Norman J. Warren Week: Spaced Out, aka Outer Touch (1979)

“Computer’s Log: Star Date 6969: Space, Space, Space. I’m sick of schlepping through space. I though it would be exciting to boldly go where no computer has gone before. To check out strange, new galaxies and kinky, new life forms. But noooo. I’m stuck, here, on this spaceship with three crazy chicks. All they do is snort coke, pop ludes and play with themselves. Its obnoxious.”
— Heed the words of the (fey-gay) ship’s computer. For you will not laugh in the year 6969. You’ve been warned.

The whole universe?

By the time of the release of this not-funny Star Wars, well, more of a Close Encounters of the Third Kind rip, Norman J. Warren had two sexploitation flicks under his belt with the 1968 pairing of Loving Feeling and Her Private Hell; then he branched into horror with a trio of films: Satan’s Slaves (1976), Prey (1977; which had a sci-fi twist), and Terror (1978). So, after those films, of course, Norman’s next logical step was . . . a space comedy.

Courtesy of Simon Sheridan’s liner notes for the 2008 DVD reissue of the film, we come to know the original script was presented to Warren as “S.E.C.K,” aka Sexual Encounters of the Close Kind. Warren found the script a “funny but very corny” take on Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956), so he agreed to direct, provided he was allowed to do a re-write. His new take on the script was known as Outer Touch, a play on the fact the aliens of the film are “out of touch” with Earth-human customs. The title was later proven as too esoteric, so the title of Spaced Out was used in the international marketplace.

And the studio behind the reimaging: Miramax. In addition to the new title, the Weinstein brothers, Bob and Harvey (the 30-year-old teenager rock ‘n’ roll comedy, Playing for Keeps was another of their early films), re-edited the film with new, sexed-up voice overs (provided, in part by Bob Saget, later of U.S. TV’s Full House fame; for another such, horny computer; see Warriors of the Lost World with its comic-crackin’ smart-cycle). As is the case with most directors-for-hire on a producer’s product: Warren wasn’t consulted on the Americanized changes by Miramax.

So, does this “low-budget humor-comedy” — as the U.S. VHS box claims — parody just about every convention in science fiction from 2001: A Space Odyssey* to Star Wars** — without mentioning its Spielbergian raisons d’être?

Well, Outer Touch certainly tries. But make no mistake: This is no BBC production of Red Dwarf or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. But to its credit: Outer Touch fairs better Galaxina in the comedy department (in my review’s opinion), but fails worse than its fellow Brit space comedy, Morons from Outer Space, in the production department — and that film’s no winner in the comedy department, either.

How cheap is Outer Touch?

Well, space ship exterior sections — when on Earth — were created by stretching sheeting over scaffolding.

Remember how David Winters cheapjacked all of his effects shot from Battlestar Galactica for Space Mutiny and Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam swiped their SFX from Star Wars — though Spaced Out isn’t as awful as either. But the mix n’ match SFX-jacking by Uncle Norm is worse than . . .

Remember when the 1977 Star Pilot recut of 1966’s Mission Hydra 2+5 Cormanesquely raided stock footage from Toho’s ’60s space epics Gorath and Invasion of the Astro Monster to “update” the film — with no care as to the continuity of the spaceships? Remember when 1967-to-1972 mess that was The Doomsday Machine ripped the same Toho footage to an even lesser, mismatched effect?

Well, that’s what we have in the frames of Outer Touch — only Warren clipped all of his spaceship footage from Britain’s ITV’s Space: 1999again with no care as to the continuity of the space ship changing from shot-to-shot.

To borrow from Sam Pacino’s review of Galaxina: “Cracked Magazine saw what Mad Magazine did and created a second-rate version that spent nearly half a century with a fan base primarily comprised of people who got to the store after Mad sold out.” And from frequent guest writer Herbert P. Caine‘s own Galaxina review: “Galaxina is a comedy with no laughs, a sex farce with no titillation. . . . as a science fiction movie, it reminds one of nothing so much as a black hole, sucking up all talent and effort that its cast and crew may have thrown at it.”

That’s — with all due respect to the late Norman J. Warren whom we love around the B&S Cubicle farm — is Spaced Out: A second rate version of a film void of laughs or titillation that you plucked off your video store’s rental shelf when copies of Leslie Nielsen’s later Naked Space, aka The Creature That Wasn’t Nice (1983) (itself awfully unfunny) wasn’t available to rent. I can’t believe I am saying this: I’d rather be watching Nielsen’s second sci-fi comedy, 2001: A Space Travesty — at least that film gives me Ophélie Winter to gander upon. (Sorry, there, Jennifer Upton, my fellow Norman J. Warren fan-in-arms. I know that’s sexist to call out an actress like that, but you’re not reviewing this film, now, are you? Can you give me a pass, here, sister-friend? I just need something to hang onto with these inept Not a Space Comedy, comedies.)

Oh, come on, You Tube: this film is not a “youth corrupter” by a long shot. It’s not like it’s an uploaded Russ Meyer movie. An age-restricted trailer that can’t be embedded? Please. You can only watch it direct on You Tube via an account sign-in? Ugh. Making our readers work for their analog noshin’ is not cool.

Not noted on the U.S VHS, as was the theatrical one-sheet: Oui and Playboy model Ava Cadell stars as the alien, Partha.

So, if the back of the VHS — and six minutes of the black leather fetish version of the purple-wigged and silver-suited babes of Space: 1999 (embedded below) — doesn’t sell the analog goods, we’ll make the effort to tell you that we’re dealing with, as the ship’s computer tipped us earlier, three horny alien babes (Partha, Cosia, Skipper) from Betelgeuse whose cargo ship (the Space: 1999 stock footage) crash lands on Earth to the attention of four sexually-hung up humans: the mild-mannered Oliver and Prudence, Willy (our bumbling, porn-obsessed comic relief), and a guy, Cliff, who would never associate with either — but so goes for walking the dog at the wrong time . . . and that’s not a sex pun; he really was walking his dog when abducted (don’t ask about the dog, as I lost interest and don’t remember).

Yes, of course, the aliens kidnap the Earthlings. What movie did you think you were watching?

Then — keeping in mind that an alien-astronaut’s main sources of employment is examining and slaughtering Earth cows — mistakes a heard of stampeding cows as a “hostile force,” so they lift off, regardless of their ship’s damage.

Yes, of course, we are lost in space. What movie did you think you were watching?

Along with way, the alien babes learn about Earth sex from Willy’s porn magazine collection, the uptight Cliff’s scores with Partha; she transforms into a nympho, and, due to their exotic Earth-anatomy, the girls decide to sell Cliff and Willy to an intergalactic zoo. And, as I lazily finish off this review to a film that I’ve given more digital ink than it deserves: sexual intercourse and dirty jokes, (ahem) ensues, in this (ahem) trope-laden and (ahem) cliche-ridden universe. (Yes. Triple word score! All three — not just in one review — but in one sentence! I rock!)

But, seriously, folks. This comedy is not pretty and there’s nothing more to tell. Except we wonder who in the hell paid off the critics at the Monthly Film Bulletin and (GASP!) Variety for those VHS box plugs.

For there is no plot: Outer Touch is just a disconnected collection of soft-sex vignettes that makes David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker’s early “dirty-comedy” mess The Kentucky Fried Movie taste good. And that’s a pile of rank poultry that in no way foretells of that trio’s brilliance with Airplane! and Naked Gun — the very films that inspired this 2001: Not a Space Comedy in the first place. (Okay, well, yeah . . . they came after, but, well . . . oh, never mind. I give up on this review.)

In the 1999 article “Alien Women: The Politics of Sexual Difference in British SF Pulp Cinema” by Steve Chibnall, in the pages of British Science Fiction Cinema, Warren called the film “dreadful in a nice sort of way.

No, sorry, Mr. Warren, as much as I enjoy your works, this is just dreadful. There’s nothing “nice” about it.

Outer Touch, aka Spaced Out, was unavailable on DVD until 2008, when the original, U.K. Outer Touch-cut was reissued — but under the better known U.S. title of Spaced Out. According to Simon Sheridan’s DVD liner notes, prior to its DVD release, Outer Touch never aired on U.K. television. We did, however, experience the film on HBO and Showtime as Spaced Out via Miramax’s distribution of the film, which also issued it on VHS in the U.S.

Norman’s next “spaced out” epic, sans the comedy, but lots of gore.

Thank the cinema lords, Warren saw the sci-ploitation writing on the wall and returned to horror with the offensive-sloppy Alien inversion that was Inseminoid. Then he had to go make the (not a) spy comedy, Gunpowder. But Warren course-corrected with the bonkers horror, Bloody New Year. So goes Norman J. Warren’s nine-feature film career. Sadly, we lost him at the age of 78 on March 11, 2021.

You can watch Spaced Out on You Tube. Since that’s not Bob Saget’s voice — and the original voice of British actor Bill Mitchell — as the Voice of Wurlitzer the Jukebox, the upload is the U.K. version of the film. The film — in its Spaced Out or Outer Touch form — was not, thankfully, included as part of Bloody Terror: The Shocking Cinema of Norman J. Warren 1976 to 1987 — even though it is shockingly bad. For that, Powerhouse films, we thank you.

* Be sure to check out our tribute 2001: A Space Odyssey and its antecedents with our “Exploring (Before “Star Wars”): The Russian Antecedents of 2001: A Space Odyssey” featurette.

** You can learn more about Star Wars and all of its rips — its droppings, if you will — with our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

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