Director: Eric Louzil
Vinegar Syndrome

When her freedom is snatched away from her, a cop discovers her LUST FOR FREEDOM in the first of Vinegar Syndrome's HD-mastered Troma restorations.

When her fiancé (DTV screenwriter John Benjamin Martin, WISHMASTER 4) is killed in an undercover gun-running sting botched by an overeager rookie, undercover detective Gillian Cates (Melanie Coll) – feeling additional guilt over going into hysterics over her dead fiancé while her fellow officers were massacred – takes to the road. She winds up in Georgia County – somewhere between California and Mexico – where she makes the mistake of picking up an escapee from the local women's correctional institute inexplicably dressed in evening wear. The terrified girl tries to warn her that their lives are in danger but flees the car when a patrol car appears. Kindly-seeming Sheriff Coale (William J. Kulzer, MURDERLUST) asks Gillian to follow him to the correctional institute to give a statement, but she soon finds herself drugged and behind bars, charged with possession of illegal substances and having no memory of the trial in which warden/judge Maxwell (Howard Knight) gave her an indeterminate sentence. Sadistic matron Ms. Pusker (Judi Trevor, LEATHER JACKETS) sicks tough girl Vicky (Elizabeth Carlisle, BLIND AMBITION) on Gillian to break her in; but the former undercover cop surprises them with her ability to defend herself, so Ms. Pusker and Vicky organize a game of "kick the bag" that leaves Gillian in the infirmary. Witnessing the illegal practices going on in the prison – including drug dealing, torture, prostitution, and the sale of prisoners to snuff porn filmmaker Doc Bass (George Engelson, CAPONE) – Gillian appeals to the conflicted sheriff for help. When she gets a new cellmate in virginal Sharon (Elizabeth Carroll) and learns that her fellow inmates are mostly girls who have been snatched off the road by the local law enforcement – as well as the vicious Jud (John Tallman, CRY WILDERNESS) – she stages a revolt with the intention of blasting their way to freedom.

Simultaneously delivering all of the grindhouse goods (as only Troma could) while being a totally incompetent women-in-prison film, LUST FOR FREEDOM has all the hallmarks of an unfinished production with Coll's narration bridging scenes and describing motivations, obviously dubbed-in voices for characters whose faces are averted from the camera, insufficient camera coverage, and the ability for Gillian to witness a lot of action in other cells from her prison cell bed. Apart from Sharon, Vicky, and mountain-woman "Big Eddie" (Dee 'Queen Kong' Booher, DEATHSTALKER II), the prison inmates are mostly pretty non-entities (although THE TOMB's Michelle Bauer does forms half of the film's genre requisite lesbian teaming with hardcore performer Crystal Breeze). This is most apparent during the prison riot climax which is shoved into the five or so minutes of the film with Gillian interacting with a couple previously unintroduced partners to shoot and grenade their way through more guards than seen at any other point in the film. Director Eric Louzil was previously responsible for the producing the Troma pick-ups SIZZLE BEACH U.S.A. and SHADOWS RUN BLACK (both of which featured pre-Hollywood turns by Kevin Costner), but Troma came onto LUST FOR FREEDOM while it was in production (or at least stalled); and Louzil would subsequently helm FORTRESS OF AMERIKKA and the two NUKE'EM HIGH sequels for the company (in addition to several direct-to-video thrillers for other companies in the nineties).

LUST FOR FREEDOM is the first of Vinegar Syndrome's titles licensed from Troma, and their new HD-mastered transfer – no indication if it's a 2K or 4K scan as seen on other VS releases – easily bests Troma's 2004 fullscreen DVD – reissued in 2006 in a double feature with yet another ESCAPE FROM HELL (Eduardo Mulgaria's companion-piece of his HOTEL PARADISE which was retooled for US release as SAVAGE ISLAND with Linda Blair inserts) – which is likely sourced from the same tape master used for the 1992 A.I.P. (Action International Pictures) VHS release. The new anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer features better framing (losing some info at the top and bottom but gaining on the sides) and a brighter, sharper image while remaining true to the film's grainy, gritty cinematography. The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is clean but the original mix is rather flat apart from the theme song.

The Troma disc's extras consisted of a short intro by Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, a trailer for the film, a music video, trailers for other films and the usual Troma promos. Vinegar Syndrome has ditched those – with the exception of a new transfer of the trailer (3:16 with the opening and closing leader retained) – in favor of an audio commentary with director Eric Louzil and a new interview with Kaufman (10:49). Kaufman describes how LUST FOR FREEDOM was retooled in production into a "feminist action film" and got heavy metal band Grim Reaper to do a title song. He discusses working with Louzil, who at one point seemed poised to become the company's in-house director when Troma's Michael Herz wanted Kaufman to stop directing and become the company's frontman (Kauman concedes that Louzil worked more quickly as a director than he). He also discusses how Troma's films are produced for communal viewing, and that LUST FOR FREEDOM came around the time when studios got control of the theater chains with Reagan's repeal of the 1948 consent decree. On the commentary track, Louzil gets off to a meandering start but eventually discusses the motivations behind the film's exploitative elements because of the increasing difficulty to get theatrical releases in the late eighties. There is a ridiculous amount of play-by-play of what's onscreen (some of it slightly out of sync with the video but it was probably recorded using the older master) and unnecessary discussion of the characters' motivations amidst discussion of the locations, the cast members, and his working relationship with Troma (he could have used a moderator, or perhaps Kaufman should have done the commentary – jokes and all – and Louzil a longer interview). In spite of this, the transfer alone makes Vinegar Syndrome's disc the as-yet-definitive edition for fans of the film. (Eric Cotenas)