DVD: Nothing Goes Viral Like Syphilis(-Themed TV Movies Starring Cloris Leachman)

someoneItouch_225.jpgIf you haven't already had friends leave you a message on your Facebook wall to get yourself over to Netflix Instant immediately to watch Someone I Touched, a 1975 TV-movie about a syphilis outbreak, let me be the one to tell you. The fact that Cloris Leachman, at 49, stars as a pregnant housewife, and that she sings the theme song, is just the icing on the cake of looniness. (Not to mention the fact that Leachman was at that time starring in the spin-off sitcom Phyllis, making one long for the inevitable Sy-Phyllis mash-up.)

The movie takes us back to a more innocent era, when "VD" was spoken about only in hushed tones, cars were the size of speedboats, and everyone's kitchen was done up in mustard, avocado, or Aztec Gold. To a California that could still afford to send a permed bureaucrat to your house to tell you you've got syphilis. Where grocery store cashiers still gave out trading stamps.

It's a world where women thought of miscarriages as being their fault and as an understandable excuse for their husbands to walk out. And one where working women like Leachman's character toiled away under the ugliest hobo statue you've ever seen. (And there's a pencil-drawing of this weird toy on the wall, too!)

Someone I Touched is bizarrely riveting throughout, but don't miss the scene where Leachman worries that she could give birth to a "baby without any ARRRRRRMS....!" If you grew up on the super-earnest message-of-the-week TV movies of the 1970s, this one will whet your appetite for all those vintage Patty Duke, Susan Blakely and Meredith Baxter flicks that are all sitting in a network vault somewhere.


  • Chris says:

    I just watched this last night on Netflix. The "baby without armmmmms" scene was the best! I am going to force my two daughters to watch this - so they can witness first hand just how bad 70's message films really were. Can't wait for Netflix to add more to their current selection.

  • Jeremy says:

    I watched this one last night and really enjoyed it because of the acting. I remember the baby without arms scene, but the one that was laughably bad was the one with all of those high-pitched slaps Carrie's mom gave her when she found out her daughter had syphilis. It sounded like something out of the Three Stooges.

  • Barton Fink says:

    I just watched this, and I was amazed. Living in the 21st century, I had friends who dealt with syphilis themselves. The disease is alive and well in Vancouver, Seattle, and everywhere. Still, I watched this movie for the camp and the amazing California 7os atmosphere.

    • Brightshadow says:

      Well, Barton, they've given up wearing condoms ("just not chic") and HIV isn't the only venereal disease, eh?