You don’t need me to tell you this, but it’s a testament to our societal squeamishness about you-know-what that given the millions of cases of new sexually transmitted diseases in the world each year, all manner of unintended pregnancies and countless emotional traumas caused by bar-fueled hookups, we still outsource most of our sex education to cartoons. Heck, I remember that fateful day in fifth grade, when the girls went with a female teacher and we boys went with the principal and we had frank, earthy discussions about our changing bodies. By “frank” and “earthy” I mean, of course, we watched a cartoon and then the principal answered our dumb questions, mostly about how doctors performing female-to-male operations would “sew it on” when the time came. The cartoon was a Walt Disney educational film. As a result, if I’m watching a movie and there’s even a mention of nudity, my mind starts thinking of “Bambi” or “Lady and the Tramp.” Tarnished for life. Hence why I write for this site instead of performing heart transplants in Africa or inventing saltines that don’t taste stale.
But this was not Disney’s only foray into sex-ed, as is proven by 1973’s “VD Attack Plan.” VD film expert Skip Elsheimer notes that this is probably the first educational film to point out that VD can spread through same-sex contact, and pointedly encourages the use of condoms to prevent spreading STD’s. Add in a realistic portrayal of a militaristic gang of syphilis and gonorrhea germs (“Team S” and “Team G,” respectively) preparing to invade every orifice they can find, though, and I’m sold.
The evil germ general (voice by Keenan Wynn!) explains how they can pass from person to person through sex contact. The germs laugh evilly. The general notes that symptoms may go away, but the germs won’t. The germs laugh evilly. The general points out that birth control pills have no effect on VD germs – and eats a birth control pill to demonstrate. The germs, again, laugh evilly.
These germs, by the way, are wearing sinister looking berets the whole time. Now, granted, any student of military history will tell you the beret is the least frightening military headgear ever worn in battle. But it could always be worse; I mean, they could be like G.I. Joe Duke, who’s so dumb that he’s wearing a Cobra hat, apparently forgetting that Cobra are the bad guys who constantly shoot at him:
I mean, cripes, if it were up to Special Agent Chunkhead here, these germs would go into battle wearing baseball caps advertising penicillin. Get with the right team already!
Speaking of special agents, the general introduces us to the VD attack plan’s covert team, Shame, Ignorance and Fear. Shame and Fear tend to sit around and talk about all the stuff they’re gonna do “when the time is right” but never actually go into the field and do anything. Ignorance more than makes up for them, though; he’s like the James Bond of VD agents in this film and helps infect like a billion stick figures.
And the topic of infection is handled delicately and seriously so that not even the least mature among us would giggle. First, your whole body turns the color of Pepto Bismol. Then, lightning bolts shoot out of a red disc centered in your groin! Aaagh! Ok, actually they go on to show you the disgusting lumps and bumps and sores and whatever that actually results from a VD attack. This segment is not suitable viewing for anyone who ever wants to think of the human body in a positive way again. The germs start licking their chops as the general describes how syphilis can rot your brain and give you a heart attack, “and you won’t even know they did it.” Of course you wouldn’t, because they already infected your brain!
The germs are (literally) bouncing off the walls as they savor the damage they’re gonna do to the peoples, but the general warns them about how humans can defend themselves with condoms, abstinence, vigorous use of soap, and urination. (This is what the film says, I dunno.) To recap: don’t sleep around, pee a lot, and take a shower.
Personally, I can’t think of a better way to tackle a sensitive topic like gonorrhea than this. It’s sound science, and (aside from the genital sore montage) is pretty entertaining. The only downside is that the movie makes it look like it would be more fun to be a syphilis germ than a person, and that could spell trouble, given that this was intended for teen audiences. I mean, if you’re a human, causing people’s brains to explode and hearts to give out is not usually as the top of the list of thrills, but if you’re a germ, and that’s all you know how to do, it could make for a pretty fun weekend. If violent movies are causing kids to go out and shoot at each other, undoubtedly “VD Attack Plan” would cause kids to attempt to spread themselves via body orifices and reproduce while inside the host’s bloodstream. I’m just saying.
Nonetheless, “VD Attack Plan” is a trip. Track it down if you can.