Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sexual Encounters of the Close Kind


FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE hid behind poster hyperbole in an attempt to shroud its crushing tedium.

SCIENCE fiction movies of the 1950s can be divided into four firm camps: alien invasion pictures, those obsessed with the effects of atomic radiation, and generally more sombre films dealing with space exploration. Last and certainly least is an odd set where humankind encounter either planets full of women, or those where alien females visit Earth for mating. In this male-centric sub-genre, Britain could match the worst of Hollywood: for every CAT WOMEN OF THE MOON and QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE, we can boast DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS and FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE. This turgid set of releases illustrate the wider treatment of women within the science fiction field; at the time of pulp magazines, female SF writers were extremely rare, harbinging the view that they could not capture the adventures of muscle-bound heroes, especially within an imaginative context. This leads to the main question of why the mythology is so hegemonic where there is no factual basis for it.

Regularly disowned in the same breath as other 50s SF misfires ROBOT MONSTER and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACEFIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE opens with the launch of an Anglo-American rocketship to Jupiter. A compelling voice guides the craft through thick "space fog" to the planet's 13th moon, where the crew - led by Luther Blair (Anthony Dexter) - meet the Atlanteans, descendants who once inhabited Earth's lost continent. It is unclear how or why the sole survivors now populate a planetary satellite; patriarch Prasus (Owen Barry) and his many beautiful "daughters" may now inhabit outer space, but they have clearly not forgotten their very English etiquette. Although a subplot involving a Fire Maiden (Susan Shaw) overstepping her ancestral mark is quickly forgotten, ultimately the Atlanteans need men for breeding purposes, and to aid them in destroying The Creature ("the man with the head of a beast"), a lumpy-faced caveman in a black bodysuit who wanders their boundaries.

The cover to Jezebel's 2006 R1 DVD for Norman J. Warren's OUTER TOUCH/SPACED OUT (under their brand "Sexy Retro from the Saucy Seventies.")

This painfully dull fantasy was written and directed by Chicago-born Cy Roth, a filmmaker whose style is to vaguely aim the camera in the direction of the players. Having made two Z-grade war movies, Roth surpases himself here in a travesty filled with preposterous chauvinism ("A woman! You can say that again, with all the necessary ingredients"). Its special effects are lifted from other productions - the meteor shower from ROCKETSHIP X-M, a rocket landing from KING DINOSAUR - and the Jupiter landscape is a well-kept woodland (even less demanding patrons awaiting the "electronic monster" promised in the trailer must have been disappointed by the slow-moving neanderthal). The only interesting points to make are both oblique to the film itself: the 13th moon of Jupiter wasn't actually discovered until 1974, and its use of classical music within a SF setting - here Borodin's 'Polovetsin Dances' - occurs more than a decade before 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

Two years prior to INSEMINOID, Norman J. Warren made OUTER TOUCH, an amateurish, aptly-named space sex comedy. Described by the director as "CARRY ON meets FIRE MAIDENS FROM OUTER SPACE" and "dreadful, in a nice kind of way," a malfunctioning cargo spacecraft lands on Clapham Common, and four hapless Londoners are taken on board: research assistant Oliver (Barry Stokes), his "no sex before marriage" fiancee Prudence (Lynne Ross), dog-walking plank Cliff (Michael Rowlatt) and masturbation-happy shelf-stacker Willy (Robin Askwith substitute Tony Maiden). Aboard the ship are cigar-chomping Skipper (Kate Ferguson), engineer Partha (Ava Cadell) and general assistant Cosia (Glory Annen), aliens under heavy makeup and disco clothing who are soon educated on the joys of the male reproductive organ ("Have you got a weapon down there? It's changing shape!").

Ava Cadell is fascinated by Tony Maiden's heady reading material in OUTER TOUCH. Hungarian Cadell was a former hardcore actress 
who is now an internationally-renowned sex therapist.  

OUTER TOUCH is typical of the British sex comedy in that, although providing an abundance of writhing nudity, is softcore without any sexual charge, though repressed Prudence enjoys temptation of the flesh by the end of the picture (while Oliver typically keeps his glasses and socks on). Of its design, scaffolding covered with plastic sheets were used for certain sections of the craft, and such Ed Woodesque ingenuity sits awkwardly with the beautiful spaceship exteriors culled from SPACE: 1999 (due to a variety of shots used, its appearance changes through the course of the film). Although usually a footnote in the career of Warren in this country, the picture was re-edited, re-dubbed and featured a new soundtrack for its release as SPACED OUT in the United States, where it has acquired something of a cult following.