In the Ed Wood-scripted Fugitive Girls, Wood and director A.C. Stephens give Quentin Tarantino a run for his money. Wood and Stephens ganged up before for the mid-’60s spook a-go-go romp Orgy of Dead (who can ever forget Criswell’s strident command, ‘Bring me my nubian maiden!’) and now the boys are in mid-’70s mode trying to add their leering skin flick touches to a Jack Hill-style escape-from-women’s-prison tale. And as you would expect, given the Wood pedigree, it doesn’t work at all by a green mile.
A pre-credit sequence reveals topless Dee (Margie Lanier) in bed with her sleazy boyfriend, who likes what he sees (‘You have soft skin. I like it.’ ‘Everything about me is soft.’) but decides in order to continue the action more booze is needed. Off to the liquor store they go and suddenly Dee is arrested for robbery and murder. After the credits she is taken to The Correctional Facility for Women, which looks like a kids’ summer camp with new signs. There she meets her three prisoner inmates and soon enough Dee not only becomes the main squeeze of the group lesbian but ends up joining the gals when they run like hell and break out of jail to get to a stash of money. From then on it’s Alice in Wonderland as the fugitive girls encounter a collection of screwballs on their way to getting caught — a collection of vegan hippies who like to dance topless around a campfire, a lounge lizard in a late-model Cadillac, a group of flyspeck bikers and, when the gang invades a home in the middle of the night, a young couple — a man in a wheelchair (Wood’s homage to A Clockwork Orange) and his attractive wife (sounding like Arianna Huffington, she screams out to her husband, ‘Vill! Vill! Vake up!’).
And there is Ed Wood himself in a dual role. First as a goofy gas station attendant named Pops, who ends up getting clubbed to death by a telephone receiver, and as the local sheriff, a role that Wood actually plays fairly straight, although he runs like he’s stepping on eggs.
Like an acolyte of a cult leader, Stephens apes the Edward D. Wood Jr. style perfectly. There is no sense at all of screen direction, day and night shots appearing haphazardly in the same sequence, lens flares, and, of course, the wooden, psychotically-delivered line readings — most memorably by one of the vegan freaks who says something along the lines of ‘Get rid of this de-dat-dat-dat trash anyway.’
The genius of Wood is on display in his great dialogue work. Who else this side of Lord Buckley can write lines like ‘We eliminated ourselves from the establishment and we eliminated all their ways and that includes their food styles’, ‘Don’t think too positive,’ ‘Oh good Christ! A lesbian!’ and my favorite ‘Honey child, remind me to remember that remark.’
Being a pseudo-nudie film, the girls take every chance offered to remove their garments. They certainly like to wear clean tops. Around the campfire they ask to exchange clothes, and the vegan girls and the prisoner escapees immediately pull the wool over their eyes. Most hilariously, the girls are sitting in a clearing and the leader of the pack complains about lice and they all proceed to remove their tops. At one point one of the girls remarks, ‘God, I’m telling you. I’m going to go naked pretty soon unless I can get out of these rags.’ We believe her.
How does one rate a film like Fugitive Girls? This is the kind of film a critic either gives one star or else throws the confetti up in the air and awards it five. But in order to keep from being sent to film critic jail, I have to go with the first rating.
The trailer is definitely worth five stars anyhow. Cheap and lurid, the narrator, as the film’s characters are revealed in close-ups, intones, ‘Betrayed by her lover… Pimp killer… Smuggler… Bank Embezzler… Lesbian!’
Aka Five Loose Women, Hot On Their Trail, Women’s Penitentiary VII.
Fear my fringe.