Saturday, January 2, 2021

Only now does it occur to me... SOMEONE I TOUCHED (1975)

Only now does it occur to me... that SOMEONE I TOUCHED is the disease detective melodrama we all need right now.

It opens with local county public health official Andy Robinson––whom you may recall as "the Scorpio Killer" in DIRTY HARRY or "the dad" in HELLRAISER––hunting down Glynnis O'Connor at a game of beach volleyball (!) in order to tell her she has syphilis. Talk about harshing the vibe!

Andy Robinson, who has played a raft of psychos, degenerates, and hapless bank robbers, is meant to be compassionate and reassuring in his demeanor, like Mr. Rogers. He's a good enough actor to pull this off, but the scenario still had me chuckling.

He tasks her with informing her sexual partners––namely, James Olson (COMMANDO, RAGTIME), a  suburban man she met at the grocery store where she works checkout. He's married, too––specifically, to Cloris muthafuckin' Leachman.

I know we've discussed my love for Cloris here––as a pistol-whippin' outlaw in CRAZY MAMA and as a crazed cannibal witch in Cannon Films' HANSEL AND GRETEL––but ya know what, I don't think I sing her praises enough.

Her character's pregnant, but she's still in the labor pool––she works in an editorial capacity for a small publishing company. I must mention that said company, run by THE PRODUCERS' Kenneth Mars, is seemingly dedicated to the worship of a particular creepy dummy. This one:

There is no explanation given here, just a creepy dummy sitting around the office. On the far wall, there's a crude sketch of the dummy as well.

WHY IS IT THERE? The film overtly refuses to broach the subject, which only increases my levels of curiosity. Perhaps there is no why. It just is.

Later, when Cloris packs up for maternity leave, she takes the dummy. Again, she does not mention its meaning or purpose. She just shares a tender moment with it and puts it in a box. This means the dummy belongs to her, and is not, like, the "corporate mascot" or something. WHAT IS GOING ON.


Anyway, urged on by Andy Robinson's disease detective, James Olson decides he must come clean to Cloris about the infidelity and the syphilis. He has to––it could even impact the development of the forthcoming baby. 

What follows is one of the greatest moments in TV movie history. He says, "I've got syphilis."

And Cloris internalizes this, agonizes over it.


She feels revulsion at his touch.


She backs away.


And she backs away.

And backs away some more.


And, my god, she backs into yet another portrait of the weird dummy! But I must say, it's one of those rare moments in film where the melodrama is patently, risibly ridiculous, and yet it's all rather deeply felt and performed. You see a half a dozen emotions play across Cloris' face as she categorizes every implication, relates it to her unborn child, relates it to her domestic life, considers every ramification, and plans her next move. All of this is apparent and subtly played, even in the face of the longest, slowest "recoil in disgust" moment in all filmdom. I love this.

Anyway, along the way there are twists, turns, catharses, prognoses, and all manner of movie-of-the-week melodrama. It even ends with a timely and, let me be the first to say it––legitimately poignant––finale which emphasizes that your personal emotions do not matter as far as contagious diseases are concerned. You simply have to do the right thing for public health and your fellow citizens, even if that causes you temporary discomfort or perceived embarrassment. Rise above your vanity, cause we're all in this together!

There's never an explanation for the dummy, though. Ah, well. Its mystery shall endure.

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