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Phyllis, with Syphilis

One of the benefits to Netflix‘s growing instant streaming library is the addition of rare and hard to find stuff, a veritable avalanche of new movies popping up seemingly without much fanfare. Among the latest batch was the 1975 TV movie Someone I Touched starring Cloris Leachman. C’mon, a movie in which the lead is a 40-ish, comfortably married woman who gets an STD? Count me in! This soapy drama is a bit of a forerunner to the kind of material Lindsay Wagner, Jacklyn Smith, Meredith Baxter Birney et al suffered through in the ’80s and ’90s — campy as all get out but also with moments of surprising depth and emotion. Leachman plays Laura Hyatt, a writer who enjoys a luxe California home and stable marriage with construction foreman James Olson. Their world goes into turmoil, however, when public health official Andrew Robinson informs Olson that he has contracted syphilis — just in time for the wife to announce that she’s pregnant! Will the baby be born diseased and (gasp) armless?

The film is somewhat leaden paced with moments of utter ridiculousness (tiny waisted, 48 year-old Leachman is supposed to be four months preggers?), but both of us actually enjoyed it tremendously. It sorta reminded me of those ABC Afterschool Specials from back in the day, only with a decidedly adult subject matter. Leachman looks fab with a great wardrobe and a huge mane of blonde hair, and she works in an office with a freaky mechanical doll hovering over her (and a drawing of said doll hung on the wall!). In addition to starring, she also sings the sappy title song by “The Morning After” composers Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn. There’s also a nice scene with Olson wandering through a very ’70s supermarket. Although I’ve had issues with the picture quality on many Netflix streaming movies, this one looked visually pristine. If you’re seeking a serious/kitschy look at how ’70s-era adults dealt with infidelity and STDs, look no further.

Related: review of Someone I Touched.

3 Thoughts on “Phyllis, with Syphilis

  1. Best post title ever.

  2. Brad In Worcester on January 30, 2011 at 6:16 pm said:

    Truly did Ms. Leachman.
    She did some movie years ago as a pipe-smoking, hard-butted frontier woman: captivating.
    And of course her excellent turn in “Young Frankenstein” ( complete with horses-whinnying sound effects) cemented my respect.
    (Q: what was that business about “Major Matt Mason”?)

  3. Brad In Worcester on January 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm said:

    Umm, that first line shoulda been “Truly DIG Ms. Leachman.
    To my knowledge, I have never shagged her.

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