OUCH! by MR.E.

OUCH! by MR.E.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Five inmates break out of a women's prison. Four of them are hardened convicts, but one is a girl who was convicted for a crime she didn't commit. As the authorities chase them down, the cons terrorize or kill anyone who gets in their way.  The legendary Edward D. Wood co-wrote and appears in this remake of his equally legendary 1956 classic The Violent Years. The story focuses on the exploits of a gang of young female juvenile delinquents who go on a crime spree and wind up on the run from the law. There are at least three versions of this film. Fugitive Girls (also known as Five Loose Women) appears to be the complete film. Hot on the Trail contains more plot and less sex, while Women's Penitentiary VIII features more sex and less plot.  If not for the participation of cult director Ed Wood, there wouldn't be a reason to write about AC Stephens' 1974 drive-in R-rated "bad girls/women in prison/or distress" cheapie "Fugitive Girls." It's an on-the-cheap-cheap make of the American Independent/Roger Corman/Jack Hill "bad girls on the run" '70s genre films such as "The Big Doll House" or "The Great Texas Dynamite Chase."

What makes "Fugitive Girls" interesting is that it was the late-great cult film figure Ed Wood's last stab at cinema respectibilty. Virtually all of Wood's films from the late 1960s until his death in 1978 were either grindhouse pre-hard-core adult films or hard-core XXXs. In fact, Wood made several porn films with AC Stephens (Stephen Apostolof).

But "Fugitive Girls' was the exception, and because of Wood's participation, it's worth hunting done. It's an R-rated drive-in special, complete with lots of bouncing breasts, unnecessary disrobing and a few scenes of soft-core above-the-waste sex. The budget is minimal; the women's prison looks like a summer girl's camp. There are night/day continuity problems (a problem with all Wood films) and the leads playing the Fugitive Girls were chosen for the lack of inhibitions, rather than talent, but Wood's contributions provide that uniqueness that is Wood. His films may be inept and inadvertently amusing, but they are not derivative.
Rene Bond dominated early '70s Los Angeles porn, appearing in about 300 films and loops. She entered porn in the late 1960s for the usual reason--money. In her own words, "I had some friends who were working in porno, and I needed the money. So they said they'd introduce me to some people, and they did. I got used to the money". Rene began her career in the low-budget softcore schlock of producer Harry H. Novak, often appearing with her longtime boyfriend Ric Lutze. They would be a regular cinematic pair in both softcore and hardcore films for most of the 1970s. An industry observer described her as "a sinfully sexy and youthful-looking little strumpet whose well-rounded acting skills and vivacious approach to on-screen sexing made her an instant favorite." She had a petite, trim body that made her the go-to girl to play teenagers or farmers' daughters. She also had a deft touch with comedy. Her landmark linking segments in Teen-age Fantasies: An Adult Documentary (1971) epitomize her knack for coming across as sweet and winsome in even the raunchiest material. Rene was one of the first porn starlets to have breast implants to cater to what she called the "North American Breast Fetish". She got even more work after that. Rene incorporated herself in the mid-'70s and sold photos and slides of herself through her own mail-order company. She also sang, danced and stripped at the Ivar Burlesque Theater in Hollywood. She often brought her father on stage and sang "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" (her mom also went everywhere with her). Rene happily signed autographs in the lobby for a dollar each after her performances. Rene and Ric vanished from the film scene in 1978. Rene stayed out of sight until the mid-'80s when she was spotted as a contestant on the TV quiz show Break the Bank (1985). She was introduced as a bankruptcy specialist and had a new husband in tow (she won over $9,000 in cash and prizes). Rene was seen around Las Vegas throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. She died of liver problems in the late 1990s.

The plot: A young lovely is betrayed by her boyfriend, who turns out to be an armed robber. She's unlucky enough to be with him when he robs a liquor store and kills the clerk. She's shipped off to prison and bullied by her cell dorm mates who include her in their escape plans. Once the fugitive girls escape, they're off and running from the cops in search of hidden robbery loot and fighting, harassing and terrorizing hippies, a disabled man and his wife, bikers, a garage attendant, and various travelers.

Wood, who was always a talented actor, plays three roles in the film. He's Pops, a moronic service station employee (He gets billing for that role). He also plays -- unbilled -- the sheriff, and is one of the voices heard outside the liquor store robbery/murder. Wood also wrote the screenplay and is listed, under the name "Dick Trent," as the assistant director. Personally, I think Wood did most of the directing.

There is one great Woodian touch in "Fugitive Girls." One scene, where the women terrorize a rich wheelchair-bound man and his wife and sexually assault the wife, is -- incredibly -- an homage to Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange." You gotta admire Wood's indefatigable persistence. Here he is; involved with a low-budget cheapie one step above porn/grindhouse, and he cares enough to forever associate "Fugitive Girls" with "A Clockwork Orange!" What a guy Mr. Wood was!

Another Woodian touch is the final scene where "bad girl" "Toni" (Rene Bond) seems to run forever trying to escape the sheriff and one slow, fat deputy who literally tiptoe slowly after her. Despite the non-progress, the two law enforcement officers easily catch up with Bond. It makes no sense, but it's a lot of fun. The late Bond, who has become a cult figure, is the only fugitive woman worth mentioning. She was a bubbly brunette who had "girl next door" looks. She appeared in hundreds of films, in roles ranging from loops, extra walk-ons and starring roles. Mst of her films were porn, which is sort of a shame, because she could act. Wood, by the way, is by far the best actor in "Fugitive Girls." Watching him is a reminder that he might have had a decent career as a character actor had he not been an unreliable alcoholic. Had "Fugitive Girls" been made a decade later, all the leads (other than the "good girl," might have been sympathetic anti-heroes, but this was the early '70s, and crime still didn't pay for women in 1974 cinema.


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