Marie (Christiane Coppe) sits in a field, rocking away in a rocking chair. She's being observed by a doctor and nurse from a window, who discuss her incurable inability to communicate with the outside world. They deduce they can do no more but keep her locked up in the asylum for her own safety.

But then feisty Michelle comes to the asylum and, after suffering a cold jet-shower and being thrown into a straitjacket, she decides she's going to escape. After an initial struggle, she coaxes Marie into helping her.

Come the evening, the pair creep down the asylum stairs and make off into the nearby woods. Michelle tries to ditch Marie, telling her they must go their separate ways. But Marie begins sobbing (if you've ever seen a worse performance of tears, then please let me know) and Michelle relents, saying they can travel together a little longer.

The morning after, the two women emerge from the woods and into the beautiful French countryside. They are greeted by a black woman sat playing the bongos. She tells them that she is part of a travelling troupe, and that they are welcome to tag along with them to their next gig.

The girls do so, and find themselves at a junkyard that evening, where the troupe - led by sleazy Father Louis - perform for a group of bikers who look like rejects from THE WILD ONE. Marie and Michelle do their bit by servicing the audience with drinks.

Afterwards, Michelle wants to join in the parties and is in the mood for sex. Virgin Marie is not so keen, but agrees to follow Michelle, fearing that otherwise she will lose her friend.

The following morning the girls are led to the nearby beach where biker Sophie (Marianne Valiot) has a job for them: she arranges for them to meet her at the local dockyard that night to steal a shipment of clothes. And so another adventure begins!

Essentially a musing on liberty, expression and sexuality, THE ESCAPEES makes more sense when watching it than when you try and synopsise it. It feels quite linear in it's approach and, although it is ultimately episodic to the point of being a string of related vignettes, it builds steadily from a quiet character piece to a finale that delivers on the nudity, along with some stabbings and shootings for good measure.

Other than that, it's quite a tame film but is sufficiently inventive in a visual sense to keep the viewer interested. The acting is lacking, the camerawork occasionally clunky and the budget is clearly minute. But Rollin's no novice by this point (1981) and he knows how to keep things ticking over in a stylish, surreal manner. His dialogue, often tending to be peppered with pretentious philosophical waffle in other films of this era, is thankfully tempered. It helps that along the way we get treated to burlesque dances, softcore shenanigans and the lovely Brigitte Lahaie looking as fine as ever in a slinky red dress.

The film looks good in a full-frame transfer newly struck from an original negative. Listed as being 95 minutes long on the back cover, it actually runs for 105 minutes and is the uncut version.

Colours are accurately saturated and while natural film grain is visible throughout, this is a clear and bright proposition - the best we're likely to see this obscurity looking.

French 2.0 audio is clear and hiss-free from start to finish. Optional English subtitles are a tad small but easily readable, and largely free from typing errors.

Static menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 10 chapters.

By far the best extra on the disc is an excellent 59-minute interview with Rollin. Looking relaxed in his home alongside a plethora of books and interesting statues, Rollin speaks a mixture of French and English while discussing THE ESCAPEES' script issues, casting and much more. He's probed by an offscreen English interviewer, who asks her questions in English. Optional English subtitles are provided for Rollin's responses. It's an excellent insight into the man's mindset and worth the price of the disc alone.

Elsewhere we get a stylishly presented stills gallery offering 11 images from the film.


THE ESCAPEES is an enjoyably strange film, possibly more linear than Rollin's more famous works but no less quirky. It looks good on Redemption's disc, and is graced with that fabulous hour-long chat with the illustrious director.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Redemption Films
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review