Cosmic Dancer – Norman J. Warren’s ‘Spaced Out’ (1979)

6 Nov

By the end of the 1970s, director Norman J. Warren was more well-known in Britain as a homegrown horror director, having established his career with the features Satan’s Slave, Terror and Prey. But 1979 saw Warren return to the genre that kick started his career, the sexploitation film, with Spaced Out (aka Outer Touch), his first British sex film since 1968’s Loving Feeling.

Spaced Out, a zany sex-comedy, see’s an alien ship inhabited by three female-like humanoids crash-land on Earth (Clapham Common no less…) after suffering engine malfunctions. Sadly for them, their emergency rest stop was witnessed by a few individuals who they take as prisoners to be ‘experimented’ on; an engaged couple called Oliver (Barry Stokes) and Prudence (Lynne Ross), older peeping tom Cliff (Michael Rowlatt) and sex-obsessed, masturbation addicted  teenager Willy (Tony Maiden). Hi-jinks and hilarity ensues as the aliens try to find out as much as they can about their captives whilst also learning about human sexual relations…

Spaced Out is a fun feature to watch and an interesting comedic counterpoint to Warren’s earlier sexploitation films, Loving Feeling and Her Private Hell, which are more serious and downbeat in their tone. After turning down work for fear of being pigeon holed as a director, Warren was persuaded to take on the picture which was originally a script entitled S.E.C.K, standing for Close Encounters of the Sexual Kind. Eventually re-titled, the picture was released in August 1979 as Outer Touch, a title perfectly encompassing the major theme of the film (the film became known as Spaced Out after Miramax picked the feature up at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival for US distribution, where it was re-cut and given new music and voiceovers).Whilst the aliens are completely out of touch and new to human sexual practices, the human characters themselves are also at a total loss with each other. Ross and Stokes are a frigid couple struggling to find a happy medium (‘When we’re married Ollie, you can have it as much as you want… On Saturday nights anyway’ ), Rowlatt is the experienced older man who thinks he can handle women and Maiden is the teenager who has yet to touch anything other than himself (‘I’ve gone blind! They told me it was an old wives tale!’).

The film’s enjoyability is largely thanks to a relatively good cast willing to work with the little luxuries they’ve been given (the spaceship itself, at times, was nothing more than plastic sheeting draped over scaffolding, whilst exterior shots of it travelling through space were shots culled from television series Space 1999). Stokes, Ross and Rowlatt are good in their roles but it’s the rest of the cast that outshines them. The three aliens are terrifically played by Kate Ferguson, Ava Cadell (Confessions of a Window Cleaner) and Glory Annen (Felicity, Prey). Each really make the role their own with defined personalities in a film type which, lets face it, doesn’t really ask for much. The real stand-out is Tony Maiden as Willy, whose teenage virgin is in fact ‘the most advanced body in the universe’. Full of one-liners that the other characters could sometimes do with, Maiden becomes the hero of the entire film, enlightening all three of his alien captors. Special mention also goes to Bill Mitchell as the voice of the ships Wurlitzer, an exasperated sex therapist that you can’t help but feel sorry for.

A marvellous counterpart to Warren’s earlier sexploitation films, Spaced Out is deserving of its status as a cult classic which may look slightly dated but has humour that still translates today.

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