Combat Fatigue: Insomnia (in the Ephemeral section of Open Video Project. Also, film #356 on Prelinger Archive). [Category: Military & Propaganda]

This WWII vintage navy training film looks like it could have been made by Coronet, and not just because of the presence of Dick York. “Combat fatigue” was the term they used to use for posttraumatic stress disorder brought on by combat. Insomnia is a common symptom of PTSD, but here it’s treated like one of the teen “problems” found in Coronet social guidance films. Dick York is concerned about his buddy Buzz, who has a serious insomnia problem. Both sailors wear squeaky-clean uniforms and are stationed in a unit that looks like the worst combat it ever had to deal with was alcoholic fisticuffs. Actually, maybe not even that––these sailors’ main form of recreation seems to be watching Donald Duck cartoons. After having a trite conversation with Buzz about his lack of sleep problem, Dick finds he can’t get to sleep. Fortunately, help comes in the form of a disembodied voice who makes Dick’s and Buzz’s thoughts audible to the rest of us. Somehow, this helps Dick to stop worrying about what he can’t change and he falls quickly to sleep. Somehow these audible thoughts manage not to generate a peep of complaint from the other guys in the unit who are trying to get to sleep as well. Even the disembodied voice admits that Buzz’s problem is not so easily solved. So the voice sends Buzz a few bizarre visual hallucinations, and when that doesn’t seem to help for some odd reason, the voice does a guided relaxation exercise with Buzz. Buzz, knowing that he is outclassed here, finally feigns sleep to get the voice to go away. As it sounds, this is a kooky, campy film, complete with bouncy title music. It probably predates Coronet, but it could be shown in a Coronet film festival and be indistinguishable. Seeing the Coronet approach used in a military context makes it much more campy and bizarre than in the typical educational film, which, after all, was made for kids. And seeing Dick York play an adult sailor in a 1945 film makes you start to wonder just how old he was when he played all those teen roles for Coronet during the 50s (after seeing him in the shower scene, though, you’re not surprised that he was cast as a teen). This bizarre film is a must-see.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

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