VIDEO: The Return of Count Spirochete

Dr. John Ohab is a new technology strategist at the Department of Defense Public Web Program.

Today, I dig deep into the Pentagon Channel video archives to bring you this bit of science history…

Produced for the National Naval Medical Center in 1973, The Return of Count Spirochete is a delightful animated film dramatizing the medical facts about venereal disease. That, and so much more.

As the story begins, we join the (probably) world famous “Communicable Disease of the Year Award” ceremony, which acknowledges the one disease that has “done the most effective job of contaminating others.” Smallpox, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and the common cold are all serious contenders for the coveted “Fourth Horseman.”

However, in a surprising turn of events, the award goes to Count Spirochete (aka syphilis), much to the chagrin of the other contestants. In response to their outrage, the master of ceremonies then proceeds to explain in graphic detail the various reasons why Count Spirochete is deserving of the award.

Count Spirochete is overcome with emotion after being named Communicable Disease of the Year!I don’t want to spoil anything, but the rest of the video will take you on a whirlwind journey through the historical facts, symptoms, course of infection, and the impact of  venereal disease on the human body as it was understood in the early 1970s. You’ll have you see it for yourself.

As it turns out, you can purchase the video in glorious VHS for just $55 from the US Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service. With the holidays approaching, this could be the gift that keeps on giving!

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7 Responses to VIDEO: The Return of Count Spirochete

  1. Andrew Russo says:

    very interesting.. diptheria wasn’t done enough justice as i’ve caught it wading in floodwater but hardly any cases nowadays. HPV, obviously AIDS.. Wear a condom guys till you get the bloodwork!!

  2. Hammelphoto says:

    Thank you for posting this video. I have a very sentimental attachment to it. My late father was the producer of the film and his close friend and colleague wrote the script. My father was a film poducer, script writer at the Health Services Education & Training Command at Bethesda Navel Medical Center in the 1970’s and he retired in the late 1980’s. I was in 8th grade when the film was being made and I recall thumbing through the script and storyboard. I was probably the only thirteen year old in junior high who could tell you what the tertiary stage of syphilis was.

    I just discovered this website via Talking Points Memo and I can tell you, my father would love it! Thank you.

    • It’s really great to hear from you, and thanks for sharing your experience with us. When we came across the video earlier this year, we couldn’t find very much information and were curious how it would be received. Well, as of this morning, the video has over 40,000 views on YouTube! I think everyone would be very interested in learning more about the production and its back-story, so feel free to share any other details if you’d like.

      Thanks again, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog. You’ve been SCIENCED!

      ~ John

  3. inpursuitofcake says:

    This is a true masterpiece. I mean, I am seriously floored. I haven’t laughed so hard in my life, and also, makes me want to get tested.

  4. Roger says:

    I did a search on the people who produced this,and I could not find anything.But I will say,it looks an awful lot like what DePatie-Freleng Enterprises were producing for TV at the time.To compare,here’s one of their “The Ant and the Aardvark” cartoons,from about the same time.

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