The post-1960s softcore collaborations between writer Ed Wood and director "A.C. Stephen" (Stephen C. Apostolof) have their share of clumsy dialogue and tasteless situations but for the most part fall far short of the stupefying nuttiness committed to celluloid by Wood as a writer-director during the '50s. The one exception is 1974's FUGITIVE GIRLS (a.k.a. FIVE LOOSE WOMEN), a women's prison escape tale so threadbare that the prison guards are referred to but never actually shown and the only inmates we ever see are the five who escape. Never mind that the prison itself is obviously a summer camp, rented for a day or two during the off-season; no one's ever going to convince me that THE BEACH BUNNIES was filmed in and around a hotel resort, either. It’s poverty row and all par for the course, so you know there has to be something more to FUGITIVE GIRLS for me to single it out like this -- and that very special "something more" just happens to be a scene featuring Ed himself that is not only howlingly funny but possibly the only true Ed Wood moment in the entire Apostolof filmography.
About 50 minutes into FUGITIVE GIRLS, Ed stumbles onscreen as “Pops,” the crusty caretaker of a crop-dusting airstrip, who is awakened in the middle of the night when the titular femmes pull up in their stolen getaway vehicle looking for gas and demand that he unlock the pumps intended for the duster planes. After a minute or two of flirty small talk, Pops realizes these are the five prisoners who just escaped from the nearby work farm, and he very clumsily excuses himself to use the bathroom. Then, with all the subtlety of a bad silent film actor, he creeps over to a telephone barely ten feet away and attempts to call the sheriff. The rotary dialing can be heard loud and clear over reaction shots of the five women (including ‘70s skin flick regulars Rene Bond, Tallie Cochrane and Dona Desmond) glancing at each other with looks of pure skepticism. At this point most viewers will already be laughing, but Apostolof then cuts to Pops dancing in place like his bladder’s about to explode, holding the phone to his ear and loudly pleading for the sheriff to answer his call.
"Oh come on, come on, answer the phone, sheriff! It's them girls who escaped from that there prison farm this afternoon, I know it! Come on, sheriff, answer the phone! Come on, sheriff, hurry up before they get out of here and get away! Answer the phone, sheriff! That's gotta be them girls who escaped from prison! Answer the phone, sheriff!"
Normally in a scene like this the sheriff would answer the phone and Pops would get a few words out before being knocked unconscious by one of the girls. Even if Pops managed to get the whole message across, there would still be no way the sheriff would get to the airstrip in time to capture the fugitive girls and save him from a nasty bump on the head. That's how a hundred other filmmakers would've done it.
But that's not the way it goes down in FUGITIVE GIRLS. Oh no.
This time, the sheriff doesn’t answer the phone.
In fact, he can’t answer the phone.