Out of the many genres in the AV Geeks Educational Film Archive, venereal disease films are one of the most popular, simply because they provide a revealing glimpse into the secret history of sex in the United States. During the first half of the twentieth century, society was conservative in regards to sexuality, but only on the surface. VD films tell quite a different story - one of a nation struggling with epidemic levels of syphilis and gonorrhea being spread by rampant premarital sex. In the days before penicillin, Americans infected with VD required several months of treatment with ominous substances like arsenic and health officials were faced with the challenge of educating a naive public about the dangers of VD without breaking decency laws.
The films on this DVD were made and distributed during the World War II era, a time when venereal disease threatened both individual lives and the productivity of a nation at war.
With These Weapons (1939 - American Social Hygiene Association / Willard Pictures, 10 minutes): This stirring piece illustrates the rampant syphilis outbreak at the turn of the century, estimating that one in twenty adults at that time were afflicted. Because this film was originally intended to motivate civic and church audiences (i.e., the presumably weak-stomached public) into action, it is tamer than sex hygiene films of the era which were created specifically for men, steering clear of explicit imagery of diseased genitalia or descriptions of syphilitic symptoms.
Health is a Victory (1942 - American Social Hygiene Association / Willard Pictures, 11 minutes): This short, which focuses on gonorrhea, or the "Great Sterilizer," takes place at a factory lecture. Such preventative lectures were commonplace in a time when a venereal disease?epidemic could devastate productivity in a company town. While the film is not explicit, it manages to place the blame for the epidemic on men who frequent prostitutes.
A Message to Women (1945 - U.S. Public Health Service / Hugh Harmon Productions, 20 minutes): Most vintage VD films were aimed towards men or general audiences, so this film, meant strictly for women, is a rarity. It attempts to dispel the myth that only poor, undereducated girls get venereal disease. The message: don't have sex until you get married!
Story of D.E. 733 (aka USS VD: Ship of Shame) (1945 - U.S. Navy / Paramount Pictures, 46 minutes): This motion picture reinforces the message that contracting VD is not only a personal tragedy but could also affect the war effort. The information is presented as a narrative, rather than in the usual lecture form, in the hopes that sailors could identify with the characters and learn from their mistakes. This version was edited down from the original 1945 version, but still features the obligatory shots of infected genitalia and discusses using condoms for protection.