Sunday, 31 March 2013

The A to Z of Britsploitation: O is for Outer Touch (1979)

And now from a film about aliens stealing our womenfolk to mate with them we segue seamlessly to a film about aliens stealing our menfolk to mate with them.  Outer Touch (also known as Spaced Out and available on DVD under that title) is another effort from director Norman J. Warren, one of Britsploitation’s mainstays.  It’s a good example of just how dire British sexploitation had got by the end of the 70s.  But despite the film’s general rubbishness there’s something strangely endearing about it, particularly its completely threadbare, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute look.  It features a spaceship whose exterior is made up of shots stolen from Space 1999 and whose completely unfuturistic interior looks like a jumble sale.  It’s all even more amusing when you reflect that the film’s sci-fi theme was probably inspired by the late 70s sci-fi boom brought about by hugely expensive Hollywood movies like Star Wars and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
Outer Touch’s credits unfold to an obligatory late-70s disco theme (from the magnificently named Emil Zoghby), which remains in the background of the action for most of the film, briefly (and weirdly) replaced by a jaunty banjo tune when the spaceship takes off, and various cheesy rock and disco songs during the film’s softcore couplings.  The not over-taxing plot involves three alien women, the cigar-chomping, leatherclad Skipper (Kate Ferguson), whose hair and makeup seem to have been inspired by Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, engineer Partha (Ava Cadell), and Cosia (Glory Annen), who doubles as medical officer and roller-skating waitress).  Cosia wears a different outfit in each scene – they get progressively bizarre until she ends the film looking like a sort of slutty gold lamĂ© nun.  The crew is completed by a computer with the voice of a huffy old queen (a bit like Orac in Blake’s 7), who gets lines like ‘It took something pink out of its oral cavity and stuck it under one of my monitors.  I don’t see why I should have to put up with this sort of thing’. 
The ship needs to stop off briefly on earth for some repairs, and lands in a park, where it’s soon boarded by a quartet of stereotypes from planet Sex Comedy: Frigid and unimaginatively named Prudence (Lynne Ross) and her frustrated fiancĂ© Oliver (Barry Stokes), wanking-crazed teenager Willy (the aptly named Tony Maiden, a sort of cross between Robin Askwith and Melvyn Hayes), and leather-faced dog-walking perv Cliff (Michael Rowlatt).  Cliff’s a thoroughly objectionable character, endlessly misogynistic, belligerent and cocky, but this being a 70s film I’m not sure whether he’s intended to be a complete tosspot or the film’s hero.  There’s a fabulously of-it’s-time moment when the earthlings initially think the landed spaceship is a mobile disco.
The aliens are especially fascinated by their male visitors – they come from a world without men and have never seen anyone without ‘chest appendages’ before (though oddly enough they know to refer to the men as ‘he’).  Initially they plan to sell them to an intergalactic zoo (it’s the sort of film where people often prefix nouns with ‘intergalactic’ to make them sound more sci-fi), but after seeing the strange activities going on in the pages of Willy’s Bouncers magazine, they decide to give these a try.  The men are put through a series of physical and mental tests, and spotty oik Willy is unexpectedly discovered to have the ‘one of the most advanced bodies in the universe’.  The aliens decide to take him back to their planet to pleasure their entire species.
Meanwhile, Oliver receives relationship counselling from the ship’s other occupant, an analyst in the shape of a talking Wurlitzer jukebox (it really feels like they’re making this up as they go along) and desperately tries to get his leg over with Prudence.  His attempts meet with no success and Prudence only melts when she discovers the aliens’ wardrobe.  Cue the movie’s best line: ‘I do love synthetic fibres!’ This inspires her to try a new, sexier image and she and Oliver finally get it on in a bedroom whose only concessions to sci-fi are framed photographs of the Bride of Frankenstein and various other movie monsters on the wall. 
On this happy note Prudence, Oliver and (unfortunately) Cliff are returned safely to Earth (it’s a mercifully short movie), while Willy is spirited off into space again.  Unfortunately as he and the Skipper reach climax the ship explodes.  And that’s it.  A cautionary tale for sex-obsessed young lads and a reminder that there’s nothing man-made fabrics can’t achieve.

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