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Comparison of Our Finest Hour on DVD & VHS


Introduction

On Monday, October 9th, 1978, a special hour-long episode of M*A*S*H called “Our Finest Hour” was broadcast on CBS from 8:30PM to 9:30PM. A glorified clip show, “Our Finest Hour” saw the return of reporter Clete Roberts to the 4077th, interviewing the staff of the army hospital to see how they were coping with the war.

It was a follow-up to the acclaimed fourth season episode “The Interview,” which aired on February 24th, 1976. The interview segments of “Our Finest Hour” were in black and white without a laugh track while clips from earlier episodes were in color with a laugh track.

Like the other hour-long episodes of M*A*S*H, when “Our Finest Hour” was put into syndication, it was split into two half-hour episodes. In the early 1990s, Columbia House began offering M*A*S*H on VHS videotape. Each tape cost $19.95 and usually contained three uncut and remastered episodes, with a few exceptions. “Our Finest Hour” was released alongside “Point of View” on one tape.

Released on DVD

In December 2004, 20th Century Fox released the seventh season of M*A*S*H on DVD. There was a problem: the original film elements to “Our Finest Hour” had been damaged.

Here’s the message included on the DVD menu for the episode, 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.

The DVD offers a choice of watching the episode in two half-hour parts, each with their own set of opening and closing credits, or as one episode with a single set of credits.

Comparing the VHS to the DVD

The Columbia House VHS version of “Our Finest Hour” runs 49:10 while the syndicated episodes run 23:54 and 23:52, respectively, or 45:16 when watched together. Thus, approximately four minutes are missing from the DVD.

Here’s a list of scenes missing from the DVD version (time codes in relation to watching both parts of the episode together):

At 00:10:00, an interview segment with B.J. is followed by a scene from “War of Nerves” in which Hawkeye tries to get B.J. to smell his food. On the DVD version, the very next scene is Hawkeye’s infamous “river of liver, ocean of fish” rant from “Adam’s Ribs.” However, in the Columbia House version, a scene from “Some 38th Parallels” is shown, in which Frank admonishes Radar for wasting food. That is followed by the scene from “Adam’s Ribs,” although an additional five seconds from the episode are shown at the start.

At 00:12:37, an interview segment with Colonel Potter is followed on the DVD version by a scene from “Dear Mildred” where Radar gives Colonel Potter a horse for his anniversary. On the Columbia House version, the interview segment is followed by a scene from “Change of Command” in which Hawkeye, B.J. and Colonel Potter get drunk in the Swamp and sing “The Long, Long Trail.” The scene from “Dear Mildred” is then shown, with an additional five or six seconds at the start, including Radar’s line “Sir, I have a present for your anniversary.”

(At 00:22:47, To Be Continued is seen on the screen in the DVD version. This is obviously not shown on the Columbia House version, which is not split into two parts.)

At 00:23:48, following a scene in which Hawkeye asks a nurse to blow in his ear, the DVD version is followed by a scene with Igor and another soldier burning furniture to keep warm. On the Columbia House version, two scenes from “Crisis” are shown between these clips; the first sees Hawkeye and Trapper dealing with new sleeping arrangements and the second involves Frank’s foot warmers. The wood burning scene is followed on the DVD version with an interview segment with Hawkeye. However, on the Columbia House version, another scene from “Crisis” is shown, in which Henry discovers the legs to his desk have been cut off.

At 00:25:45, following a scene from “M*A*S*H – The Pilot,” the DVD version moves to another interview segment with Hawkeye. The Columbia House shows a scene from “As You Were” with Hawkeye and Trapper dressed up as gorillas, then the interview segment with Hawkeye.

None of the black-and-white footage shot specifically for “Our Finest Hour” is missing. Only clips from earlier episodes have been cut.

A Word About Quality

What is really disappointing about having “Our Finest Hour” only available on DVD in its syndicated form is the quality. The syndicated episodes appear brighter, as if overexposed, and aren’t as crisp and sharp as the other episodes on DVD.

Here are some examples:

Left: “Our Finest Hour” on DVD; Right: “Lil”
Left: “Our Finest Hour” on DVD; Right: “Officer of the Day”
Left: “Our Finest Hour” on DVD; Right: “The Interview”

Perhaps at some point, the episode will be released in its original, uncut form in better quality.

References:

Nichols, Peter M. “New Life for Animated Mouse.” Houston Chronicle 20 Mar. 1992: 3.

Published July 31st, 2007
Last updated November 10th, 2013

7 Comments

  • MASHGuy says:

    Does anyone know how the film got damaged?

    • RJ says:

      Aside from the notice on the DVD, I am not aware of any information about the damage.

    • Not sure, but I would suspect that age may have had something to do with the ‘damage’ in the film. In an interview with George Lucas regarding the original Star Wars film he had explained that the original master print had been stored away and when he went to do the Star Wars – Special Addition they found that they were going to need to restore the master copy before adding the special addition video to it.. Age / storage plays a big roll in film , humidity, and storage conditions are very important. – Be lucky you folks HAVE all of the MASH Episodes to watch! The BBC and some of the very early Dr. WHO episodes were actually destroyed by the BBC after airing.

  • Mike says:

    Is there any place that the original can be downloaded? Quite annoyed by the fact that they didnt put the original on. I have the option for separate or together but want to see it how it was meant to be seen.

  • In this episode at the beginning , the camera pans back and shows a nurse Hawkeye calls ‘Lori or Cory’ tells her to check the temperature of a chest wound.. (Who is this actress?)

  • Pab Sungenis says:

    Looking at OFH on Netflix it’s obvious why there was no suitable film negative. There was probably no film negative at all.

    As someone who’s worked in both media you can tell TV edited on film from that edited on video. It looks like OFH was edited purely on video using video masters of the old episodes. You can tell from the way the titles are keyed over the opening scene in Post Op as well as other places.

    After the one hour version aired and Fox hacked it down for syndication they probably wiped the one hour master. There was no home video market in 1978 and no one thought there would ever be a need for the original cut.

    To see OFH as originally aired would require completely re editing the episode from scratch and since it’s just a clip show it’s probably not worth the cost or effort.

  • Jackie Baltzell says:

    I have the complete set of MASH on. VHS. Like to sell for fair price. Please advise!

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