Joe Bob's Drive-In: 'Countess D'/'Despair'

By JOE BOB BRIGGS, Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas

Every once in a while you meet an actress who actually wants to be a B-movie Scream Queen.

She's not doing it "until something better comes along." She's not doing it "to stretch my acting muscles." She's not doing it because there's this fabulous director who is "a genius with genre work." The nudity doesn't bother her because it's SOOOOOO necessary to the plot -- and besides, "I'm comfortable with my body -- God gave it to me, I might as well use it."


Unfortunately, these girls almost never become Scream Queens.

That leaves us with frustrated Method Actresses who are always "retiring," actresses known mostly for getting nekkid on screen who reach a point in their career where they "don't do nudity anymore," and actresses who create entire websites devoted to discussing why "Punk Rock Babes From Beyond Lake Erie" is, in fact, a cleverly disguised homage to Homer's "Odyssey." Some of em get to a point of self-obsession where you don't even wanna see em nekkid anymore.


That's why this week's column is devoted to two gals who, God bless em, went out and made their own movie, just so they could become exploitation babes.

First up is "Debbie D" of the Philadelphia area, a voluptuous brown-haired self-promoter who has been appearing at horror conventions, signing autographs and posing for cheesecake bondage snapshots for years, with very little actual video footage to show for it. But thanks to the miracle of the digital camcorder, we now have "Countess D," the story of a vampiress who slinks around graveyards in a lot of chiffon and occasionally slips off her ankle-strap platform heels long enough to ease into a comfy casket.

There's a little bit of plot involving "Count Black," played by a stiff-necked guy named Dr. Chud, who is billed as the drummer for the Misfits. Debbie only has a few hours before her once-per-decade feedingdeadline, but meanwhile she moons around an art museum with her would-be blood transfusion before taking him home, hugging him a lot, grinning goofily, and eventually sucking some hemoglobin from his unresisting veins -- in the nude, of course.

The Debbie D fan club factory consists mostly of photo sales and promotion of her singing engagements, in which she always performs her "hit single," "I Want You in My Life," plugs her first movie, "Burglar From Hell," and sells things like her six-song "original promo tape," her "official autograph pen," posters, T-shirts, and her special symbol -- a three-inch blue rose, in water, encased in glass.


The girl is a merchandising colossus, available in 9,000 different pre-packaged versions, and "Countess D" is . . . er . . . one of them.

But now let's allow our wandering eyes to flutter down to Charlotte, North Carolina, where would-be starlet Ryli Morgan is working with a different kind of blood -- her own. The video is called "Despair," and it was written, produced, directed and edited by Buffalo native Mark Baranowski, an illustrator, novelist, composer of music and all-around Renaissance Guy who stars as the anguished artist who props himself up in the bathtub and OD's on prescription pills rather than face another day of rejection and unpaid bills.

Ryli comes home, finds her lover's body, and descends into a trance-like mourning state that results in her getting nekkid, writhing around on the carpet, watching old videos of her beloved, then cutting up a snapshot so she can worship his disembodied head at a candlelit altar on the living room floor. (It's not clear what happens to the body, since she returns to the bathtub later to complete her self-mutilation with a razor blade.)

It's not exactly a musical comedy -- the title pretty much sums it up -- but "Despair" is erotic in a morbid sort of way, and shows off the considerable assets of Ryli Morgan to the max.


The final line of the voiceover narration -- "There is no justice; only despair" -- reminds me of those New York underground films of the eighties in which EVERYBODY DIES and you're expected to understand that everyone MUST die.

In other words, they did it the drive-in way.

One dead body in "Countess D." Four breasts. Blood-sucking.

Extended casket naps. Background extras who stare at the camera.

Gratuitous European porno music from the seventies. Cleavage Fu.

Drive-in Academy Award nominations for Debbie D, as the pepperpot vampiress who sits on a throne of skulls and howls like a cat in heat; Dr. Chud, as the unsuspecting count who gets his dream date but can't figure out how to kiss her directly on the lips; and Bill Arthur, for directing things the drive-in way. One star.

Two dead bodies in "Despair." Twenty-two breasts. Wrist-slitting. Razorblade-chewing. Photo-album mutilation. Gratuitous bunny-rabbit close ups.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Mark Baranowski, as the Kool-Whip-chugging misunderstood suicidal artist, for saying "I just can't do it anymore--what good is the talent if no one appreciates it?" and Ryli Morgan, as the deranged lover who likes to get nekkid and paste the head of her dear departed on a Beanie Baby. Two stars.


Joe Bob says check these babes out.

"Despair" website:

"Countess D" website: none.


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