The comically plainspoken, tough-guy sergeant is a heaven sent assignment for character actors.
Even Stripes’ Warren Oates.
Keenan Wynn, who strove to keep America safe from “deviated preverts” in 1964’s Dr. Strangelove, was awarded the role of a lifetime nine years later, when Disney Studios was seeking vocal talent for VD Attack Plan, above, a 16-minute animation intended to teach high schoolers about the scourge of venereal disease.
Wynn (son of Ed) threw himself into the part with gusto, imbuing his badly-complected, Kaiser-helmeted germ commander with the sort of straight-talking charisma rarely seen in high school Health class.
A risky maneuver, given that Vietnam-era teens did not share their parent’s generation’s respect for military authority and VD Attack Plan was the first educational short specifically aimed at the high school audience. Prior to that, such films were geared toward soldiers. (Disney waded into those waters in 1944, with the training film, A Few Quick Facts No. 7—Venereal Disease, the same year Mickey Mouse appeared in LOOK magazine, waging war on gonorrhea with sulfa drugs.
The Sarge pumped them up for the coming sneak attack by urging them to maim or better yet, kill their human enemy. Shaky recruits were reassured that Ignorance, Fear, and Shame would have their backs.
Scriptwriter Bill Bosche had quite the knack for identifying what sort of sugar would make the medicine go down. The Sarge intimates that only a few of the afflicted are “man enough” to inform their partners, and while Ignorance and Shame cause the majority to put their faith in ineffectual folk remedies, the “smart ones” seek treatment.
Elementary psychology, but effectual nonetheless.
Today’s viewers can’t help but note that HIV and AIDS had yet to assert their fearsome hold.
On the other hand, the Sarge’s matter of fact delivery regarding the potential for same sex transmission comes as a pleasant surprise. His primary objective is to set the record straight. No, birth control pills won’t protect you from contracting the clap. But don’t waste time worrying about picking it up from public toilet seats, either.
A word of caution to those planning to watch the film over breakfast, there are some truly gnarly graphic photos of rashes, sores, and skin eruptions. Helpful to teens seeking straight dope on their worrisome symptoms. Less so for anyone trying to enjoy their breakfast links sans the specter of burning urination.
So here’s to the sergeants of the silver screen, and the hardworking actors who embodied them, even those whose creations resembled Pillsbury’s Funny Face drink mix mascots. Let’s do as the Sarge says, and make every day V-D Day!
VD Attack Plan will be added to the animation section of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..