Director(s): Lawrence Ramport/Russell Gay
Redemption Films

Viewers hoping that Redemption Films has stumbled upon a 1970s American equivalent to their Satanic sluts style of erotica based on the DVD cover art should think again, but THE LAST STEP DOWN is not without interest for Uschi Digard fans.

Busy hookers Norma Jean (Uschi Digard, SUPERVIXENS) and Suzie (Neola Graef, BELOW THE BELT) have grown disenchanted with their profession since "it's starting to seem like work". They are even disappointed that their unseen pimp "Mother Harry" sends them virginal Kathy (Terri Johnson, DROP-OUT WIFE) to "break in" but forbids them from taking matters into their own hands with her. Norma Jean and Suzie decide that the "weekend weirdoes" – a pair of kinky monks (SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS' Michael Donovan O'Donnell and Michael Valentine) with a Satanic altar in the monastery basement – would be perfect to induct Kathy into a variety of sexual experiences (some of them we've already seen in the girls' opening interminable fifteen minute softcore gropefest). Kathy is baptized with a wine-dipped dildo and spread out on the altar for all to enjoy as she discovers "so many different ways of doing it"… and that's about it really.

Since there's nothing particularly sinister beyond the sacrilegious window-dressing the title THE LAST STEP DOWN does not refer to any journey to hell or beyond. One would expect something to arise out of the girls inadvertently taking a virgin to the "weekend wierdos", especially since Norma Jean and Suzie ponder why a so obviously willing girl hasn't been able to give it up; but the film can't even give us a stupid sting-in-the-tale ending. Instead, the otherwise fun-loving girls inform Kathy about how her life will change as a prostitute. One the one hand she'll have "all the sex you can handle, a good living, and a bank account" but she'll also have "no friends, your doctor bills are higher, there's always at least one guy living off you, and the fuzz are rough when you're busted." Norma Jean also tells her "we will become your closest friends and replace your parents and all outside influences," but all such concerns are swept aside in favor of more "basic training" to close out the film so it's not that much of a downer. The sex is rather uninteresting visually, and one realizes just how bored the performers seem to be when the library music track runs out and silence accompanies the half-hearted groping and stroking. Not good by any means, but can one ever truly have enough of Uschi Digard? The short bonus feature BLOOD LUST (15:12) is more vaguely Redemption-esque.

An extremely loose adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla", BLOOD LUST is actually pretty much akin to Hammer's lesbian vampire films in its attempt to frame lesbian sex scenes in a story without actually exploring the dynamics of such a relationship as see in DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and THE BLOOD SPATTERED BRIDE among other European lesbian vampire films. Carmilla the vampire rises nude from her grave (in the film's sole evocative image) to feed on nude-sleeping Victorian virgin Jenny (who does not know what she's getting into when Carmilla tells her "I'm going to bite your breast"). After some grinding and contorting into camera friendly but muscle-straining positions, Carmilla takes Jenny with her back to the tombs and introduces her to Count Dracula himself. The Count decides to make Jenny the "Bride of Dracula" and his pants magically disappear (or perhaps he wasn't wearing any under his cape and ruffled shirt). Director Russell Gay started out as a glamour photographer who moved from cheesecake photography to soft and hardcore 8mm shorts like this which were advertised for sale in British men's magazines. Everything is the bare minimum from plot to performances to sets and costumes (which are not worn for long anyway).

THE LAST STEP DOWN was released in a fifty-four minute abridgement on VHS by Alpha Blue Archives, and I'm not even sure Redemption's seventy-minute version is uncut. The cast list on the back of the cover lists seven cast members but we only meet five. The anamorphic transfer is framed at 1.66:1 which is likely not the original aspect ratio but it doesn't impede the compositions such as they are (usually just shaving off some information above the heads of characters in long shot). The progressive image looks crisp when the camera is in focus, and the print is in reasonable condition for a film of its rarity. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is in relatively good condition with clear dialogue and music. The progressive transfer of 8mm BLOOD LUST is framed at 1.20:1. The image is quite soft, but it's 8mm, cheaply processed, and worn from projection. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound is as clear as it can be given the source. The only other extras are trailers for Renato Polselli's BLACK MAGIC RITES, Jean Rollin's THE DEMONIACS, Jess Franco's EXORCISM, and Chris Boger's MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE. (Eric Cotenas)