Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (1977)
Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (1977) http://www.beardyfreak.com/rvbed.htm
Dir George Barry
Now here’s a curiosity!
“Death Bed” is about a…well…bed, which was possessed in 1897 with the blood of a lovelorn Demon.
The black four poster bed (with dark red sheets and curtains) now has an insatiable hunger for anything fleshy, be it man, woman or…fly!
Seems the bed has messed up though and got itself stuck in an out of the way house and since it’s greedily munched everyone who lived in it (and made anyone else afraid to live there) it’s now getting rather miffed at being so hungry. And in-between bouts of petty vandalism (it has the power to move objects and lock/unlock doors!) it moans away to itself.
In the bedroom behind a painting is a Ghost (Dave Marsh, but with the voice of Patrick Spence-Thomas) of one of its victims (are still following this? Good) whom the Bed treats with the rings of those it has eaten. The ghost spends his time thinking in abstract, flowery prose to the Bed and it’s would-be victims…..”You gaze at me as a painting on the wall…and I see you as a serving on some monstrous silver platter”. Indeed.
Into this strange set-up come 3 girls, Diane (Demene Hall), Sharon (Rosa Luxemburg) and Susan (Julie Ritter) who are there to look around for some reason not really explained!
Susan is a bit weird and paranoid and has strange daydreams about cockroach-covered food and lying in silk-lined coffins. And for some strange reason she frightens the bed......
How, I hear you ask, does this whole ‘being eaten by a bed thing’ work? Well Director/Screenwriter George Barry has the bed ‘suck’ in its food. Yellow bubbles bubble up and the ‘food’ sinks into the mattress filled with a yellow digestive acid as a loud ‘munching’ sound is heard.
The opening deaths are a young couple who’ve broken into the old house for a bit of fun and a picnic.
First the bed opens with munching on an apple, then ‘gulps’ down a bottle of wine before nibbling at a bucket of chicken, before quietly pushing remains back up to sit on the mattress.
But that’s not good enough of course so the curtains close around and it’s time for a bit of Human!
The bones and various other trinkets are then magically deposited into the garden to help the flowers grow (resulting in a great line by the Ghost…“You’re giving the other’s a present, a kind gesture. Roses growing out of their companions skull”).
There is very little gore here, but quite a bit of blood. And the sight of a picked clean skull with a wig on lying in the yellow acid, or a heart bubbling away, or an (in a very bizarre scene) eyeball rolling around the bed covers entertains in a grotesque way.
Perhaps the weirdest, grossest (but unintentionally funny) bit of munching results in a pair of skeletal hands, (that seem to cause no pain at all by the way!).
Perhaps the most frequent unintentional humour surrounds the Bed’s actions. When it senses the opening snack approaching the Ghost exclaims, “My God it’s waking up" and the Bed is heard to yawn!
And the bed ‘drinking’ a bottle of indigestion medicine is also a great comic observation
Barry also shoves in some very enjoyable, but somehow out of place, intentional humour.
Scratchy stock footage of old America is used to tell some of the Bed’s past, and wonderfully funny spinning newspaper headlines screech out “Thousands Disappear”…”Strange munching sounds heard in night”….”Mayor demands action”………..”MAYOR DISAPPEARS”!
The film is also split up into segments via black screens that announce ‘Breakfast’, ‘Lunch’ etc etc.
But the funniest footage is seen during a montage look back at past victims.
They including a vicar, an old lady who lies there reading “Candid Press” with it’s front page scoop on ‘Oral Lesbians’ and ‘Big Butts’ and a sex crazed couple who put the bed outside and pretend it’s full of rejuvenating properties and thus strange men casually stroll into the grounds in their pyjamas to roll on the bed as the Wife rubs her globes for them!
One guy even tries to shoot the bed!
The biggest mystery though is why no one simply hops off the thing once it starts to foam!
The cast is all pretty much invisible with no one standing out and the actors are all given such weird and unexplained characters, with minimal dialogue, that they have a hard job anyway.
Eagle eyed film buffs will recognised William Russ who would later play in Abel Ferrara’s “Crime Story – pilot” and as Rutger Hauer’s friend in “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, as Sharon’s Brother.
We are given the odd welcome topless shot to fill the ever essential nudity quota, but despite this, and the whole flesh eating Bed idea…Barry’s film actually never really plays like an exploitation film and rarely like a regular horror film.
Barry seems to want his film to follow the work of ‘art’ horror Directors like Jean Rollin and Jose Larraz.
The use of abstract, slowly delivered ‘thoughts’ from almost all the cast, the dreamlike atmosphere and set-ups, the ‘poetic’ dialogue, strange abstract characters and languid pacing (50 minutes in and it doe seem like it’s been on for 90) somehow don’t go with the humour and the whole killer Bed idea full stop.
Anyone who’s seen Larraz’s “Vampyres” with it’s dreamy flow and old house setting or Rollin’s Vampire films with their desolate castles, abstract visuals and snail’s pacing will see many similarities with the way Barry constructs, edits and directs “Death Bed”.
So what we have is a very strange film from which ever direction you care to look at it. Some exploitation decoration, intentional and unintentional humour, abstract script and dialogue, dreamy pacing, obscure characters…and a totally bizarre central idea.
Interesting, unusual, different…but hardly thrilling and perhaps too pretentious and ridiculous (the way the victims seem less than bothered half the time with their demise or horrific injuries) to be classed as anything but a watchable obscurity.
After years of being lost, “Death Bed” had a brief , obscure and unofficial (as in a dupe) VHS release in the 80’s (most notably in the UK) that the Director knew nothing about!
A small cult following built up, and now ‘Cult Epics’ have finally given it an official home release on DVD 30 years after it was made…