I grew up in the 1990s and Troma was a big part of that, due in – as I’d assume for most folks my age – great part to the success (or at least existence) of Toxic Crusaders and its live action counter-part(s). As time went on and I realized that there was more to the studio – and to life – than men in rubber suits and cheap make-up, I found that Troma had an extensive back catalog of the type of smutty, dime store budgeted, no holds barred material that I was so often teased of by USA Up All Night. That’s when I found out that movies like Surf Nazis Must Die!, Combat Shock and, most importantly, Lust for Freedom existed. And I was never going to be the same, docile, monster loving child that I once was.
If Lust For Freedom didn’t foster my interest in ‘girls with guns’ cinema, it certainly perpetuated it. Before I could get my hands on – or convince my parents to give me permission to rent – films like Lust For Freedom or the entire library of Andy Sidaris and/or Anna Nicole Smith actioners, I was raised on a steady diet of action heroines that gave their male equivalents shriveled junk. Terminator 2, Aliens, Undefeatable, Point of No Return, Tank Girl, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Red Sonja all had stock in the growing, allowance cultivated VHS collection of my tweens which was nourished by a local video store that had no qualms about handing over tapes with covers featuring heaving bosoms and loaded guns to a 13 year old. And here I am today.
So, Lust for Freedom. In all honesty, this one didn’t stick with me as much as I thought it had and I’m going to blame that on the theme song right out the gate. Once you hear it, you’ll know why. I had – what I thought were – fond memories of this one and as soon as it started, I realized that the only thing that I remembered was the very 80s, overly triumphant chanting of “Lust for freedom!” which likely made me think that I had a better time watching it than I had. Which is both true and not. Lust for Freedom isn’t one of Troma’s best but it is far from their worst. Unfortunately though, it tries to be two things at once and it can’t really excel at either.
It starts out, and continues briefly, as a cop film with Melanie Coll as Gillian Kaites. Kaites is an undercover, specially trained cop whose boyfriend/partner is killed during a sting operation gone awry. Looking for a new life, she ends up being pulled over by some small town sheriff who gets her sent to prison for reasons not entirely – or necessarily – explained. After this, it basically turns into a run-of-the-mill women in prison flick, which isn’t all a bad thing. There’s ample T&A and fights to be had and the whole thing is fairly tongue in cheek and perhaps surprisingly restrained for a Troma production.
Where it starts veering off track is in the third act in which it becomes a sort of revenge/revolution picture with Kaites leading the inmates against the prison staff. We get shoot outs, explosions and a lot of 80s metal on the soundtrack but it begins to wear thin and can’t really compete with some of the better films of its kind from the era. It’s still plenty of fun though and Coll and the rest of the cast are game for all of its silly shenanigans – including Coll’s wonderfully dry narration – which makes it more enjoyable than it probably should be. And there’s always that theme song.
Vinegar Syndrome are releasing this one rather than Troma themselves and they’ve done a damned good job with it. This release is DVD only but I can’t complain as the transfer looks to be on par with VS’s usual output. We get a 2K scan from a 35mm blow up negative of the original 16mm. This isn’t exactly a colorful film in any way, with the prison locations and wardrobes not lending themselves to being ‘pretty’. Everything looks solid though, skin tones appear natural, blacks are black and whites are white. There doesn’t appear to be much damage and it maintains a film like appearance throughout. Not bad at all.
Audio fares fine but the 1.0 mix doesn’t help when it gets going. It serves the dialog well but when things start getting loud and/or chaotic, you may be reaching for your remote. Still, I’d take this over any sort of 5.1 revamp any day. It may not be the most bombastic or balanced track, but it sounds right.
Vinegar Syndrome have included two very welcome supplements here too: a commentary with director Eric Louzil and an interview with Lloyd Kaufman. The commentary is well worth a listen with plenty of information regarding the production and working with Troma. He does tend to overly describe what we are watching but he strays from that enough to make the track worthy of a recommendation. Fans should be pleased. The interview with Kaufman is surprisingly restrained as he’s usually rather animated, but he offers some anecdotes about Louzil and the film in a more serious than usual manner. It’s obvious that he cares and it’s nice to see him represent the studio and film on a release that isn’t coming directly out of Troma.
Lust for Freedom isn’t going to turn anyone into a Troma fan and it isn’t going to make Troma fans ask for their money back. It’s a fun, sleazy, if not unfortunately restrained, piece of action heroine pop cinema and worth a look if not an outright purchase for its low price.