Color, 1974, 96 mins. 11 secs.
Directed by A.C. Stephen
Starring Jabie Abercrombie, Rene Bond, Talie Cochrane, Dona Desmond, Margie Lanier, Forman Shain, Nicole Riddell, Douglas Fray, Sunny Boyd, Gary Schneider, Maria Arnold, Edward D. Wood Jr.
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), S'More Entertainment / Image (DVD) (US R1 NTSC

As Fugitive Girlshis directing career devolved in the '70s to a Fugitive Girlsstring of anonymous sex films, the much-loved and idiosyncratic Edward D. Wood, Jr. (who sat out the '60s almost entirely) found more demand for his unique skills as a writer, both for films and pulp novels. Perhaps his most interesting collaboration during this period was with Stephen C. Apostolof, a.k.a. "A.C. Stephen," a fellow novelist who started off directing with the Wood-penned Orgy of the Dead. That led to a subsequent seven Apostolof-directed films written by Wood including titles like Drop Out Wife, The Class Reunion, and Hot Ice. One of the more outrageous offerings from this partnership is Fugitive Girls (a.k.a. Five Loose Women), a cash-in on the burgeoning women in prison craze that had really kicked into high gear in 1972 with The Big Bird Cage. This particular one has the novel idea of setting its first act in a women's prison and setting up the main characters, then turning them loose on a crime spree through the countryside for the rest of the running time as they turn into a female spin on Bonnie and Clyde.

At heart though this is really a vehicle for Rene Bond, the appealing, sparkly-eyed soft and hardcore star who had already appeared in three of the Wood-Apostolof projects and would star in Wood's last directorial feature, Necromania. Here she tries on a very awkward Southern accent to play Toni, one of the female prisoners who forms a bond with newcomer Dee (Lanier). Set up by her Fugitive Girlscriminal boyfriend to take the fall for him (after a long sex scene that opens the film), Dee's shocked by the abusive treatment behind bars and ends up taking part in an escape with Toni and Fugitive Girlsthree other inmates: Paula (Abercrombie), Kat (Cochrane), and and Sheila (Desmond, a.ka. Donna Young). The goal is to take a road trip to recover a big stash of cash that only Toni can find, but along the way they end up tangling with cops, horny hippies, and a home invasion that turns into lesbian molestation.

Loaded with nudity to a hilarious degree (at one point the actresses have to take off their tops in broad daylight due to a lice infestation with the camera lingering on each of them shamelessly), Fugitive Girls is basically a crime film at heart that has to hit the brakes for a sex scene every ten minutes or so. That's not a bad formula, and in its uncensored form, the film goes a bit further than you'd expect, especially a brief nocturnal session during the hippie sequence involving The Young Secretaries' Schneider. Mostly though it's just rollicking trashy fun, with Wood popping up for a hammy cameo as Pops, a colorful airfield manager who tries to blow the whistle on the ladies while they try to steal his gas. Incredibly, Wood shows up again soon after in another role... but look carefully.

Originally released with a (soft) X rating, Fugitive Girls has been treated very poorly on home video prior to its 2018 dual-format release from Vinegar Syndrome. A very heavily edited R-rated version (83m57s) was the most commonly available on DVD thanks to its inclusion in S'More Entertainment's 2008 The Lascivious World of A.C. Stevens & Ed D. Wood, Jr. set along with Lady Godiva's Wife and Lady Godiva Rides, later ported over to its 2011 Big Box of Wood. The earlier Top Video VHS release clocked in at 90 minutes with a great deal of extra plot information and sex footage, Fugitive Girlsso the DVD was essentially worthless. Of course, the fresh 2K scan from the original Fugitive Girlsnegative is light years beyond any version we've seen before, looking so fresh, bright, and crisp it looks like a totally different film. The DTS-HD MA English audio (with optional English SDH subtitles) is also in great shape and much more dynamic than past transfers.

The team of Frank Henenlotter and Wood biographer Rudolph Grey makes a return appearance here after Orgy of the Dead, chatting at length about the cuts made to other versions of the film, the backgrounds of almost every actor who drifts across the screen, and the working and personal camaraderie between Wood and Apostolof. They also point out a third Wood appearance in the film, though it isn't quite on screen. A third audio option is an audio discussion between Cochrane and Casey Scott, in which the Southern-raised actress (who did everything from The Candy Tangerine Man to Harry Novak softcore) covers her life story in great detail from her first transition to L.A. through her colorful career with a very diverse cast of characters. Audio quality is quite tinny as this was recorded over the phone, but the material is priceless. The interview runs over the course of the entire film, too, so it truly is as thorough as you can get. A very long (4m53s) R-rated trailer is also included along with a "promo trailer" (31s) that plays like a TV spot.

Reviewed on January 28, 2018.