In the 1975 made-for-TV venereal disease epic Someone I Touched, there’s a scene of children’s author Cloris Leachman at work. She’s sitting in her office, typing away on a manual typewriter. Directly behind her is a crude drawing of a clown. And to the right of her, there’s a statue of the same creepy clown. Eventually, her husband (played by James Olson) comes into the office and, after a very long argument, finally forces himself to confess that, as the result of a one-night stand with a grocery store cashier (Glynnis O’Connor), he has syphilis. And it’s possible that Cloris now has syphilis herself. And, since Cloris is pregnant, it’s also possible that their baby may be born with syphilis.
And it’s all very serious and very dramatic and certainly, it’s nothing to laugh at.
But, I have to admit, that I could not stop thinking about that creepy clown. And I have to admit that as Cloris was stumbling back in shock, I started to giggle because I just couldn’t stop thinking about what it must be like to work in an office surrounded by creepy clowns. It made me think about The Sims and how, if your sims ended up getting depressed, the tragic clown would arrive and just makes things worse.
That’s the thing with Someone I Touched. It’s a very serious film and yet it’s almost impossible to take that seriously. Whenever a helpful health worker (Andy Robinson, the Scorpio Killer from Dirty Harry) shows up to dispense statistics or the cashier attempts to track down everyone that she’s ever had sex with or Cloris and Olson start to argue about the sad state of their marriage, you’re very aware that the film is dealing with some serious subject matter. And yet, you can’t take it seriously because of all the little details. You find yourself fixated on how ugly 70s interior design truly was. You watch this tiny vein in Olson’s forehead and you worry if it’s going to explode during some of his more dramatic scenes. You listen to dialogue like, “It (syphilis) can be a real drag if you don’t take care of it” and “Tramps get Syphilis!” You realize that Leachman is supposed to be playing someone in her mid-30s, even though she was 49 when the film was made. You listen as Olson explains his recent one night stand by saying, “I was looking down the barrel of my 40th birthday,” despite the fact that Olson looks like he’s in his mid-50s. And let’s not forget those creepy clowns…
And you just can’t take the movie seriously. You know that you should but you just can’t. How could one well-intentioned film produce so many involuntary giggles?
Now, I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I would never watch a movie like that!” But, if you change your mind, Someone I Touched is currently available on Netflix streaming.