Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Supremely Spiffy M*A*S*H collection

inner box

I posted about ordering the M*A*S*H complete collection (11 seasons plus the original movie) from Deep Discount DVD and the box arrived several days ago. I had seen a few shots of the set on various web sites but never any that were large enough to give me a real sense of what it was like.

If you click on the small pictures here to see larger ones, you can see that the box is unusual in that it's covered in the sort of textured cover (resembling canvas) that old-fashioned 3-ring binders were covered in when I was in high school (which was about 25 years ago). I don't know if they even make these sorts of binders anymore since plastic is much slicker-looking and probably cheaper to produce. The cool thing about the design is that it'll resemble the psuedo-military tent-look all the more as it takes on wear. There's also a pressed board "clipboard" on the inside flap which holds a booklet listing the contents of the discs and has some photos and information on the show. This faux clipboard is more solid than the pressed board bookshelves I buy at Japanese furniture shops. :-p

Since I study design as a hobby, I really appreciate the care that went into putting this together. It looks great and matches the style of the show. It's relatively compact for the quantity of discs (36) and feels pretty solid compared to other huge "all season" collections. For instance, the 7-season box for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"is a compact design marvel but fairly flimsy. The discs' plastic holders come detached from their flimsy cardboard holders. Still, the Buffy "Chosen Collection" is the same height as a standard CD case so it fits in my DVD cabinet and the M*A*S*H collection is too tall and will have to be stored elsewhere.

homemade pocket protection

The discs themselves are stored in cardboard fold-out sleeves. This is the only point at which the design of the case shows flaws. The discs are tightly held in the pockets and when you pull them out, they get scratched. The first one I pulled out got two very long and nasty-looking scratches down half of one side and the disc played with problems. I'm going to try to prevent this from happening again and put each disc in a plastic holder with a thin cloth backing (as you can see above). I folded up and taped down the bottom of each holder so they are "rounded" at the bottom and fit more easily into the tight cardboard slots.

Getting the discs out without scratching them in order to put them in the sleeves required me to gently pull out the edge of the cardboard as far as possible before removing the disc in each case. Even though I tried to be careful, I still managed to tear one of the pockets.

I don't feel obliged to mention the content itself because most people either don't care or have already seen the T.V. series. However, the movie is another story. I had only seen it once before and that was a very long time ago when I was too young to understand a lot of the humor. My memory was that it was relatively depressing for a comedy.

I watched the movie first in order to have a point of comparison as I watched the series and was struck by how episodic it is. It really is more like a series of T.V. episodes placed end-to-end. This is a point that is mentioned in an interview with Robert Altman on the disc. He said the use of the speaker in the movie (which was also used in the T.V. show) was invented to tie the episodes together. He also said that Korea is never overtly referred to in the movie because he wanted it to be unclear whether or not this was about Vietnam or Korea. By making it vague, he could make a movie that would have been considered subversive if it were about Vietnam.

The movie isn't nearly as good as the T.V. show, mainly because the characters don't have the same charm and some of the "episodes" don't stand very well on their own. The final sequence is about a football game between units and it fails to be funny most of the time. It could be that so much of the movie was dissected to make stories for the earlier seasons of M*A*S*H that it seems recycled.

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