Having just the very best name for a TV movie about VD that one can possibly have, 1975’s Someone I Touched plays out like one long PSA about the dangers of being a swinger and getting the syphilis. Along the way we have funky 1970s fashions, a prominent porn ‘stache, Seventies staple James Olson (Amityville II: The Possession) as The Guy With No Personality, and Cloris Leachman soulfully singing the title song.
Leachman plays Laura Hyatt, a willowy children’s book editor with a bun in the oven…and syphilis. Hyatt embodies the typical cosmopolitan, fashionable, and gently neurotic female protagonist that we see in so many of these 1970s flicks—the photographer, the editor, the actress, the model. People may know Leachman as Mary’s annoying neighbor Phyllis on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but she’s playing it totally glam here—and seems to have not one inch of body fat on her.
But the story really begins with young Carrie (Glynnis O’Connor) finding out she has syphilis—when she gets a visit from the man I like to call Mr. Syphilis, played by with great porn ‘stache white-guy-afro aplomb by Andrew Robinson (yes, Scorpio from Dirty Harry). Basically, if the grimly determined visage of Mr. Syphilis darkens your door, clipboard from the Board Of Health in hand—you got the syphilis.
(A great drinking game based on Someone I Touched might involve taking a shot every time Robinson’s character says “this will never leave this room” and “I have to report you.”)
It appears that Carrie might have given syphilis to Sam (Olsen), the married man she met at the supermarket checkout line—who is Laura’s husband. Better still: Laura has just found out she is pregnant. Enter Mr. Syphilis, who informs Sam that Laura has to be tested right away!
Sam reluctantly informs Laura about his affair, leading to the appropriate amount of melodrama. Meanwhile, Carrie finally confesses to her mother that she has the syphilis, and gets repeatedly slapped and called a whore.
Now we enter spoilers territory, so anybody who at this point is so intrigued to find out what will happen in this fascinating movie and plans to run right over to Netflix (or wherever in god’s name this gem is available now) and watch this sucker…well, you’ve been warned.
The big kicker to this film is that when Laura finally gets her visit from Mr. Syphilis, he tells her she has stage two syphilis—whereas Sam and Carrie only have stage one. That means that Laura, who up to this point we thought was the Woman Done Wrong…is kinda slutty. (M. Night Shyamalan alert!) She gave the venereal disease to everybody.
This being a TV movie and all, everything wraps up rather nicely—Laura and Sam make up, the baby is not infected, and Sam personally tells Carrie that she didn’t give him syphilis, but the other way around. As the camera focuses on the girl’s grateful, tear-stained face, we cannot help but think: JESUS CHRIST GIRL—THIS MARRIED MAN SLEPT WITH YOU AND GAVE YOU FUCKING SYPHILIS! KICK HIM IN THE BALLS OR SUE HIM OR SOMETHING!
But the class differences in Someone I Touched are rather stark and somewhat disturbing. While Laura still has her expensive home, fancy doctors, elegant clothing, and tastefully bland husband, Carrie has absolutely nothing (but, of course, syphilis). You can’t help but sort of hate Laura by the end of the film, but the intended P.O.V. certainly doesn’t feel that way.
Someone I Touched has all the washed-out film quality, cheesy music, and sudden pauses straight to black for the commercial breaks that you see in a lot of these 1970s TV movies. I suspect there will be no remastered Blu-ray edition of Someone I Touched. But just for hearing Leachman singing the theme song alone, it’s priceless (which means in theory you can tune into the credits sequence, listen to the tune, and then leave).
Just one more note on actress Glynnis O’Connor before I wrap this up. Doesn’t she have this “look” that so many young actresses had at that time…this slightly chubby Linda Blair look? Is it just me? Didn’t like every other girl on Eight Is Enough and Little House On The Prairie look like that? Was Linda Blair the gold standard in young actresses in the mid-Seventies after The Exorcist? Just asking.
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