It cost $4.95 (plus shipping and handling) and could be previewed for ten days and then either kept or returned for a full refund. Each subsequent tape cost $19.95 and would arrive roughly every 4-6 weeks.

The tapes were only available through the mail, not in stores. According to a June 1993 post to the alt.tv.mash Usenet group, initially only 15 tapes were available, for a total of 45 episodes. A total of 71 tapes and 207 episodes were eventually released, including four one-hour episodes (“Welcome to Korea,” “Bug Out,” “Fade Out, Fade In” and “Our Finest Hour”). The 71st tape contained “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.”

Every episode from the first four seasons was released as part of the Columbia House series, as were the bulk of Seasons Five through Eight. Most of the episodes not released came from the last three seasons. Columbia House lost the rights to the series at some point in 1998, although reportedly existing subscribers at that time were allowed to continue receiving tapes. Columbia House also released the series on VHS in Canada. In Australia and the United Kingdom, the tapes were released by Time-Life.

M*A*S*H Comes to DVD (And VHS, Again)

During a July 18th, 2000 Home Theater Forum live chat (a transcript can be found here), Peter Staddon, Fox Home Entertainment’s Senior Vice President for Marketing, revealed that M*A*S*H (and MASH the film) would be coming to DVD in 2001. Here’s the pertinent question and answer:

[JasenP] Peter, thank you for not only reading the forum but sharing your thoughts and “insider insight” on posted topics. I was curious, what is the status of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H and if it’s in the works will it be the “PG” or “R” rated version? Are there personal favorites your anxious to see?

[Peter_Staddon] MASH is going to be a big release for us in 2001. We are looking at two different products on DVD. Firstly, a really special edition of the movie – it gets the full 5 star treatment. And secondly we are looking at bringing the TV Show out on DVD as well. The full details are still being worked out, but trust me if your a fan of MASH or Robert Altman in general you will not be disappointed.

The following year, during another Home Theater Forum live chat held on July 31st, 2001 (the transcript can be found here), Staddon explained that M*A*S*H would be used to test the waters for future Fox releases:

[Jaime_Weinman] Any chance of Fox doing some DVD releases of some of the classic TV shows from MTM Productions (acquired in a buyout a few years ago)? I’m particularly interested in “WKRP In Cincinnati” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” but there are lots of other great shows from MTM.

[PeterStaddon] WKRP would be a great release – if only we could afford the music clearance rights! We are looking at MTM but I think we need to do a bit more research on how well classic TV sells before making a commitment. We are releasing MASH TV in the not too distant future and will use that as a way of reading the size of the classic tv market.

The first season wouldn’t make its way to stores in the United States until January 2nd, 2002 when “M*A*S*H – Season One Collector’s Edition” was released in the United States and Canada. The 24 episodes were spread across three discs. The set included two mono English audio tracks (with or without the laugh track) and a mono French audio track as well as English and Spanish subtitles. There were no extras. According to a September 2004 article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the first season had sold 550,000 copies as of August 2004 [7]. The set included a small insert announcing the release of the second season in May 2002:

Season One Insert, Front Season One Back, Front
Season One Insert Announcing Season Two – Front and Back

The remaining nine seasons were released on DVD over the course of the next four years.

Fox Home Entertainment also re-released the first five seasons on VHS, individually or as a three-tape set. These VHS sets were released the same day as the DVD sets. By the time the sixth season was released on DVD in June 2004, VHS had become obsolete and thus the VHS sets were discontinued.

“Our Finest Hour” on DVD

When 20th Century Fox released the seventh season of M*A*S*H on DVD on December 7th, 2004 there was a problem. The original film elements for “Our Finest Hour” been damaged over time and in order to put the best quality footage on the DVD set, the syndicated version of “Our Finest Hour” was substituted.

However, the hour-long episode was split into two half-hour episodes for syndication with all the usual syndication cuts. Furthermore, the quality of the syndicated print used for the DVD set was not in the best shape. In comparison to the remastered versions of all the other episodes on DVD, “Our Finest Hour” looks faded and dark.

The episode menu for “Our Finest Hour” includes a message explaining the substitution:

OUR FINEST HOUR originally aired on television as a one hour episode on October 9, 1978. Over time the original master materials were damaged and proved to be unworthy of DVD release. In order to provide the best visual and audio presentation possible, Fox placed the syndication version of this episode onto the DVD. This episode is now in two parts as it is in syndication.

Viewers are then given the choice of watching the episode in two parts, each with opening and closing credits, or as one episode with a single set of opening and closing credits.

The Martinis & Medicine Collection

The Season 10 set, released in May 2006, included two inserts, one for Season 11 and the other for The Complete Series, both of which would be available in November 2006.

“M*A*S*H: The Martinis and Medicine Collection” included 36 discs, 33 of which were the same discs from the individual season sets. The 34th disc was MASH the film and the final two discs were filled with bonus features. Here’s a breakdown of those two discs:

Disc 35
*M*A*S*H: Television’s Serious Sit-Com
*Bloopers
*My Favorite M*A*S*H
*Cast Interviews
*Last Day of Filming
*Jocularity
*PSAs
*Just the FAQs Game

Disc 36
*30th Anniversary Reunion Special
*Fan Base
*Memories of M*A*S*H
*Never Produced Script: “Hawkeye on the Double”

One bonus feature mentioned in early press for “M*A*S*H: The Martinis and Medicine Collection,” a saxophone promo, ultimately did not show up on the set when it was released.

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Several months after “M*A*S*H: The Martinis and Medicine Collection” was released, Fox Home Entertainment announced that a standalone 3-disc set featuring “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” and the two discs of bonus features would be released in May 2007, allowing fans who had faithfully purchased all eleven seasons individually to get their hands on the bonus features without double dipping and purchasing the entire series for a second time. On November 11th, 2008, all eleven season sets were re-released in slimmer cases.

International DVDs

(For an explanation of DVD region codes, please see this Wikipedia article.)

A little over a year after its release in Region 1 (US/Canada), the first season of M*A*S*H was released on DVD in Region 4 (Australia) as well as Region 2 (Europe). Beginning in 2005, German editions were also released in Region 2. Here’s a table listing the release dates for the series across all regions:

Season Region 1 Region 2 (English) Region 2 (German) Region 4
Season 1 8 January 2002 19 May 2003 17 February 2005 7 April 2003
Season 2 23 July 2002 13 October 2003 17 March 2005 20 October 2003
Season 3 18 February 2003 15 March 2004 25 May 2005 17 February 2004
Season 4 15 July 2003 14 June 2004 25 May 2005 7 September 2004
Season 5 9 December 2003 17 January 2005 6 October 2005 7 December 2004
Season 6 15 June 2004 28 March 2005 6 October 2005 8 March 2005
Season 7 7 December 2004 30 May 2005 2 March 2006 23 November 2005
Season 8 24 May 2005 15 August 2005 2 March 2006 8 March 2006
Season 9 6 December 2005 1 January 2006 18 May 2006 8 March 2006
Season 10 23 May 2006 17 April 2006 18 May 2006 17 May 2006
Season 11 7 November 2006 29 May 2006 1 February 2007 19 July 2006
Martinis & Medicine Complete Collection 7 November 2006 30 October 2006 4 December 2006 29 November 2006
Goodbye, Farewell and Amen (3-Disc Set) 15 May 2007 N/A N/A N/A
Slim Pack Re-releases 11 November 2008 N/A 18 March 2011 N/A

Blu-ray and Streaming

As of December 2016, there has been no announcement regarding M*A*S*H being released on Blu-ray. Netflix streamed the series from February 1st, 2015 until April 1st, 2016. It is not available for streaming anywhere.

There has also been no announcement about AfterMASH or unsold pilot “W*A*L*T*E*R” being released on DVD/Blu-ray or made available for streaming.

Works Cited:
1 “Film company selling movies for cassettes.” New York Times News Service. Star-Phoenix [Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada]. 4 Mar. 1978: 25.
2 “But for some, it means movies.” United Press International. Milwaukee Journal. 22 Oct. 1981: 4.
3 “CBS/Fox Offering M*A*S*H Finale.” Billboard. 12 Mar. 1983: 30.
4 “CBS/Fox Sets Display Contest for ‘M*A*S*H’.” Billboard. 26 Mar. 1983: 32.
5 Zuckerman, Faye. “Vintage TV Shows Eyed As New Genre.” Billboard. 24 Nov. 1984: 29.
6 Wickstrom, Andy. “‘M*A*S*H’ episodes being released on mail-order video.” Pittsburgh Press. 2 Apr. 1992: D10.
7 “Where’s ‘Mary’ on DVD?” Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 28 Sep. 2004: 08E.

Published September 9th, 2012
Last updated December 6th, 2016

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