Spreading Evil (1919)

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The horrors of venereal disease were detailed in a tasteful but uncompromising manner in the 1918 social drama The Spreading Evil. Geared primarily to servicemen, the film points out the dangers of "immoral contact" with foreign women, and of the horrible consequences to children yet unborn. The suggestion the VD could only be picked up from European women was, to say the least, chauvinistic, but it was very much in keeping with the tempo of the times. As such, the film, which might have been censored out of existence a few years earlier, was heartily endorsed by such prominent figures as Secretary of State Josephus Daniels. Interestingly, the words "venereal disease" and "syphilis" were still taboo in most big-city publications: In its review of The Spreading Evil, the trade magazine Variety merely referred to "blood disease."